Laura Taylor has grown tomatoes and other edibles for 15 seasons in the San Fernando Valley, a suburb of Los Angeles.
"As my passion grew I learned that so many other people were interested in growing, and I began offering tomato-growing classes here in my yard," she said.
"I now offer both growing classes and cooking classes, many of which are specific to tomato recipes."
She's also turned that passion into a month-by-month 2011 tomatoes calendar. Even though she lives and gardens in California, many of the calendar's tips — plant a variety of herbs and marigolds among tomatoes to confuse predatory insects — apply to gardeners everywhere. The calendar also features color-coded information for eight growing regions and recipes, including chicken stew with tomatoes. The $20 calendar may be purchased at Laurataylorathome.com or (818) 716-7130.
Laura's tomato calendar is just one of several gardening and nature-related calendars that will brighten your spirits during the year.
Here are some of my favorites:
■ The Old Farmer's Almanac's 2011 calendar offers advice, folklore and gardening secrets that entertain as well as enlighten. For instance, did you know there are 75 species of snowdrops, all white, that bloom in early spring? Or that the slime secreted through an earthworm's skin helps hold clusters of soil particles together? Makes for interesting conversation at any garden parties you attend. It's $8.99 at gardening, hardware and book stores or online at Almanac.com/store, where you will also find a weather-watchers calendar.
■ The Wildlife Center of Virginia in Waynesboro, Va., has created a stunning calendar titled The Gardens of Eagles in tribute to the nesting pair at Norfolk Botanical Garden in southeastern Virginia. Annually, the botanical garden operates a live cam that allows you to watch what happens in the nest from the time the first egg is laid until the eaglets fledge the nest.
The wall calendar features 18 large color photographs and more than 35 smaller, full-color eagle photographs, as well as highlights from the 2010 nesting season. Proceeds benefit the wildlife center's construction of a new permanent home for Buddy, a "teaching eagle" that cannot live in the wild. Calendars, $20, can be purchased at Wildlifecenter.org or by phone at (540) 942-9453.
■ If songbirds are your passion, there are lots of calendars to choose from. The best two are Celebrate Urban Birds — with photos and artwork on themes such as survival, courtship and spooky birds ($15 calendar at Birds.cornell.edu or call (607) 254-2123) — and the Audubon Society's birding calendar, showcasing beauties such as a marsh wren clinging to a reed and a pair of ruby-throated hummingbirds hovering for a meal ($12.99 at Workman.com).
■ Rose enthusiasts can enjoy blossoms year-round with the American Rose Society's calendar, which offers rose gardening tips along with photography of the prettiest posies. The wall calendar is $14.99, the desk diary $39.99. Order at Lulu.com/americanrosesociety.
■ Gardening season is just around the corner — remember, you start seeds indoors in late February and early March — and Burpee's calendar is there to remind you. The 12-inch-square calendar is $9.99 at Burpee.com or 1-800-333-5808.
■ The Gardening by the Moon calendar promises to help you extend your gardening season. The best days for planting by the phase and the signs of the moon and garden activities for each month are among its pages. It's available for an immediate digital download or may be purchased for $14.95 at Gardeningbythemoon.com or at (707) 869-3974.