Organic Gardening

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Five Tips for Getting Started With the Vegetable Garden Planner

7/13/2010 2:18:13 PM

Tags: garden planning, garden planner, garden design, software

Permanent Garden BedsIn the past few weeks, I have used the new Vegetable Garden Planner to design and tweak several garden plans, and here’s the truth: This software does for organic garden planning what tax software does for filing one’s income taxes. (For more information on what the Garden Planner can do, see Vegetable Garden Planner – Design Your Best Garden Ever.) I am a convert, and I have a few tips to help get you off to a good start.

1. Watch the instructional videos. They are short and quite entertaining. Then start experimenting.

2. Include edges when defining your garden’s size. A larger grid displays better on the screen, and edges are important gardening work space anyway. You can go back and resize any garden using the “Plan Size & Grid” button (ruler icon). Use the “Settings” button (gray tool icon) to delete a plan. Start over if you make a mess.

3. Use the mouse to drag out rows or block plantings rather than popping in individual plants one click at a time. Doing so shows you how many plants are likely to fit into the available space, and simplifies keeping track of varieties and succession planting.

4. Make use of the “Label and Variety” boxes that come up when you double-click a crop. This magic box is actually a two-layered affair, wherein you can click the add button to key in specific varieties and when you will plant and harvest them. For experienced gardeners, this is a superior feature that allows you to put what you know into your plan. Crops with quirky planting dates that vary with climate, such as broccoli, can be manually keyed in when necessary. You can do the same with plants being grown for seed, which may occupy space for longer than normal.

5. Manage things month by month. To see how your garden will flow through the season, look at it month-by-month (the button on the toolbar that has ALL as its default setting). Custom in-ground settings from the “Label and Variety” boxes will be reflected as plantings change in the beds or rows. I love this feature because it gives me an instant bird’s-eye view of what the garden should look like in any given month.

You may be surprised at how quickly you can learn to use the Planner. Only one hour spent watching the videos, setting your frost dates, and laying out a bed or two will get you going. Then spend another hour playing with plant labels and monthly layouts. That’s when you’re most likely to sit back and realize that this thing really works. It’s a great new tool for growing a better garden.

You can try the new Vegetable Garden Planner free for 30 days.

Contributing editor Barbara Pleasant gardens in southwest Virginia, where she grows vegetables, herbs, fruits, flowers and a few lucky chickens. Contact Barbara by visiting her website or finding her on .

Photo from iStockPhoto 

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Post a comment below.


Amanda Sawatka
4/1/2011 2:59:10 PM
Why all the complaints about the garden planner costing money? This is an awesome feature! Absolutely worth the price. I think it is great of Mother Earth News to let us try it before we buy it. We'll spend $8 a gallon for organic milk but not $25 to be self sufficient in our produce production? To all those who say they subscribe to the magazine but refuse to pay for the garden planner- do what I do: Don't buy the magazine, just pay for the planner. You can still read all the articles you want online and the money you save buying produce from a logically planned out, productive garden will more than make up for the extra cost. (Not to mention avoiding the headache of trying to plan your garden all out yourself!)

12/9/2010 9:33:28 AM
I love the idea of the tool and free... who can go wrong, But then i find out I will only be teaser and then I have to pay more then a subscription to the Magazine! now I know that the tol has value and maintaing the site and future improvements etc will take costs but its a heafty price! I will subscribe to the magazine but pay for this to....

7/16/2010 9:02:52 AM
We think ours is vastly better than any free planners we’ve seen, but if anyone knows of a really good free one that can give customized planting schedules by local frost zones, crop rotation planning, etc., then please post the link here.

7/13/2010 3:08:38 PM
While I like the Vegetable Garden Planner as a free tool, I do not think I will ever pay any money to use it. Lots of free alternatives available. Come'on Mother Earth, make it free and promote magazine subscriptions and your website in the emails send.

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