A serenely informal gardener's companion. Klaus, who was director of the nonfiction writing program at the Univ. of Iowa before his recent retirement, is a specialist in the personal essay. His book collects almost a year's worth of brief daily reflections on his Iowa vegetable garden, beginning on March 16, 1995, and concluding on November 24. Unlike other practitioners of the popular garden journal genre, Klaus isn't beguiled by prettiness, either as a grower or as a writer; his pragmatism is reassuringly free of adjectival abandon. This is about as elated as he ever becomes: ``The most important news of the day is that I finished transplanting the tomatoes this afternoon.'' Similarly down-to-the-ground are his notes on marauding groundhogs, never-ending rain, and 100-year-old manure, suggesting common frets and pleasures without rhetorical swoons. Reading him is comforting because he invokes a too easily forgotten seasonal rhythm, page after page, and also because Klaus is very good at introducing human mortality into nature's timelessness as a consistent sidelong subject. He never whines, not even when discussing the serious illnesses of dog, cat, and wife. After some hours spent gardening, dinner is always waiting, and this-- virtuously, yet not prissily--seems like enough: ``Bloody Marys made with our own homemade tomato juice, to go with . . . salmon mousse from a poached Atlantic fillet, the organic endives from California (garlic-stuffed, pimento-stuffed, and Italian-spiced greens), and pumpernickel rye from the Lithuanian bakery in Omaha.'' Any gardener, true-blue or armchair variety, will want to settle down and read Klaus.