Stay organized with a garden inventory.

How to Create a Garden Inventory of Your Plants

by Laura Reynolds

Many a gardener has started a garden journal, only to wonder what to put on all those blank pages. The garden map is easy, but how to identify winners and losers and keep track of what works and what doesn’t all too often takes pages of narrative -- and supposition -- that may be difficult to understand five years from now. A garden inventory contains the facts -- just the facts -- that provide information for next year and a welcome housewarming gift for the next homeowner who might need to identify “volunteers” in the garden.

Make a scale drawing of your entire property, including all buildings and hardscaping such as walls, patios, stairs, walks and other permanent features. Try to do your map in a scale you can get on an 8 1/2- by 11-inch piece of paper. You can scan a plat map, reducing it to 8 1/2 by 11 inches if you have one with your house papers. Make several copies of this map.

Walk around your property and make note of each tree, shrub, border and garden bed on one copy of the property map. Don’t mark individual perennials or annuals -- your map is too small for this detail.

Make a second map with elevation markings. Draw a line along each 1 foot in rise or fall -- space lines closely on steep falls and farther apart on gentle slopes.

Divide your large map into smaller sections that fit onto 8 1/2- by 11-inch sheets of graph paper, using 1 square foot per graph square as your scale. Assign an individual name or other identifier to each section. Assign an individual letter or other identifier to each border or bed within each section.

Create an inventory sheet for soil tests on lined paper with columns for date, area, test results and any supplements added to the soil. Make several copies.

Create an inventory sheet for plants on lined paper with columns for location -- section plus letter, when appropriate -- common name, scientific name, date planted, disposition and notes. Make several copies for each section.

Create a sheet to list garden tools, including lawn mowers, tillers and lawn tractors, with spaces for date of acquisition, maintenance and projected replacement dates.

Enter existing trees and shrubs on inventory sheets for each section, assigning a number to each cultivar. Locate each tree or shrub on each section map with its cultivar number. Draw the outline of deciduous trees and shrubs as they appear at their greatest size in mid-summer.

Enter existing plants on inventory sheets for each section, assigning a number to each cultivar. Locate each plant on each section map with its cultivar number.

Update plants, soil and supplements in the appropriate spaces. Add notes about fertilizer, pests, diseases and cause of death in the notes in the notes boxes.

Punch holes along one side of each page to fit in a loose-leaf binder with tabbed sections. Add a few blank sheets to each section so you’ll always have sheets to copy.

Items you will need

  • Looseleaf binder
  • Plain, lined and graph paper
  • Section tabs
  • Hole-punch
  • Measuring tape
  • Pen and pencils
  • Ruler
  • Scanner and printer


  • Save comments on how well fertilizers and supplements work on plants for your garden journal. The same goes for plants you like. An inventory is simply an accurate record of what’s located where -- past and present.
  • Identify plants by species, genus and variety or cultivar. Existing plants may be difficult to identify beyond the species. Try to match identifiers such as U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zone, leaf texture and shape, plant size, bloom time and length to determine genus. Avoid buying plants without full information.
  • Draw maps in ink -- or make plenty of copies -- and add new bed and border outlines in ink -- but mark plant locations in pencil so you can change them when you replace plants.

About the Author

An avid perennial gardener and old house owner, Laura Reynolds has had careers in teaching and juvenile justice. A retired municipal judgem Reynolds holds a degree in communications from Northern Illinois University. Her six children and stepchildren served as subjects of editorials during her tenure as a local newspaper editor.

Photo Credits

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