First seeds for 2020

Garden activities don’t stop when the weather gets cold, even when the south gets an early cold snap. Aside from there still being to-do items for in the garden, now is prime seed buying season. Now is 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 these 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 discount!) will give me more opportunity to keep trying to get beet bulbs.
Tess’s Land Race Current Tomato – I probably have way more varieties of tomato seeds than I really have space to grow, but I have difficulty resisting something that’s almost guaranteed to pay off in a usual hot southern US year. Plus this variety is supposed to be super prolific, producing cascades of small fruit.
Fordhook Giant Swiss Chard – Reported to be heat and cold resistant, which means potentially more greens that are actually 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 in particular are a short-day variety, which means the bulbs develop with less hours per day.
Red Burgundy Okra – This okra variety is reported to be slower in having the pods turn 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 actually 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 have had with scheduling, is trying to use mass-published daily planners. I’d gather that most of the planners I’ve bought couldn’t do the job I needed. Most cleanly separate hourly task from general tasks (if even offering both), spreading a single day across multiple pages. Plus each page tends to be cramped, especially when including fancy patterns as part of page design.

About three years ago, I switched to a day planner (At A Glance brand) that finally gave me space to do what I needed, a full size pre-bound planner that showed quarter hour increments with each day taking a full page. I was able to take a ruler and split each page into three columns. The first two columns covered information about the hour and the third was used for general notes/tasks. This worked well compared to your average day planner, but drawing straight lines on every single page to neatly split data reduced the value of a planner that cost around $18 each year.

Last year, I decided I needed to just make my own planner. Something that would cover any type of day, whether crammed with stuff to get done or just covering the highlights of the day, and not force me to reference multiple pages to single out today. Through several iterations, I created a spreadsheet hosted on Google Drive/Docs that provides space for every type of information I might want to record for a given day.

The Spreadsheet

To make your own copy, open the spreadsheet and in the “File” menu, select “Make a copy”. From there, you can edit your copy or export to another format.

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

My template is split into five sections.
– Header with general day information: date, day of week, and holidays/birthdays
– Hourly schedule split into quarters, covering 16 hours of the day
– Task/To do list, with unmarked lines
– Notes, unmarked lines for general comments/reminders about the day
– Personal log, which is basically another note section for “self” specific details

What makes my template different from others on the internet, is that it’s completely free, completely customizable, and makes no significant assumptions about what you’re using the day planner for. It can be a personal diary, a way to coordinate family members, a content marketing planner, or a something else that requires looking close at each day.

What do I do with the planner?

I print varying number of pages at a time, depending on how busy I am, sometimes an extra day at a time, sometimes going ahead a couple weeks. Each page I use a three-hole punch on and insert into a binder.

At the front of the binder are future pages in ascending order, as in having the nearest days at the front. This allows me to pull out tomorrow from the front when it’s time. I also put blank extras at the end of this section.

Then I have a binder-sized monthly calendar, which both acts as a general month reference and a content divider.

Finally, I have past days, in descending order, so the most recent day is still near the front. Past days exceeding the current month are put after another divider.

The page for today frequently stays out of the binder, instead staying on my desk, so I can reference and edit it at will, without pulling out the binder. The contents are a combination of pre-planned items and notes about the day activities as they happen. When this page returns to the binder, it goes on top of the “past” section (as I do this usually at end of the day).

Last year’s planner pages are in a different binder. I’m not sure how I will continue to handle archiving previous years as time moves on but 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’ve spent around $5 for a planner that didn’t really provide or have the space for the functionality I needed or $18 for a planner that at least gave space but involved wasting time on formatting each day.

With printed pages, the cost is divided into individual resources.
Ink: $24 for a new cartridge that last 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 (check that the rings line up correctly and use a damp towel or mild cleaning wipe on binder before use)

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.