First seeds for 2020

Garden activities don’t stop when the weather gets cold, even when the south gets an early cold snap. Now is a particularly good time for gardeners to keep an eye on garden/seed companies, as they try to clear stock from this year and promote items for next year.

I just got new seeds in the mail (technically, yesterday) from MIGardener, a website with a lot of variety at pretty good pricing. On clearance from this year, I grabbed a discounted “Homestead Collection” Detroit Dark Red Beet. Packed for 2020, I selected Tess’s Land Race Currant Tomato, Fordhook Giant Swiss Chard, Cipollini Onion, and Red Burgundy Okra.

Here’s why I picked these seeds…

Detroit Dark Red Beet – I’ve been trying to grow this variety already, but between unusual weather and some outside-the-garden problems, I haven’t had much luck getting more than leafy greens. I hope buying a bigger package (at a reduced price!) will give me more opportunities to get beet bulbs.
Tess’s Land Race Currant Tomato – I probably have way more varieties of tomato seeds than I have space to grow, but I have difficulty resisting something that’s almost guaranteed to pay off in a hot southern US year. Plus this variety is supposed to be super prolific, producing cascades of small fruit.
Fordhook Giant Swiss Chard – Reported as being heat and cold resistant, which means potentially more greens that are genuinely palatable. I don’t eat a lot of salads, but I do like a mix of greens when I do and when constructing sandwiches or other things that greens go well in.
Cipollini Onion – I like onions. I enjoy the zing from the leaf-stalks and love the sweetness of the bulbs once they’ve been caramelized. Cipollini onions are a short-day variety, which means the bulbs develop with fewer hours per day.
Red Burgundy Okra – This okra variety has pods reported to be slower in turning woody and slimy. Plus, okra leaves are edible. I discovered the Red Burgundy while trying to help someone else re-discover an okra plant with similar qualities – if not exactly this variety.

I also have several more seed varieties marked for purchasing later this month, which haven’t been stocked yet. Hopefully, the weather cooperates next year, so I can grow the plants in the garden, not just collect seeds.

If you’re new to MIGardener and decide to get some seeds too, you can use the code SHARE10 at checkout to get a discount (public coupon, I get nothing for this).

Daily Planner Template

One of the biggest problems I used to have with scheduling is trying to work with mass-produced daily planners. Most cleanly separate hourly tasks from general tasks (if even offering both), spreading a single day across multiple pages. Additionally, each page tends to be cramped, especially when including fancy patterns as part of page design.

A few years ago, I switched to using an At-A-Glance day planner. It was letter-size, had quarter-hour lines for scheduling, and plenty of remaining space to record other information. I would take a ruler and split each page into three columns. The first two columns were for information about the time slot. The third column was for general notes/tasks. This was an improvement compared to previous planners, but drawing straight lines on every page was tedious. It was a lot of work for something that cost $18 each year.

Last year, I decided I needed to design a planner for myself. It needed to cover any type of day I might have and not force me to reference multiple pages to single out today. So I created a page template using Google Sheets, which provides space for every type of information I might want to record for a given day.

The Spreadsheet

Create a customizable copy by opening the spreadsheet and in the “File” menu, select “Make a copy”.

The page is currently optimized for printing on a US standard letter size with slightly more margin on the left side for punching binder holes. The grid borders only print where border color is defined.

The template has five sections.

  • General information about the day: date, day of the week, holidays/birthdays
  • Hourly schedule with quarter-hour increments, covering 16 hours of the day
  • Task/To-do list
  • Notes for general comments related to the day
  • Personal log for “self”-specific details

I decided to share my template because I couldn’t find something like it, at least not hidden behind a paywall. Many templates are similar to commercial planners or branded for a specific purpose without an easy way to clean up. My template is functional with a clean design.

What do I do with the planner?

I print a varying number of copies at a time, ranging from one extra day to a few weeks. I use a three-hole punch on each page and insert them into a binder.

Future pages go in the front of the binder, in ascending order. This puts the closest days at the front. I also put blank extras at the end of this section.

I have a binder calendar after the future pages. It provides a month reference and acts as a divider.

Past days are in descending order in the next section. Again, the purpose is keeping the most recent days near the front.

Another divider separates days from previous months at the end of the binder. This section only contains older pages for the current year.

The page for the current day frequently stays out of the binder. I keep it on my desk so I can conveniently reference or change it. I write in a combination of pre-planned items and notes about the day’s activities as they happen. Near the end of the day, I return the page to the section for previous days.

Pages for last year are currently in a separate binder. I’m not sure how I will continue to handle archiving preceding years. I presume I’ll eventually decide on a cut-off point to remove/recycle days that didn’t have anything particularly important about them.

Cost Comparison

In previous years, I spent around $5 for a planner that didn’t provide or have the space for the functionality I needed or $18 for a planner that involved wasting time on formatting each day.

With printed pages, the cost is divided into individual resources.
Ink: $24 for a new cartridge that lasts 2-4 months or $10 for a refill kit that lasts a year
Paper Ream (500 pages): $3-6, depending on paper quality
Binder: $1-5 new or $0.25-2 second-hand

That means my planner is as low as $5 a year, less when accounting that the ink and paper are shared with other projects, with trivial extra time (perhaps most important resource) spent on formatting.