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!
Elements of a Garden Plan
When creating a garden plan, there are several important variables to consider—whether you use an app or the pencil and paper method. You will need to factor:
- the size of your garden
- the amount of sun your garden gets throughout the year, and the length of your growing season
- the number of people the garden will be feeding
- what you like to eat, and the space those plants take to grow
- what you would like to can, preserve or freeze
- the needs of the plants you want to grow (sun/shade, soil pH, annual/perennial, etc.)
- the method of gardening you are using (raised beds, rows, Square Foot, biointensive, etc.)
- what was successful in the garden last season, and where you planted it
- what was unsuccessful in the garden last season (and why), and where you planted it.
Garden Planning on Paper
After considering the factors above, most gardeners start with a piece of graph paper and some pencils, and sketch out a plan of their yard. (Sometimes, they even measure so it’s to scale!)
Then, if you are a beginner 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, mathematics and geometry, you will calculate schedules and plan drawings for your garden that will give you all the food you want, while also considering seasonality, crop rotations, companion planting, and phases of the moon.
Or, you give your brain a Charley horse with the effort, and just end up sticking some seeds and plants 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. (Moon phases optional.)
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” pencil-and-paper garden planning.
Thanks to these online vegetable garden planning apps, garden planning has never been faster or easier!
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The 4 Best Vegetable Garden Planners
The GrowVeg garden planning app is the leading online garden planning software in the U.S.—for good reason. It is $29 for an annual subscription, but you can try it free for 7 days. GrowVeg is also available for your smartphone and tablet.
GrowVeg determines the best times for you 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 particular 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 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.
You can quickly find companion plants for each type of vegetable you are planting, plan succession plantings for later in the season, and even plot out your drip irrigation lines.
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 email 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 vegetable beds for any garden. GrowVeg even has space calculations for the Square Foot Gardening method!
One really neat feature is that GrowVeg will 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.
VegPlotter is a very robust garden planning app that lets you easily change your units of measurement (meters to feet, for example), making it a fabulous planner for vegetable gardening anywhere in the world.
You can try the app free for 7 days, and then plans start at a very reasonable $17. Once you register, you can save your plans and begin to receive notifications about when to plant and harvest.
VegPlotter works on a month by month basis to tell you when is the right time to sow, harvest, or complete other gardening tasks. The app initially asks you for your location and the date so it can recommend which vegetables, herbs or fruits are timely and appropriate to plant in your region.
VegPlotter then allows you to create your garden design to scale using its user-friendly drag-and-drop interface. In fact, the tool is so easy to use that even middle-schoolers use it to design their classroom vegetable gardens in the U.K.. You can create flat or raised beds in rectangular, round, or irregular shapes, and the app even accommodates Square Foot Gardening beds.
Once you have the best layout for your garden beds, VegPlotter has a very large database of vegetables, herbs and fruits, and well-researched “Grow Guides” for each type of plant. The planting function provides basic planting distances and harvest times for each plant, but you can adjust these with the specific data from your variety’s seed package. And as a nice bonus feature, once you designate an area for a certain crop, VegPlotter will recommend good companion crops to plant nearby, and help you with crop rotation by warning you if you are putting similar plants in the same spot.
VegPlotter works well on mobile, is affordable, and has just about everything you need to plan and grow a year’s worth of flowers and food from your garden.
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, 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.
SmartGardener is an affordable garden planning app that has some pretty robust tools. ($10/season, $30/year) Their plant database maintains over 3,000 varieties of seeds (which are sold on the site). They also have a nice little library of gardening tips and videos, and a forum, too.
After setting your location and answering a few questions, SmartGardener calculates your planting zone and gives you suggestions on what to plant and when. Then, very conveniently, you can have SmartGardener email you with garden tasks for the week, telling you when to plant and harvest each variety you select to plant in your garden.
The planner itself is pretty intuitive, and lets you set a square-foot grid any size you like. It gives you a variety of shapes and sizes for your garden beds that you can adjust in square-foot increments to fit your plot. The designs are simple and attractive, and you can share your garden plans with other members of the Smart Gardener community.
From there, you will need to choose and place your particular plant varieties from their database. The only plants offered for the planner are those offered by their seed vendors, which means that if you plant a type of melon or carrot that isn’t offered by their vendors, it cannot calculate the harvest times for that variety.
You can work around this to a degree by finding a variety in the app that is similar to the one you want to plant, but the full functionality of the program is limited by the vendor-based plant database, since it is these vendors who sponsor this planner.
While this is one of the nicest planners out there, unfortunately, the mobile version of this website leaves a lot to be desired, and is very buggy. Hopefully, they will fix this soon, because many people like to take their plans out to the garden with them.
I hope you’ll try one of these online vegetable garden planning tools to create a beautiful and productive garden this year.