Get your garden schedule into shape!
Updated for 2016!
It’s time to think about starting seeds and planting your garden. Once the season gets into full swing, it can be dizzying to keep track of all the dates that you must track to make your garden a success. Of course, you can (and should) keep a garden journal to help you remember the successes and failures of prior years, but if you are just getting started or are gardening in a new area, you may not know where to go from here.
When should you start your seeds? What is the time frame for planting outside in YOUR garden? When will you finally reap the harvest and benefit from all your hard work?
A good garden planner can tell you all that – and more. It will give you planting and growing tips, and even allow you to schedule multiple harvests per year. Not all of the planners below will do that, but they may all be useful for you as you plan your productive vegetable garden this year.
1. Garden Planner from Small Blue Printer
COST: Free for 15 days; then a one time charge of $34.
PROS: Garden Planner gives you a page with all the plant and objects you have created so you have a record of the things you’ve added in list format. It is easy to use. You can plan and print your garden within the 15 day trial period. The free version will allow you to create and print your plan (with a watermark).
You can add planters in various sizes, paths and just about any kind of hardscape you can think of. There is a section for adding individual plants, including vegetables, fruits and trees. If you want to save your plan for future reference or modification you must purchase the program.
CONS: It loads onto your browser without giving you the option to do it and I didn’t like that. They give you a free 15-day trial, but it was difficult to find the price of the program after that. No saving our plan without purchasing.
Who will use it? Any gardener that is looking for a complete yard planner should give this a look.
With this free online planner from Gardener’s Supply, you can design a super-productive vegetable garden, based on square-foot gardening techniques instead of traditional rows. Just drag and drop crops to the planting grid and the planner fills in the number of plants. Or choose from 16 pre-planned gardens. Print out your planting map and you’re ready to go.
PROS: The ability to use for square foot gardening. It lets you choose the area and when you drag a vegetable or herb into the box, it gives you the number you can plant per square foot. Planting instructions for each variety chosen with a link to their vegetable encyclopedia for more in-depth info. You can print and save your design if you sign up as a member. You can also save the URL for future reference.
CONS: Does not have the ability to place your garden bed into the context of your yard as a whole. It does not give you a plant list or the number of plants needed in your design.
Who will use it? Anyone using square foot gardening techniques will find this very helpful. Gardener’s Supply is a trusted name in the gardening industry.
3. GrowVeg.com Garden Planner
Used by both Mother Earth News and the Old Farmers Almanac as their planner of choice, I also find it one of the easiest ones to use. It has the most features and allows you to do the widest range of plans.
COST: Free for 7 Days, then $29 per year
PROS: GrowVeg lets you create stunning, full yard, garden plans. It gives you the ability to change into square foot gardening mode for raised beds planning. The planner software shows how much space plants require and how to group them for maximum success, removing the need to look up planting distances and crop families. It takes the guess work out of the number of plants you can grow for the space you’ve chosen. It also allows you to schedule spring and fall crop rotation.
The program gives you the ability to print out a planting schedule for seed starting, planting out and harvest. This is based on your specific geographic location. There is also a mobile app for iPad & iPhone.
CONS: The yearly fee. If you wish to have access to your “gardens past”, you have to continue to pay every year. At $29 per year, the cost is not overly burdensome.
Who will use it? Any gardener looking for an overall enjoyable planner experience. Give it a try for 7 days – free. This is plenty of time to create your garden plan and print it. Even if you don’t purchase the subscription, take the time to sign up for their informative monthly emails. I always learn something new from them.
4. Zukeeni.com (formerly SmartGardener)
COST: Free (minimal cost for upgrades, but not necessary to enjoy the benefits of the program)
PROS: Billing themselves as the easiest way to plan, grow and harvest your own food, there are almost too many good things to mention. First, you specify how many adults and children in your family. It lets you drill down and get specific about the plants you want to grow. When you choose a vegetable and variety, it gives you the number of plants you need to feed your family, plus the amount of growing space that will be required.
You have the ability to create a garden with simple raised beds in the dimension of your choosing. Smart Gardener will give you a summary of the plants you have selected and the recommended date for starting your seeds, indoors and/or outdoors. It also told me that my small garden (at 180 sq ft) was not big enough to grow all the varieties I would need to feed my family.
Use the “create a garden journal” area and keep track of seed start dates and when you should have planted them outside. The program will send you a weekly garden “to do” list.
SmartGardener even supports purchasing from four different vendors (which it where they make their money) You can specify one or all – Renee’s Garden, Peaceful Valley, Baker Creek or Southern Exposure and purchase directly from them through the planner.
CONS: I had to look long and hard for one! The only thing I can come up with is that Smart Gardener does not give you the ability to plan your garden in the whole context of your yard. No adding decks, pools or porches in the mix. They do have several add-on’s (at a very small cost) but I wouldn’t really call that a con.
Who will use it? Any gardener that wants a simple, but surprisingly robust, desktop garden planner.
COST: Free for mobile or tablet only
PROS: The Garden Time Planner lets you create a garden based on your specific location. Once you add your zip code there is a place to see your current weather conditions and forecast. It also gives you the average first and last frost dates for your area.
Once you choose the plants you want to grow, the planner will suggest dates to help you with scheduling indoor planting or direct sowing dates. Most vegetables have videos with growing tips included which you can access through the “how to” tab or under each vegetable.
CONS: You must provide your email address to have access to even the simplest part of the program; however you can choose not to receive emails. The vegetable varieties are listed generally (tomatoes) you cannot choose a specific variety (Tomato, Jersey Boy) to add to your plan. There is a link to visit the Burpee Mobile Store, but that is for purchasing from them, it does not transfer information over to the app.
Who will use it? Gardeners that want to have a simple planting schedule on their tablet or phone. It does not provide an area to plan individual garden beds.
BONUS Idea: If you really like paper instead try this downloadable planner from Schneider Peeps. It’s only $9.95
And these are some fun looking planners available on Amazon today (affiliate links). What garden planners do you use? Share your planning ideas in the comments below.