Why You Should Keep a Cannabis Grow Journal

When it comes to learning a new skill – such as growing cannabis – one of the biggest factors that limits our rate of improvement is the amount of feedback we’re able to get.

Unfortunately, your cannabis plants won’t give you feedback directly.

If they’re suffering from a nutrient deficiency, you’ll have to figure that out yourself by watching carefully for the signs.

If you have a great harvest that you want to replicate, you’ll have to remember exactly what you did right so you can do the same thing again.

There are hundreds of variables that can affect a plant’s growth, and it’s way too much data to keep track of in our heads.

This is why a grow journal is indispensable, whether you want to keep tabs on your plant so that you can fix health problems as quickly as possible, or you just want to continue growing better harvests and healthier plants.

Here’s exactly why you should keep one, and what data you should record in it.

Why should I keep a grow journal?

Growing great cannabis can be a complex craft, but it’s more of a science than an art.

More data always has the potential to be useful – as long as you know how to interpret that data correctly and react accordingly.

Recording all of that data in a grow journal takes time, but it’ll come in handy later.

Health problems that your plants go through can sometimes take days to become visible to the naked eye –

at which point you may not be able to remember what happened days ago to cause the issue.

Do you have a specific strain that is your absolute favorite?

One that you want to master growing, so that each time you start a seed or clone from that strain, you’ll get great results?

Well, keeping a detailed grow journal is a key part of that endeavor.

Each cannabis strain has different needs and a different ideal environment, and the data in your grow journal will help you zero in on exactly what your strain likes.

Section 2 (H2)

When it comes to keeping a grow journal, the important thing is collecting lots of accurate data.

However, once you set pencil to paper, there are a few different directions you can go.

If you’re the sort of person who likes a routine, you might like to find a template you can print out with places to record all the important measurements.

If you have a Reefertilizer account, you can download our template for free.

It’s a digital version of our printed grow journal.

On the other hand, you may find templates to be overly structured, or you may find that routines squash your enthusiasm for journaling entirely.

If that describes you, go for a more freestyle method of journaling.

Date each entry, and write down whatever you think will be most helpful.

Our grow journal has fields for you to record the start date, strain, variety, grow method, and estimated flowering time. Weekly entries have space to record height, feed, pH, PPM, EC, TDS, and misc. notes. It’s compact and covers all the basics.

Still, try to take down as much info as you can – it’s always got the potential to be useful later.

How useful a freestyle grow journal is depends on your intuition and your thoroughness.

The worst case scenario with a freestyle grow journal is that you’ll have spotty information, recorded sporadically, with unfortunate gaps in important places that make the data difficult or impossible to interpret in a helpful way.


The best case scenario is that you’ll save some time and energy by not recording unnecessary, extraneous information, but you’ll still have enough data to solve any problems you encounter and improve your next grow.

The worst case scenario with a freestyle grow journal is that you’ll have spotty information, recorded sporadically, with unfortunate gaps in important places that make the data difficult or impossible to interpret in a helpful way.

Regardless of how good you are at identifying which information is most important to record, you’ll increase your chances of success by journaling more regularly and more thoroughly.

Paper Vs. Digital Grow Journals

When it comes to keeping a grow journal, the really important part is that the data gets recorded.

The medium you choose to record that data in is somewhat a matter of preference.

Pen and paper is the obvious, tried-and-true method.

But, if you want to go digital, you can use Google Docs, a Microsoft Word document, or a smartphone app like GrowBuddy or Grow With Jane.

Regardless of which specific device or app you might choose, the biggest choice you’ll make is whether to keep a paper journal or a digital one.

Digital Journal: Pros

  • Digital journals are shareable. Whether it’s a Google Doc, an app, or just a text file stored in the Cloud, you’ll have the option to access your journal from multiple devices.
  • Digital journals are easy to back up
  • Digital journals are searchable. If there’s some specific info you need, it’s a lot easier to just hit Ctrl+F (or Command+F) and search for whatever you need to know than it is to flip through page after page in a physical journal.
Marijuana growing in a container

Digital Journal: Cons

  • Digital journals are less secure. It’s important to remember that nothing you put on the internet is 100% safe.

Files stored online, in the Cloud, and even the files on your device are always vulnerable to hackers, and may be vulnerable to government surveillance depending on where you live.

So, if privacy is a concern for you for any reason, this is something to keep in mind!

  • Digital journals can be inconvenient in a grow room.

HID lights (or the sun, if you’re outside) can make screens difficult to see, and your fingers may either be gloved or covered in dirt and soil, which makes typing difficult.

Wrestling with a smartphone in these environments is irritating, and waiting until later to record data often results in forgetting important information.

Paper Journal: Pros

Cannabis Plant Growing Outdoors in Soil
  • Paper journals are more private – obviously! The only way anyone can find out what’s in your journal is if they actually have it in their hands.
  • Paper journals are portable.

So are computer files, depending on how you store them… but you’ll never need to worry about whether or not you’re connected to the internet or if your files are synced and up to date if you have a paper journal.

  • Paper journals are easy to use in garden/grow room environments. If they get a little damp, they’ll dry out.

They’re easy to see and read from in all types of lighting. And, if you have gloves on or dirty fingers, you’ll get to deal with a pen/pencil instead of a touch screen.

  • Paper journals will help you remember the data you record.

Studies have shown that taking notes by hand increases students’ recall of information, compared to students who took notes using a smartphone or tablet.

Even if you never look at the notes you take, making those notes by hand will make it easier to remember what you did.

Paper Journal: Cons

  • Obviously, you can’t back up a paper journal. If anything happens to it, you could be in trouble.

But, if you keep the journal near your grow room and leave it in the same safe place every time, it should be pretty safe.

Final Verdict

Both paper and digital journals have their pluses and minuses, but overall, paper is more suitable in most situations. Touch screens and electronics just aren’t practical in a grow room or garden environment.

Pencil and paper is more reliable, helps your memory, and is more private than digital journals.

Unless the ability to back up your data or share it between multiple devices is really important to you, pencil and paper is the better choice.

Cannabis is a tough, hardy weed that can survive all over the world.

However, for a cannabis plant to thrive and grow to its fullest potential, it needs the ideal environment and the care and attention of a dedicated grower.

For a grower to reach his or her full potential, we need feedback from our plants – and since they can’t talk, it’s up to us to collect and interpret data about our plants to find out what’s going well, what’s going poorly, and what can be improved.

It’s a lot of work, but a well-kept grow journal will make it all manageable! Happy growing.

If you want to learn even more about growing good cannabis, we offer a free 40+ page guide full of images.
Now available on Amazon.
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