Monday, September 3, 2012

Garden Planner

I have stumbled upon the greatest invention since stripped screw extractors.  Mother Earth News links to a Garden Planner - check it out HERE.  You get a free 30 day trial and then it is only $25 for a year's subscription (which is actually 13 months because it is added onto the free month you have already) OR $40 for two years.  I am having an outrageous amount of fun playing with this and planning our big bump in production next summer.

While I highly recommend checking it out (seriously - a free month without having to do anything shady like take a survey or enter your credit card information) I will still tell you about my favorite features:

  1. The images.  I'm a very visual person so having little tomato or cucumber or basil pictures to represent each plant makes the whole page beautiful and easy to comprehend.
  2. The spacing.  You can choose standard or Square Food Gardening spacing - but once you put a plant into your virtual garden you can multiply it or drag it along the edge of your garden and it will space the plants automatically.  This makes it easy to see how many plants I can fit into a given space and it even tells me (in the case of carrots for example) how many plants I will need to fill that space.
  3. The timing.  I can arrange my garden according to seasons - so it will look different in May when I put out Broccoli or Baby Pak Choy than it will in July when I replace them with late lettuce or peas.  Even better: It will email me to remind me when to start seeds, when to transplant, and when I should expect a harvest.
  4. The notes.  I can change the variety name...or not.  This means I can fill a garden with "carrots" or I can change each section and fill the garden with "cosmic purples" and "atomic yellows" and "dragons".  Additionally, I can keep notes on what I liked or didn't like about those varieties or how well they grew in a particular area.
  5. The connections.  After planting my entire virtual garden, I can generate a list that contains every plant and variety I have selected for the season.  This list will tell me how many plants I need, when to start seeds, when to put outdoors, when to harvest.  It also will let me link to my favorite seed company (which happens to be High Mowing, but other companies are available as options) to buy the seeds I need.
  6. The information.  In addition to automatic spacing, I can select any plant's information icon and a panel will pop up that contains a picture of the plant, its sunlight requirements, its soil preferences, companion plants, and other information.  Its all right there at my fingertips.  This helps me immensely in deciding where to plant.  It also remembers perennials and automatically plants them in next year's plan.
  7. The crop rotation.  Each plant has a beautiful background color - at first I thought this was somehow related to the color of the produce but after some poking around I discovered that it is related to the plant family.  And here comes my favorite part: this program does crop rotation for you.  When you copy your bed to next year's garden (so you don't have to recreate it) - it will remember what you planted last season.  If you try to plant the same family in the same location, it will flash red, indicating that you have not rotated your crops (which can cause soil depletion and increased risk for disease).  Each year the red flash becomes lighter and lighter, indicating that the risk is reduced, until 5 years have passed and the soil is safe to host the same plant family.
  8. All the other little things.  I can post my garden plan on social media sights.  It adjusts to my agricultural zone and frost dates.  I can ask it to only show me easy to grow plants or shade loving plants.  I can use a Square Foot Gardening mode.  I can visualize and get excited about my garden space.  I can virtually plant things without annoying all my facebook friends (death to Farmville).  It costs less per year than my cover crops.

While I don't think I'm an important enough blogger to have to say this, I guess it should still be said: I am in no way affiliated or compensated by Mother Earth News or  I just think their product is really really awesome and should be experienced by everyone (for at least 30 days).

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