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 throughout the year, and the length of your growing season
- the number of people the garden will be feeding
- what you all 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
- 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
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, mathematics and geometry, you calculate a plan 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” garden planning.
Thanks to these four online vegetable garden planning apps, garden planning has never been faster or easier!
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The GrowVeg garden planning app is the Cadillac of online garden planning software. It is $29 for an annual subscription, but you can try it free for 7 days.
GrowVeg is also available for your smartphone and your iPad.
GrowVeg 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 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 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 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.
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.
PlanGarden 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. This is a really nice feature to have if you plan to grow a large percentage of your food.
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.
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.
SmartGardener is an affordable garden planning app that has some pretty robust tools. ($6/season, $20/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 SmartGardener 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 app leaves a lot to be desired, and it doesn’t seem fully mobile ready. 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 four online vegetable garden planning tools to create a beautiful and productive garden this year.