Reviews of the Best Garden Design Software

How to choose the best garden design software when planning your garden. Jeff Taylor reviews some of the top garden design software available.

| February/March 1996

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    Is "Garden Design Software" just another throw-away gimmick, or the shape of things to come?
    PHOTO: MOTHER EARTH NEWS STAFF
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    One neat feature of Sunset Western Garden's CD is clicking on your particular climate zone and then seeing an immediate list of fruits and veggies perfect for your plot.
    MOTHER EARTH NEWS STAFF
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    Sprout's diskette program's virtue is its simplicity. It will quickly tell you what to plant where, and—better still—what not to plant next to the bush beans.
    MOTHER EARTH NEWS STAFF
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    My favorite part of Better Homes & Garden's Complete Guide CD was that it seemed to know your questions before you did. The first of topics (such as pest control, here) was eerily appropriate for our garden.
    MOTHER EARTH NEWS STAFF
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    Key Home Gardener's Aging feature lets you avoid overplanting.
    MOTHER EARTH NEWS STAFF
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    Key Home Gardener's subsequent industrial clearcutting that will be necessary 30 years from then.
    MOTHER EARTH NEWS STAFF
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    Just pick your zone and plant (right), and the Garden Encyclopedia does the rest (left).
    MOTHER EARTH NEWS STAFF
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    3-D Landscape won't do much for your vegetable patch, but it will allow you to custom design your garden. For sheer bells, whistles, and thrills, this one has the editor's vote.
    MOTHER EARTH NEWS STAFF

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Reviews of the best garden design software to plan out your garden. (See the illustrations in the image gallery.)

Reviews of the Best Garden Design Software

As I see it, the only thing wrong with gardens is the dirt. Ick. You know how it feels when your hands are all coated with dry gritty earth, and when you rub them together it feels like you're wearing gloves? And then you've got black hemispheres under your fingernails. Fortunately, we live in an age when you can have a beautiful garden growing on your computer screen, tending immaculate pixels made of light. A virtual garden.

Back in the old days of last year, Joy took a pencil in her hand and made a diagram of our garden-to-be: potatoes here, rutabagas there, marigolds and turnips hither, and onions yon. She frequently consulted her vast library of books on plants, manually copying notes into her own garden notebook. Much scribbling and mumbling ensued. Then she tried to explain the master plan to me, so I'd know where and how to dig. Frankly; the explanation made me drowsier than five minutes in a wallpaper store. Garden planning is the most critical aspect of planning a garden, I gathered, but I didn't really see what is was about. Why plan, I thought, when you can just dig dirt and plant seeds? But it made sense to her, so Joy was definitely the sheriff of that territory.

Given my fast draw on the computer, I'm sheriff of this one. Here we have eight versions of garden and landscape planning software and plant encyclopedias, in cute CD-ROM or cuddly disk format, with plenty of rich, loamy documentation: the stuff of a gardener's dreams, the delight of garden planners who might wish to impose some order on Nature's bounty in a holistic and earth-friendly manner with a computer simulation. It's called a PC for good reason.



At first, Joy was not eager to use this keen software. Maybe she's a Luddite.

"I am not," Joy says, reading this over my shoulder. "I have my own computer, don't I? I'm helping you review these programs, aren't I? So be nice. I don't call you a computer nerd because you've got Windows and I use DOS."






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