There are several online tools available that would help make your garden planning easier. You can find some for free; others are available for a small cost. Play around with the free offers before you buy to make sure that the program will do all of the things that you want it to do. The free planning tools may be good for a simple layout but the more involved you get with your garden, the more you should expect the planning tool to do, which may come at a cost.
Last year I used the Kitchen Garden Planner from Gardener’s Supply Company. It was free and allowed me to plan rows any size or width. There are 50 crops to choose from. You can create an account and save your garden information on their website or print it out. They also offer pre-planned gardens for you to follow which might be the best choice for a beginner. This planner works well to get a general layout for a new garden. http://www.gardeners.com
Vegetable Garden Planner is free and has more to offer. You must register to become a full member giving you the ability to create your garden, a journal, upload photos and keep track of your information. They also have smart phone apps. I downloaded the app for my iPhone which provides a lot of plant and gardening information. What I found most interesting and useful was the “Family Feeder Calculator”. You can select a “vegetable”, “herb” or “rare”, and then how many people are in your family, and it tells you how many plants to grow. I chose from a drop down menu two people in my family and then selected pole beans for the crop to grow. The recommendation I was then given was to plant 40 plants! Most experience gardeners know that bean plants produce a lot of fruit so would make an adjustment, but for a beginner, you may become known around your neighborhood as the bean person, which might not be all bad if you are really into beans. There is mention on the bottom of the page that it does now account for succession planting. Up to 90 crops are available with this program. http://www.vegetablegardenplanner.com
The Interactive Vegetable Garden Planner from GrowVeg is what I will be using this year. Go to GrowVeg.com and sign up to use the 30 day free trial and if you like it, you can purchase an annual membership for $25. With this program you can plan your garden to the inch or chose metric measurements if you like. You have the option to design your garden using traditional rows or by the Square Foot Garden method. I will go into further detail about the Square Foot Garden method in a future post. I use a lot of this in My Urban Farmscape. The program can select from 5000 geographical locations which will allow your garden plan to be specific to your growing region. This is important because different regions will grow and plant different plants. GrowVeg will e-mail you updates for planting reminders based on our growing region twice a month. What! Once the gardening season is in full swing, I am so busy, I could use all the reminders I can get! You can select from 130 vegetables, herbs and fruits. They even provide information regarding crop rotations and warns you when you are about to place a crop in a location that might not be suitable based on last year’s plan. This is important in order to prevent diseases and deter pests that may harbor in your garden from the previous year. You can undo, copy and paste allowing you to create and re-create your gardens. I’m sure that once you get started, you will love everything GrowVeg does. When your garden is all designed, you can click on the plant list button to get your complete list of plants and quantities. Awesome! All you need to operate the program is Adobe Flash Player. Try it free for 30 days and you will probably be able to plan your initial garden in that time. But gardening doesn’t end in 30 days and neither does garden planning! It will be worth the twenty five bucks to become a member. GrowVeg has just launched their version for the iPad and expect their iPhone version be available toward the end of the year. I draw and sketch my gardens initially, then I finalize with a digital plan using all the tools and resources available to me to ensure a successful planting and growing season. It’s almost time to start planting so finish up your planning with your favorite online garden planning tool. Be sure to check out GrowVeg!