Friday, January 22, 2021

Garden Planners

Winter is when we spend more time inside and make plans for spring. Sitting in a warm house and thinking about being able to get outside more often is a common activity in northern parts of the country. One of the things that used to be common is starting to make a comeback: planning a garden during the cold months so you'll be ready when the snow melts.

I've written before about “garden dreaming” and the joy of browsing through seed catalogs looking for ideas and bargains for a better garden than what we grew last year. The seed companies are making it easier for the digital generation to partake in this activity with the addition of free or low-cost garden planners online or downloadable. I'm still playing with a few of them, but the easiest and most convenient I've found so far comes from Gardener's Supply.

Kitchen Garden Planner (KGP)
This one is a web-based planner that lets you drag and drop various types of plants into a virtual garden bed that you've set up. It uses “square foot” plots instead of the traditional rows, which means that your virtual garden is broken up into sections one foot on a side. You can lay out several sections to create rows if you want to be more traditional, but each set of rows will be in one foot increments of width. Depending on spacing between rows, you may be able to squeeze in a few extra rows than the planner shows.


  • The options for things to plant are a bit limited, but doing some research will let you substitute one of their options for a plant with similar growing patterns.
  • These are kitchen gardens, so you're not going to see options for flowers and only a few herbs. Our grandparents (OK, some of you will have to reach back to great-grandparents) grew a lot of their own food in “Victory Gardens” during WW2 because most of the commercially-grown food was being shipped overseas to feed the troops. You won't be able to feed a family of four completely with just a kitchen garden, but it can lighten the load of what you have to purchase from someone else.
  • There are pre-planned gardens in the menu for those who don't really have a clue as to where to start. They are easy to modify to fit your space requirements and add or subtract crops. Personally, I hate eggplant and would rather spend my time and effort growing something that I would enjoy eating.
  • One of the things that I like about most of these planners is that you can save your design for future use or editing and print it out when you're ready to play in the dirt. Most of the ones sponsored by seed companies will generate a shopping list that you can order from them, which may be convenient but may not always bethe most inexpensive option.
Raised-Bed Gardening
The KGP is also set up for raised-bed gardening, where you build containers of soil that are elevated above ground level to plant your garden in. David Bock recently wrote a good article that covers them in detail. Raised-bed gardening has some advantages:

  • You don't have to bend over as much or as far as you would with a flat bed. This gets to be important as you get older.
  • Keeping young plants a foot or two above the ground shields them from late frosts a bit. This will let you plant a few days or weeks earlier, which stretches your growing season.
  • Having your plants off of the ground makes it harder for the rabbits and other vermin to snack on your future food.
  • Raised beds allow the gardener more control over the soil since it has to be placed in the bed. Tailoring the soil conditions to the crop makes for better yields. Think huge flower pots, with the same control over drainage and water retention, more efficient use of compost, and ease of weeding.
  • Some crops spread by sending out roots that will form new plants the next year a short distance from the parent plant. This is good for growing a garden but bad when the strawberries start to take over the whole yard. Raised beds eliminate this problem by containing the roots- we used an old metal horse tank with no bottom as a raised bed for our strawberries, and it worked quite well.

If nothing else, playing around with a virtual garden will keep your mind off of the snow swirling around outside and keep you from succumbing to the draw of the television. Mindless entertainment has its place, but too much of anything is not good for you. Keep your mind engaged and exercise your imagination once in a while, and you'll be happier.

No comments:

Post a Comment

The Fine Print

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution- Noncommercial- No Derivative Works 3.0 License.

Creative Commons License

Erin Palette is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to