Get Your Garden Schedule Into Shape!
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 by Small Blue Printer
COST: Free for 15 days; then a one time charge of $38.
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 (but all exported images and printouts will bear 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. You cannot save your plan without purchasing.
Who will best use it? Any gardener that is looking for a complete yard planner should give this free online vegetable garden planner a try.
2. Kitchen Garden Planner by Gardener’s Supply Co.
With this free online garden planning tool 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 ideal 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 this plan 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 come with a link to their vegetable encyclopedia for more in-depth info.
You can print and save your designs 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 best use it? Anyone using square foot gardening techniques will find this very helpful. Gardener’s Supply Company is a trusted name in the gardening industry.
You can check out our previous post on square-foot gardening: 8 Reasons to Try Square Foot Gardening.
3. GrowVeg.com Garden Planner
COST: Free for 7 Days, then $29 per year or $45 per 2 years
Used by both Mother Earth News and the Old Farmers Almanac as their planner of choice, GrowVeg is one of the easiest garden planners to use, in my opinion as well.
It has the most features and allows you to do the widest range of plans.
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 guesswork 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 tool 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 garden’s “past”, you have to continue to pay every year. But at $29 per year, the cost is not overly burdensome.
Who will best use it? Any gardener looking for an overall enjoyable planner experience. Give it a try for 7 days – it’s free.
You’ll have plenty of time to create your garden plan and print it. Even if you don’t purchase the plan, take the time to sign up for their very informative monthly emails. I always learn something new from them.
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 tool will send you a weekly garden “to do” list. (Check the full tutorial below.)
SmartGardener even supports purchasing from four different vendors (which is 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 to the mix. They do have several add-ons (at a very small cost) but I wouldn’t really call that a con.
Who will best use it? Any gardener that wants a simple, but surprisingly robust, desktop garden planner.
COST: Free for mobile or tablet via Google Play 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 opt out from receiving emails.
Vegetable varieties are listed generally (tomatoes), so 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 best 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.
Online Garden Planners That Recently Caught Our Attention
Here are two more free garden planners that have impressed us enough to add them to our list.
COST: Free (no strings attached)
Unlike most of the online vegetable garden planners mentioned above, VegPlotter is completely free to use.
There are no limitations to its functionality, features, and design. You’ll just need to sign up and enjoy all the VegPlotter’s goodness completely free of charge.
VegPlotter is a browser-based garden planning tool designed by a U.K. developer with a green thumb and a passion for organic gardening who just wants to help fellow young gardeners with planning their beds, better managing their crops, and keeping track of what’s in their gardens and what needs to get done on a month by month basis.
PROS: VegPlotter’s user-friendly interface works on a drag-and-drop basis. In fact, the tool is so easy to use that even middle-schoolers now design their vegetable gardens with it.
The tool takes a month-by-month approach, but you can instruct it to plan a vegetable garden years ahead.
Also, you can use the VegPlotter to predict when is the right time to sow, harvest, or complete other gardening tasks. The main idea behind this planner is to help users never forget what they need to plant and when they need to do it.
Another plus of the app is its generous database of plants and the thoroughly researched “GrowGuides” for each type of plant.
There is even a reminder for gardeners who plan to use crop rotations, as VegPlotter will remind them when a crop rotation is complete. There are many other useful features (hardscapes come to mind) in this garden planner, but the biggest bonus is that it is completely free.
You can, however, help the team keep the servers running by making a small donation since all that data that gets saved on their website needs to be stored on real, physical servers.
CONS: The only downside we could find is that you need to register to use the tool. However, the step is absolutely necessary if you want to save your work and resume the garden planning later on.
Who will best use it? Both beginner and advanced gardeners who want a no-fuss interactive garden planner to help them keep track of what needs to get done or what has already been done in their gardens so that they have more time to enjoy life.
The Vegetable Growing Cheatsheet by Anglican Home made an online debut as a simple but comprehensive guide for home gardeners to growing the most popular vegetables in a specific area.
But after its huge online success, it was turned into an interactive tool that you can now personalize as you wish.
PROS: No registration is required to get access to all this vegetable garden planner’s features and painstakingly detailed info.
Upon accessing the interactive tool, you’ll be asked to pick between three locations (the U.K., the U.S., and Australia) and one of the five types of climates listed by the tool (including temperate, dry/hot, and dry/cool).
You’ll also be asked to choose between various styles of gardening from indoors and greenhouse to patio gardening and plot gardening to learn the best time to plant seeds (marked with green) and the optimal time for harvest (marked with brown).
There are various types of vegetables, legumes, and cereals that you can choose from. Fruits are also on the list, but don’t imagine fruit trees – the cheat sheet contains “fruits” that most of us routinely mistake for vegetables, such as tomatoes, zucchini, squash, and cucumbers).
The tool also offers critical information for each type of plant to thrive, including best spacing, direct sunlight or not, time of germination, days to maturation, and more.
But one of the handiest features is the so-called Companion Planting Guide, which shows which plants can make best friends to get the best out of small-space gardens and help deter pests in a completely natural way.
CONS: The cheatsheet is largely applicable only to gardens in the US, UK, and Australia, but if you are a seasoned gardener you can tailor this garden planner to your exact location’s climate even if it’s outside the said regions.
The tool is purely informative. You don’t have the option to set reminders and the possibility to design your garden and plan your plots and beds from scratch as you do with the other tools on our list.
Who will best use it? Beginner gardeners could make a good use of this tool, with the personalized Growing Guide and the Companion Planting Guide being two particularly helpful features.
One More Idea: If you really enjoy paper instead of an online tool, try this downloadable planner from Schneider Peeps. It’s only $12.95