Creating a garden notebook with Evernote

Here in the far north of Scotland we’ve had a pretty good summer (unlike the rest of Britain) which has meant I have been able to spend a lot of time in my garden. We started it 6 years ago when our house was built and have slowly increased the number of plants. For years I have been intending to start a garden notebook or log to record what plants we have, when they were planted and other useful information. This summer I finally got it off my someday/maybe list.

I had initially planned to use a Moleskine notebook. However I also wanted to include photos of my plants so realised this wasn’t terribly practical. Instead I have created a digital notebook using Evernote.

Its iPhone app makes Evernote ideal to use for a garden notebook. I can take a photo of a plant with my iPhone and instantly turn it into a note. I add a title (the name of the plant) while still out in the garden with the plant (and its label) in front of me. 

Once I get back indoors I may add a link to a relevant webpage on Wikipedia or The Royal Horticultural Society. I record where the plant came from and when it was planted. I also include other useful information such as whether it needs extra watering and its eventual size.

A number of plants that we have bought had sticky labels on the pot with details about the plant. These pots have been piling up in the garage for years waiting for me to copy down the information from all the labels. Rather than write them down I have now begun photographing each label and adding it to the appropriate note. (Unfortunately my iPhone camera isn’t up to this job as is unable to do macro shots so I use my normal camera and drag the pictures in.) Evernote has the ability to read text in photos but it doesn’t seem to work too well for the labels. Possibly because they are a bit dirty.

I’m hoping this notebook is going to help me keep the garden a bit more organised. We’re not terribly good at planning where plants should go. We just see something we like, buy it and put it in where we see a gap. We often fail to leave enough space for plants to grow, forgetting that over the following years they will become considerably larger. Now that I am recording what size plants are likely to reach I’m hoping that next year when I add more plants I will choose more appropriate locations for them. I’m also keeping a note of which plants have grown so big (because I didn’t plan properly!) that they will need divided next year. By having a photo of them now in full bloom I will be able to plan how much to section off next spring.

I’ve only just begun cataloguing plants and still have dozens to do but it’s fun and I’m enjoying it. I suspect there are many more ways I could enhance my garden notebook. Any tips or comments would be appreciated.

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10 Responses to “Creating a garden notebook with Evernote”

  1. Laura Says:

    Rachel,

    What a great idea — I’m inspired! 🙂

    And if you drew sketches or diagrams of your beds, you could include those, too. (Once upon a time I actually did such things. Sigh.)

    Laura

  2. Rachel Murphy Says:

    Hi Laura. That’s a good idea – I don’t know why I didn’t think of it. I’ll draw a diagram and scan it in.

  3. Jeroen Sangers Says:

    I have also been thinking about maintaining a plants journal (I only have a balcony and some interior plants), and ended up using a private weblog for it. Posts are automatically dated, I can see what happens per month, and each plant or por has its own category.

  4. Rachel Murphy Says:

    Hi Jeroen. Using a private blog as a journal is an interesting idea and not one I have considered before.

  5. Brian Says:

    Hi Rachel,

    Another tool you might consider for your garden book is Circus Ponies Notebook. One can create separate notebooks with different subjects; there are good clipping services from websites, and the notebook (or part of it) can be exported as a website for sharing. I’ve found many uses for it.

  6. Rachel Murphy Says:

    I took a look at Circus Ponies Notebook when the new version came out. I love the way it looks like a real notebook. But I just felt at $50 it was too expensive.

  7. Freida Wolden Says:

    Hi there, I see you made this in 2008. How did it work out for you. I have been looking at the iPhone Apps but I think Evernote gives me more control. Do you still use it?

    • Rachel Murphy Says:

      Hi Freida. I still use Evernote for the garden. I take photos of plants at different times of year to monitor how they are growing. And I take photos of the labels on the pots of plants that I buy. I had planned on building it up into a proper diary of the garden but that has never really happened. Just never enough time…

  8. Gayle Says:

    Hi Rachel. I am from Iowa. I just started using Evernote and one of the first things I am doing is creating a garden notebook. It is taking a little time, but through reading helpful information on the web, like this, I am learning how to do it. I started by doing individual notes for each plant. I have a large garden, divided into different garden rooms, sort of. So I am now stacking the notes into notebooks for each garden. I am then adding notes of things that need doing in each garden, design ideas to consider, new plants I might want to add, etc. The fact that i can go to the garden with iphone in hand and access all of this on the spot is exciting! We’ll see how it works out this summer. When all that white stuff outside goes away! Hope you are still happily gardening away! Gayle

  9. Rachel Murphy Says:

    Hi Gayle. I’ve been a bit slack this past year and not used Evernote much in my garden. Your comment has reminded me of how useful it is. I’ll have to get back into the swing of things. Thank you!


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