Week-by-Week Vegetable Gardener’s Handbook by Ron Kujawski & Jennifer Kujawski
I am a researcher. When a new project comes my way, I spend a lot of time reading everything I can about it. I want to put my best foot forward and research is how I get there. I have approached vegetable gardening in the same way. I am also a planner. I am the most comfortable when I have done thorough research and planned what I’m going to do. That doesn’t mean I don’t garden with my heart. I certainly do. I just like to be as informed as I can be and to go into gardening with the right tools. Part of this research led me to a book that I have found to be very helpful, Week-by-Week Vegetable Gardener’s Handbook by Ron Kujawski & Jennifer Kujawski. I have enjoyed reading it and refer to it often. If you are new to gardening or are looking for a better way to stay organized and on schedule with planting and harvesting, this is a great resource.
Why I like it
I love the humor included in this book. Gardening is meant to be fun and it is clear that the authors have a great time gardening. Week-by-Week Vegetable Gardener’s Handbook is written by a father daughter duo that spends their time working a 6,000 square foot vegetable garden they share (and I thought my garden was big!). Ron Kujawski has a lifetime of experience in horticulture and environmental work. He grew up on an onion farm, earned degrees in Biology and worked for the University of Massachusetts Extension for 25 years and was a founding father of the Western Massachusetts Master Gardener Association. His daughter, Jennifer, has degrees in botany and horticulture and is a writer in these fields. Together they have a wealth of gardening knowledge that they share in this lively vegetable gardening book.
There are many informative vegetable gardening publications and workbooks available in bookstores and online. This one stood out to me because I was looking for a combination of the two. Week-by-Week Vegetable Gardener’s Handbook provides detailed information on what and when to plant in an easy to follow format. The authors explain why tasks are done and how to do them. There are weekly to-do lists including tasks like seed starting, maintenance and harvesting. The book is spiral bound, which makes it easy to fold over and write in while down in the garden. There’s plenty of room for personal notes in there too.
This gardening handbook can be tailored to each reader as the book’s layout is based on hardiness zones and geographic areas with specific weather conditions. While the book tells you how to get your garden started and how to harvest and store your crops, the main premise is a step-by-step weekly planner. It all starts by knowing what the first and last date of average frost is for your area. If you don’t know what yours is, you can look it up here. Once you know your dates, you can start to fill out the calendar pages of the book. The weekly planner starts 20 weeks before the average date of last frost and works its way through divided sections of winter to early, mid and late spring, which are all before the last frost date. Then it continues with early, mid and late summer and fall, ending with early winter at 29 weeks after the average date of last frost. If you thought vegetable gardening was only a spring and summer thing, you’re in for quite an adventure. The Week-by-Week Vegetable Gardener’s Handbook will keep you busy all year long.
No matter when in the growing season you start the gardening handbook, you can instantly fall in with the plan of what you need to be doing at that point. Don’t panic thinking you were supposed to start your garden weeks, or even months, ago. Just jump right in like I did. I bought the book in April so I was already just a week away from my average last frost date when I started reading it. Each section is thought out very well, making it an easy read. The hand sketched drawings paint a great picture of what the technique is that they are explaining, such as how to cut broccoli from the base of the stem when harvesting.
The authors do a good job explaining the cause of plant diseases and how to prevent and treat them. Early blight and blossom-end rot are common tomato problems and blossom blight is a fungus disease that affects summer squash. Their cause and treatment are discussed briefly, but concisely. You can devote a lot of time to looking up plant diseases online, but there’s no need to read lengths when a quick answer of what to do is all you might really be looking for at the moment.
They also discuss garden pests in Week-by-Week Vegetable Gardener’s Handbook. If you’ve never seen a tomato hornworm, you’re in for quite a surprise, especially if it has cocoons of parasitic wasps on its back. Some gardeners might be inclined to re-home those unsightly creatures thinking they’re hornworm eggs, but they aren’t. When the parasitic wasps emerge, they’ll take care of the hornworm. Nature is amazing and letting it take its course is a fascinating part of vegetable gardening.
Of course, we might all want to intervene at some point, particularly when there are too many pests in the garden. At gardenstead, we’re all about living in harmony with nature. Sometimes nature needs a little help though. We advocate for peaceful and humane ways to keep pests out of the garden. It sounds like Ron Kujawski & Jennifer Kujawski do as well. They offer suggestions on how to apply natural pesticides, such as neem oil, and simply handpicking off insects. I use neem oil for aphids, but I personally opt to simply re-home creatures such as worms and caterpillars. I live in a forest, so there’s plenty of space for all of us, just not in my vegetable garden.
Some of the best advice I’ve taken from Week-by-Week Vegetable Gardener’s Handbook is about maintenance. Understanding and dealing with pests and diseases are a big part of it, but so is knowing when and how to add fertilizer. It lists what you should be planting, fertilizing, pruning and harvesting and when. I refer to it often so that I can mark my calendar of when I need to add fertilizer to specific plants, when I need to pinch off new blossoms and when I need to thin plants. We can all get caught up in doing one thing in the garden, and before long something else has been neglected. Week-by-Week Vegetable Gardener’s Handbook is a helpful tool to make sure you stay on track with gardening collectively.
I have enjoyed reading the book. The authors have clearly put a lot of time and thought into the information provided. Whether you are a first time gardener or a seasoned one looking to get more organized, this is a great tool to have.