By Kathleen M. Tenpas (Kathleen) February 27, 2013
There is a stack of garden journals and handmade books at my left elbow. The oldest is from1996 and contains notes and stories about the beginnings of the gardens here. It wanders through three springs, skips summers all together and stops in 1999. There’s a newer one that starts in 1999 and has a few entries as far as 2002. Another has four entries in an unnoted year and yet another has only a watercolor of evergreens covered in snow.
(Editor's Note: This article was originally published on May 5, 2009. You rcomments are welcome, but please be aware that authors of previously published articles may not be able to respond to your questions.)
These journals, such as they are, are a wealth of information. I can generally tell you when I’ve planted peas over the years, but once things are up and growing all the good intentions in the world can’t make me take the time to note when I started picking peas. And, though I love to write in general and about my gardens in particular, when the season is upon me, I have no time for paper and pencil to say nothing of climbing the stairs to the study to type anything into my computer, online or off. My failure to keep a full season journal is both persistent and complete.
And yet, I keep trying. Garden journals are a great tool. They help you remember when you planted what and where you planted it. They can remind you that no matter how many times you plant spinach, no one is going to eat it but you.
A good (and complete) garden journal when combined with a garden plan (a garden plan??) can help you remember where the tulips and daffodils are planted after the foliage dies back, and can help you keep track of the varieties and placement of your latest plant obsession (Bath’s Pink, tiny pinks, alpine pinks, yellow pinks, Victorian pinks or the coral bells 'Snow Angel', 'Appleblossom', 'Amber Waves', 'Palace Purple', 'Caramel', and 'Cathedral Windows'). It can help you figure out what you lost over the winter and if you felt it was really worth replacing, or if it just wasn’t meant to be (like the three 'Dainty Bess' rose bushes that each survived for two years and then presented you with nothing but dead canes the third).
A garden journal, when properly kept, can help you gauge how many seeds you need to purchase for the pea patch or the bean trellis, and which varieties your family liked best. It can remind you that Henderson lima beans have a shorter season and ripen fast enough for a harvest in your zone 5 garden. Or that celery really does need to be tied, no matter what the package said.
The last few years, I’ve kept notes in my daybooks about planting, but it just doesn’t have the same feeling of satisfaction and there are no stories involved in that rather sterile note taking. I think I am looking for the perfect journal, but am very very fussy about what I want. Perhaps there is nothing for it, but to make up several. And in that vein, I will herein show you how you can actually make a journal for yourself.
My little book is 6 inches X 5 1/2 inches , but this will work in any dimension you prefer. I used some leftover hand painted fabric for the cover, but some nice craft paper will work as well. The paper is acid free inkjet paper, but please use the paper of your choice. The covers are pieces of fine corrugated cardboard that I saved from some packaging. You need: two peices of cardboard for covers, paper cut the height of the board by twice the width folded in half, a heavy duty awl or long finishing nail (the thinner the better), a hammer, scissors, glue, book cloth (I made mine by gluing a small piece of fabric to a piece of paper using a craft spray adhesive), a bookbinding needle (or large darning needle), linen thread, cotton perle or string that will fit through your needle eye, a brick or other weight, and a bone folder. The bone folder is a lovely tool that helps you burnish the folds and score paper; fingernails work, but not as well.
Begin by making the book block, or the paper part of the book: stack your folded pages evenly (I used 14 pages so there are 26 pages and the end papers), mark two sets of dots evenly placed on folded end, set brick on opposite end of paper and pierce dots with awl. Using the linen thread, stitch your pages together. Cut book cloth (fabric backed with paper) into 1 inch by 3/4 inch pieces fold in half and cut little 45 degree triangle out of center, leaving enough center to fold over corner. Glue the book cloth to the the corners of the book block. This stablizes the corners and keeps the paper part of the book easier to work with.
Make your covers by gluing paper or fabric to outsides of the cardboard, folding over a 'seam' and gluing to the inside.
Glue cover to the first and last pages of the book block to cover inside 'seams'. Mark 4 evenly spaced dots and pierce with awl.
Stitch along and around spine with cotton perle using a stitch that looks like this: _l_l_l_. Score the cover 1/8 inch away from the edge of the book cloth for ease in opening and closing/
and you have a lovely handmade garden journal.
Bookmaking supplies can be found at Dick Blick and other craft suppliers. There are also kits to get you started.
About Kathleen M. Tenpas
We have a grazing dairy of 55 cows in the rolling hills of western New York State where we raised two daughters who have now blessed us with four grandchildren. I have messy, jungly beds of old roses, (some real antiques left by former owners), perennials, wildflowers and lots and lots of not so ornamental grasses! I have a Masters degree in Creative Writing: Poetry from Antioch University. I am a photographer and fabric artist and I bake a mean loaf of bread.