Welcome to Cranky Puppy Farm!

This blog belongs to two Gen X-er's smackdab in downtown Kansas City where we've been renovating and decorating two old Victorians built in the 1890's. Our life is filled with 3 demanding Pomeranians (1 of them cranky, of course), honking cars, noisy neighbors and the hustle and bustle of city life but we dream of the day when we can move to our 40-acre farm and hear nothing but the wind and the cows next door. Until then, we're chronicling our triumphs and mishaps here as we try to garden and preserve on 2 city lots, raise chickens, and learn all those things we should have learned from our grandparents. Welcome to our world - we hope you'll stay awhile!

High-tech Gardening with Online Garden Planners

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

If you've been reading along, you know that I mentioned that I started using an online website called Smart Gardener to keep track of my garden chores and progress.  I thought I would give you the skinny on why I decided to use this tool instead some of the others that are available, as well as what I *don't* like about it.

First, of all it's FREE.  Well, sort of....and we'll get to that in a minute.  I can't remember how I ran across this website - I'm assuming it was mentioned in one of the myriad of gardening emails or blogs that I read every day.  I was hooked when I saw their motto though:  "We track all of your gardens' to-do's so that you don't have to."   I'm the world's most laziest gardener so that is right up my alley!

I'm not going to walk you through every feature of the website, as you can watch an online tour or read about how it works.  But here are the features that made me decide to use SG:

1.  Customizable growing seasons, frost dates and garden orientation.  You start by inputting your zip code and it will automatically fill in your zone information.  But you can customize all of it.  Smart Gardener will use it to determine your planting and harvest dates, and the best places to plant your different varieties in the garden.  It also lets you input how many people you are trying to feed and will then calculate how many of each plant you should grow.

You can click on the colored bars and get recommendations about which plants do well in the cold, warm and hot season in your area.

2.  Customizable shapes and sizes for in-ground, raised beds, and containers.  You design it however you want your garden to look.  For $2.99, you can purchase an add-on that allows you to add shaded areas, paths, structures, or trees.  Or you can go further and, for $5.99, you gets all the shapes AND help with to-do's for succession planting if you want to have multiple harvests in a growing season.  If you just want succession planting and not the shapes, it's $1.99.  I've already done a garden layout in a different program (you can see it here), so I really don't need the shapes.  That saved me $5.99 already.  :-)

3.  Good selection of common garden veggies.  You can get recommendations based on square footage needs, hot vs. warm vs. cool season, days to maturity, etc.  Or you can pick your varieties off the list.  All the information you need to know about a plant is already there for you.  Just click to add it your garden or, if you need to order it, you can do that from within the program as well.

Then you can rearrange them in your garden design and you end up wtih something like this:

4.   Information about companion planting and tips on planting, fertilizing etc.  You can see the good\bad companion information in the pic above.

5.  Weekly To-Do reminders including a reminder email.  This is the primary reason why I picked Smart Gardener.  Tell me what to do and I'll do it!

6.  Ability to add notes and photos in a journal format.  No more paper for me!

All in all, Smart Gardener is a pretty cool website and it's allowed me to get rid of my ratty old notebook and grid paper.  It's even better that it's free, as most online planners cost money. 

Now a few words on what I DON'T like about Smart Gardener

Just a couple of small things.....

1.  Not all plant varieties are available.  They have a pretty good list but not everything is there.  For example, I couldn't find comfrey.   But there is a way to add a variety if you can't find it.  I'm sure the variety list will get much bigger as more people use SG.

2.  Berry plants are an add-on.  I was really disappointed to see that they didn't have berries listed, and then I was even more disappointed to find out that berries are a $1.99 add-on.  Did I mention that I really like FREE?

3.  Bugs in the system?  I can see my weekly tasks, but the monthly glance view isn't working for me.  I've contacted them and we'll see how responsive they are.

Other Online Gardening Tools

I realize that you may look at Smart Gardener and decide that it's not just for you.  There are lots of other online tools out there.  I haven't used any of these so I can't speak to their usefulness, but here are some of the more popular online garden planners.

GrowVeg (free for 30 days, $25 annual subscription)
Plangarden (free for 45 days, $20 annual subscription)
Territorial Seed Garden Planner (free for 30 days, $25 annual subscription)
Mother Earth News Garden Planner (free for 30 days, $25 annual subscription)
My Garden Pal (free until October 31st)
SmallBluePrinter (simple free visual garden designer - this is what I used to create my design)

Are you using any online tools to help out with your gardening this year?  I'd love to hear what you're doing!

1 comment:

  1. I just started using GrowVeg and although I think it's a bit pricey, the features are really great. It sends you reminders of what you should be planting every two weeks and you can do succession planting, it helps you with crop rotation, it's got square foot gardening features built in and you can have as many plans as you want. There's also an iPad version which is only $10 (once) but I haven't tried that out.

    So far I'm really impressed with the software -- but it does lack an actual journal type feature where you can keep track of what you planted when, sprouting success and that sort of thing. But at least for this year, it's what I'm using and it's already better than my usual sketching it out by hand method :)


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