In the Bookshed: Gardeners love planners

About this time of year, every gardener I know is busily engaged in the dreaming process of gardening. There isn’t much else to do in January in areas where the ground is frozen solid – and here on the coast it’s a little too muddy yet to start digging. Instead we are curled up in warm houses planning, ordering supplies, sketching layouts, lining up deliveries for later spring as the wet trickles down the window panes outside. This year, I’ve got two new additions to my planning/diarizing arsenal – both hot off the press for 2010/11 and worth talking about:

First off is the Week-by-Week Vegetable Gardener’s Handbook by Ronald Kujawaski and Jennifer Kujawaski (Storey Publishing, ISBN: 978-1-60342-694-7, 2011) a husband and daughter team of gardeners from Massachusetts. They have provided here a planner for “perfectly timed gardening” based on your last frost date where each chore list is broken down week by week. Idea being that any gardener can find their last frost date and then pen in all the dates for their given area relationally (4 weeks before last frost, 10 weeks after last frost etc) so as to give the perfect garden plan.

Unfortunately for us wet-coasters, last frost date isn’t the best measure which is why the West Coast Seeds planting guide in their seed catalogue is so damned important to us. Even though our last average frost is early (March 28th), the weather is still too wet and the air too cold for many activities that would take place after last frost in other parts of North America.

But even so – I was able to pen relative dates in for this guide – disregarding the last frost date and using the West Coast Seeds planting guide instead – and now I have a week-by-week planner with tasks set out right into late fall. As important as the planner piece – this really does serve as a handbook of tips and techniques in the garden which make for an invaluable reference. Asparagus growing, making compost, pruning technique, encouraging great tomato growth, gardening approaches – its all in here and written in clear and conversational language making it a pleasure to read as well as refer to.

Spiral-bound, sturdily constructed with a waterproof cover, this book is clearly meant to get dirty (the authors will tell you so themselves) and spend all season with you in the garden. I know my copy will.

Now, as many gardeners will tell you – the best form of planner is in fact your garden diary from the year(s) before. How else will you remember what date the last frost typically falls on in your backyard or what the average rainfall in spring is?  (Oh microclimates!) Not to mention whether it was worth it to start your tomatoes at the beginning of February when you couldn’t put them outside until June the year before…… Which is where My Garden: A Five-Year Journal by Mimi Luebbermann (Chronicle Books, 2010) comes in handy.

This sweet little hardbound journal includes checklists, reminders and tips for each season – but is mostly just dedicated to giving lots of pages for reflection. It’s not designed as a daily diary by any stretch, but provides about fifty pages per season to be divided across the years at the diarist sees fit. I find this approach a lot less intimidating than a diary that expects a certain volume of writing… daily is too much for me when I’m elbow-deep in dirt.

This journal doesn’t leave a lot of room for lists and planning – though there is a spot for garden sketches at the end of each season and those pages can be used to create seed lists and whatnot. Seasonal tips are divided into temperate, cold, warm and hot climates which is more useful to me than last-frost date measures (see above). Also, there is an envelope in the back to hold clippings, photos and whatnot – that would be useful if I ever printed a photo out or remembered to clip an article…… I always hope to be that organized!

I’ve put my first entry in already, and marked up the week by week planner as well – getting ready for the season in writing at least – and promise this year will be better documented than last!

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