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Online Tools for Planning the Perfect Vegetable Garden

Online Tools for Planning the Perfect Vegetable Garden

Maybe you are an experienced gardener, and you have a neat binder full of garden plans and notes where you’ve carefully recorded your crop rotations, varieties and successes over the years.

Or maybe you are starting a new garden in a new place, and want an easy way to plan and track your plantings. Or, maybe you’re a new gardener, and have no clue how to plan and organize your garden at all.

Whether your a garden sage or a total newbie, these online vegetable garden planning tools can make planning this year’s garden a real snap!

Creating a Garden Plan

When creating a garden plan, there are several variables to consider:

  • the size of your garden
  • the amount of sun your garden gets and the length of your growing season
  • the number of people the garden will be feeding
  • what you all like to eat
  • what you would like to can, preserve or freeze
  • the needs of the plants you want to grow
  • the method of gardening you are using (raised beds, rows, Square Foot, biointensive, etc.)

Most gardeners start with a piece of graph paper and some pencils, and sketch out a plan of their yard. (Sometimes, it’s even to scale!)

Then, if you are a novice gardener, you will probably spend a lot of time looking at charts in gardening books or the instructions on the back of your seed packets to determine when to plant, how much space each plant needs to grow, and roughly when you will harvest.

Then, through nearly superhuman feats of logic, math and geometry, you puzzle out a plan for your garden. Or you give your brain a Charley horse with the effort, and end up just sticking some seeds and seedlings in the ground to map out later. (Maybe.)

While gardening should be at least as much a joy as it is an effort, if you want to have a garden that can provide a good portion of your food (if not all of it), you’ll need to have a plan.

Fortunately, some of those people overwhelmed (or perhaps bored) by hand-drawn, garden planning logic puzzles happened to be computer programmers. And they made the perfect apps for people new to, intimidated by, or tired of “old-school” garden planning.

Thanks to these three online vegetable garden planning tools, you can now take all the research and math out of planning your vegetable garden. In fact, whether you are a novice or an expert, thanks to technology, garden planning has never been faster or easier!

GrowVeg.com Garden Planner

vegetable garden planning toolThe GrowVeg.com garden planning app is the Cadillac of online garden planning software. It is $25 for an annual subscription, but you can try it free for 30 days. GrowVeg is also available for your smartphone and your iPad.

GrowVeg.com determines the best times to plant, based on your zip code, and finds the average first and last frost dates for your area, based on records from over 5,000 weather stations across the United States and Canada.

If your experience in your microclimate points you toward different dates, you have the option of setting the frost dates yourself. Then GrowVeg will use these dates to tell you the best planting times for dozens of garden crops.

The GrowVeg.com Garden Planner software shows how much space your plants require and how to group them for maximum success, removing the need to look up planting distances and crop families. Most vegetables and herbs have already been coded with space requirements, so you can quickly see how many will fit in a given bed or row.

Once your plan is complete, the software compiles a chart showing how many of each plant you need to buy or raise from seed, the correct spacing and recommended planting dates for your area. You can print both the plan and plant list as a handy reference to take into your garden.

GrowVeg will even send you twice-monthly reminders about what crops to sow and plant from your plans, enabling you to keep track of succession plantings very easily. It really couldn’t get much more convenient!

If your garden beds are already in place, simply set up your garden’s template in the application and start plugging in plants. Or, use the app to design new beds for any garden. GrowVeg.com even has space calculations for the Square Foot Gardening method!

And GrowVeg.com will even help you rotate your crops next year, plan for cover crops, leave notes about when to add compost and fertilizer and more. For a well-organized and timely planted garden, this app covers just about everything, and is well worth the annual subscription fee.

Check out a demo here

Kitchen Garden Planner by Gardener’s Supply Company

The Kitchen Garden Planner is a free, basic vegetable garden planner created by Gardener’s Supply Company, one of the better mail order gardening retailers. (They also have a very useful raised bed soil calculator, too!)

The Kitchen Garden Planner offers users two very convenient options: Selecting a pre-planned garden or creating your own garden plan.

For newbie gardeners, a pre-made garden plan can really make planning and planting your first garden very easy. Even experienced gardeners will find the pre-made plans unique and inspiring! The pre-designed bed templates are one of the best features of this planning app.

The Kitchen Garden planner is incredibly easy to use; you simply put in the dimensions of your garden beds and then drag and drop the plants you want to grow onto the grid. Beneath the plan, you will find planting instructions for every plant you have selected. You can neatly save your plan and print it out, or browse the rest of the site for tons of outstanding organic gardening advice.

Unlike GrowVeg.com, this planner doesn’t calculate frost dates to tell you when to plant, nor can it plan for successions of crops throughout the year. And it doesn’t give you plant lists or send you reminders to keep you on track. You have to figure all that out yourself.

But for a free planner, the Kitchen Garden Planner is a really nice, high-quality, user-friendly app.

Check out the Kitchen Garden Planner

PlanGarden.com

vegetable garden planning toolPlanGarden.com is not very sexy at first glance. It looks rather low-budget in fact. But don’t let first impressions fool you; PlanGarden is a robust piece of garden planning software. It should be, because after your 45-day free trial of the software, it costs $20 a year, or $36 for three years.

With PlanGarden, you can lay out your beds to scale, and place and label your plants by variety. With the harvest feature, you can easily plan succession crops and harvest dates.

Finally, PlanGarden has a nice daily log that enables you to schedule and record garden activities like weeding, turning compost, fertilizing beds and the like. All of it is easily saved and printed for future use. You can also download the PlanGarden software so you can work on your garden plans even when you don’t have internet access.

Unlike GrowVeg.com or the Kitchen Garden Planner, PlanGarden does not have automated data entry for plant spacing. They provide a Vegetable Calculator and a Frost Calculator to help you space things and decide when to plant, but you have to look up each vegetable you want to grow with those calculators, and place that data into your garden plan yourself.

PlanGarden covers all your garden bases very neatly, and has great scheduling features, but it doesn’t offer automated crop data entry, crop rotation warnings, email reminders, or any of the other bells and whistles offered by the other two planners.

Rather, PlanGarden is much more DIY, and runs a bit like an AutoCAD program custom built for gardeners, enabling you to draw and plan garden beds with irregular shapes or unusual planting configurations. PlanGarden also has a community where people share their garden plans and learn from each other.

Because you have to enter all the data for your garden plan yourself, and there are no shortcuts or presets to ease your math cramps, this planner is probably a better tool for the more experienced gardener who wants a lot of flexibility in their design, or is looking for a modern, faster, neater way to organize their garden records.

Check out PlanGarden.com

Each of these three online vegetable garden planning tools can help you create a beautiful and productive garden this year. Give one a try!

Do you have any garden planning tips? Please share them in the comments!

Shared with Saturday Roundup, Sunday SchoolSimply Natural SaturdayBetter Mom MondaysMix it Up MondaysThank Goodness It’s MondayClever Chicks HopNatural Living MondaysHomestead Barn HopFat TuesdaysEco-Kids TuesdayBackyard Farming ConnectionTutorial Tuesday, Teach Me Tuesdays, Living Green LinkupThe Gathering SpotFamily Table TuesdayAnti-Procrastination TuesdayHealthy TuesdaysTitus 2sdayHearth and Soul HopReal Food WednesdayParty Wave WednesdaysWildcrafting WednesdaysThe Mommy ClubSeasonal CelebrationsHealthy 2day Wednesday, Frugal Days, Sustainable Ways, Whole Food WednesdaysFresh Foods WednesdayWicked Awesome Wednesdays, Homemaking LinkupTasty TraditionsHomeAcre HopThank Your Body ThursdayCreative JuiceYour Green ResourceSimple Lives ThursdayNatural Living Linkup, Real Food Real Frugal, Fight Back FridaysFresh Bites FridayLink LoveLHITS DIY Linky, Old Fashioned Friday.

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31 Comments

  1. I use Excel spreadsheets for my garden layout, seed inventory (got tired of duplicates!) and planting quantities. It takes a little effort to set up initially but it’s easy to update every year after that.
    I’m also working on a pantry list that keeps track of what I want to have preserved and what I actually have on the shelf.
    For some very practical and time tested ideas for garden and pantry planning check out Granny Miller’s Blog site: http://www.granny-miller.com/a-garden-planner-for-home-food-preservation/ Definitely something to aspire to!

  2. pretty awesome resource, especially for those of us with limited space!

  3. Thanks for sharing this on The HomeAcre Hop!!! Can’t wait to see what you share this coming Thursday :) Here’s the super easy link to the next hop!
    http://www.theselfsufficienthomeacre.com/2013/02/the-homeacre-hop-8.html

    If you haven’t checked out Wildcrafing Wednesday yet, please do! :) It’s a hop I co-host for herbal remedies, natural living, real food recipes, and self sufficient living. Here’s the link for tomorrow’s hop:
    http://www.theselfsufficienthomeacre.com/2013/02/wildcrafting-wednesday-10.html

  4. Guessing my “winging it” isn’t the most effective! lol Good stuff! Thanks for sharing this with us at Eco-Kids Tuesday! Hope to see you again today! http://likemamalikedaughter.blogspot.com/2013/02/bunnys-bento-box-eco-kids-tuesday.html

  5. Thank you for sharing with the Saturday Round Up! I hope you will consider joining us again next week :)

  6. I just found SmartGarden.com via Pinterest, and it’s pretty neat! I have a little trouble with the interface, as far as finding the planting timeline info again after I’ve set up the garden, but it will actually do a LOT of what Kathy was looking for!

    • Looks like a good resource, and it’s free because it is a retail outlet for some nice seed companies!

  7. This is really neat information!
    I hope you’ll consider entering it in the Saturday Round-Up, the new blog hop over at A Joyful Mother! I’d love it!
    http://ajoyfulmother.com/2013/02/22/saturday-round-up-a-new-blog-hop/

  8. I have a large flower garden, and two large raised beds for vegetables. I tend to grow the same things every year, depending on what crops I have had success with. (The UK has a very tricky growing season.) The tools you have suggested sound wonderful. I love the idea of planning this way. They sound very reasonable in price considering everything that they do, and it’s great that the Kitchen Garden planner is free if you are on a tight budget.

  9. Wow I am going to try some of these tools this year with my gardening! I always start the year with “what did I plant here last time?” :)

    • That’s a common refrain in gardens!! I hope these tools help!

  10. I have a few containers I grow herbs and lettuce in… probably time to start some spinach. Thanks for sharing at Healthy 2Day Wednesday!

  11. My goal is to be organized this growing season – and I think these tools will help! I also fly by the seat of my pants, and just start planting. Maybe if I make a plan I will start to see better results :)

    • I hope so! But even with a good plan, a little “seat of the pants” gardening keeps things interesting!

  12. This is great! :) GrowVeg sounds like the one for me. I wonder though…the ideal program for me would be one that I could say this:

    I want to feed my family of 4 for: the summer, the summer plus can/freeze a few (and I can say which fruits and vegetables I want to can/freeze), or the year; and these are the fruits and vegetables I want to grow.

    Then I want the program to provide me with plant (or seed) quantitites; planting guidelines (including succession planting); required garden size to achieve my goal of feeding my family of 4 for the summer, the summer plus, etc.; and recommendations of heritage, open-polination seeds/plant varieties.

    If the required garden size is larger than my garden, I want to be able to tell the program that my garden size is smaller and have it tell me which plants to plant in my space to get me as close to my desired outcome (feed my family of 4 for the summer, summer plus, etc) and then tell me which fruits/vegetables I would need to purchase to supplement my garden in order to achieve my goal.

    So, what do you think? Is there an app or program out there like this or is this just wishful thinking? :)

    (Oh, thank you for sharing this on Wildcrafting Wednesday! I’m thinking about gardening again!) :)

    • I don’t think anyone has come up with THAT software, but how nice if they did! However GrowVeg comes pretty close.

      You could also figure this out by researching in advance how many plants you would need per person. If you knew, say, that you needed 10 beet plants per person per year (Would you eat 10 whole beets a year?), and you were trying to feed 4 people, then you could plug 40 beet plants into your garden plan. Do that for each vegetable you want to eat, and with a little math and space jiggering on your part, any of the planners would work for you.

      It’s a little tricky to program how much you need to plant into software because people like different foods in different amounts. My family of three would NOT eat 10 whole beets in a year combined, for example, but we could eat a whole bush full of green beens every week. So I use GrowVeg with our unique personal consumption rates in mind. Hope that might work for you!

    • WOW, I’d love to have that program too!!!

  13. I would love to have you share this on The HomeAcre Hop tonight!
    http://www.theselfsufficienthomeacre.com/2013/02/the-homeacre-hop-7.html

  14. Visiting from Wildcrafting Wednesday.

    Thanks for sharing these resources! I posted recently about my need to start planning better. This is exactly what I needed.

  15. I’m laughing because I just posted about my WAY low tech graph paper garden planning and this post is making me feel VERY old, but WOW what a great collection of resources. I’ll be sure to check them out. Perhaps I can join modern civilization. ;-)

  16. The GrowVeg.com Garden Planner sounds like a great program! I would love something I could access on my iPhone while in the garden for reminders. That would be the life!

    Do you use any of these or stick to pencil and paper?

    • I was old school for a long time, and kept my garden plans on an Excel spreadsheet and a piece of graph paper. But since I moved to a new state, became a mom and got sick all at once, I’ve been a big fan of GrowVeg. Really takes the headache out of planning succession crops, which my foggy brain doesn’t like to do anymore. :)

    • Barb – you’ll be pleased to know that the GrowVeg.com Garden Planner has a Publish Plan to Web feature that does just that – enables you to view it on your iPhone. Plus, we have a compatible iPhone app coming out soon to complement our iPad one (Garden Plan Pro).
      (I’m one of the GrowVeg.com designers).
      Dawn – thanks for the great review! We have some great new features coming soon too…

      • No problem. I love what your doing with GrowVeg! Saves me hours of figuring things out manually, especially for a new garden. Can’t wait to see the new features! There are some good ideas about what gardeners need in these comments!

  17. I look forward to garden planting season! :)

  18. My husband and I were just talking about our need to start planning the garden…which we don’t usually plan like we should. Thanks for these resources.

  19. Thank you for posting this on the Homestead Barnhop. These are some great resources and just what I was looking for to better plan my garden. I tend to fly by the seat of my pants, with pretty good results. With a little planning and organization, I am hoping to maximize the productivity of my little patch of ground. Thanks!

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