Free software to plan your vegetable garden

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Free software to plan your vegetable garden

Post by Dim » Wed Oct 23, 2013 7:53 pm

I found this earlier today ....

I'm still playing around with it, but it's the best that I have found that's for free ... arden.html

the license key code is on the link


Re: Free software to plan your vegetable garden

Post by Kristen » Thu Oct 24, 2013 8:09 am

I've seen a number of vegetable planenrs like that (none free, that I know of) and people on Vegetable forums raving about them, but I don't remember seeing people saying "I've used it for years".

I take a different view in that the planning of how many cauliflower plants, and how they will fit the space, is less important than planning a succession of vegetables. For that visual planning isn't much help - the weather prevents planting at the originally intended time, or harvest is delayed, etc.

I think the most important thing is records of how long crops take, in your garden, to get from Sowing to Harvest and then "Finished".

I have a spreadsheet with Crop name, Planned sowing date, Dates for when actually sown, planted (if not sown direct), first harvest and last harvest, and the Qty of plants grown. Also has a column for Notes so I can record whether the family liked them, or said "Too much" / "Too little" so I can adjust the crop next year.

Having done vegetables here for the last half dozen years (and grown some at previous houses) the original spreadsheet has pretty much evolved into a schedule that I use to sow & plant to year-after-year, rotating them round the plot in a 4-year cycle (to reduce risk of disease prolongation etc)

When I first started I went to the trouble of also creating a Jan-to-Dec chart of when to sow / plant / harvest each type of crop, and that's in my spreadsheet, but I now use the dates the on the packet as a guide - particularly for Early / Late varieties - but if anyone wants a copy of the XLS pls PM me your email address

Here's a picture of how it looks (image too wide to include in the post) ... 2009v3.gif

I also have a rough plan of the plot in Excel - with one square to an approximate scale. I just move the zones around each year for the crop rotation. ... 2009v3.gif


Re: Free software to plan your vegetable garden

Post by Dim » Thu Oct 24, 2013 2:42 pm

Kristen wrote:
I think the most important thing is records of how long crops take, in your garden, to get from Sowing to Harvest and then "Finished".
good spreadsheets!

I'm looking at a way of planning a a veg garden, so that I have a variety of veg ready throughout the year and can feed my family several veg continuously ....

this year was a rush, with no planning and I planted wrong (8 tomato plants planted at the same time ... all the spinach planted at the same time ... all beetroot planted at the same time etc etc)

I also tend to many of my client's veg patches and will try to do likewise


Re: Free software to plan your vegetable garden

Post by Kristen » Thu Oct 24, 2013 5:04 pm

You probably know all this Dim, but in the interest of some discussion around the topic here are some thoughts :)

Crop rotation. I make a 4-year crop rotation. Needs a fair bit of space to achieve that ... and the biggest problem most people have is that each zone doesn't warrant an equal amount of space.

For example, most Brassicas are planted about 2' apart in each direction, so take up lots of space. A few Sprouts, Cabbages, and some Sprouting Broccoli for the Spring and that's a lot of space.

Spuds also take up a lot of space - maincrop are cheap to buy, so one solution is to only grow Earlies.

My solution is to have 8 beds, rather than 4, for crop rotation. 4 beds for conventional rotation, and then the other 4 beds have 1 x Brassica overspill, 1 x Spuds, and 2 x Cut flowers. That way I get twice as much space for Brassicas as the others.

Next up is choices on what to grow. Assuming you don't set about growing "everything you eat" then I would recommend focusing on a couple of areas:

1. Crops that are high-cost in the shops. Early Spuds, Runner Beans, Soft fruit perhaps, Asparagus if you like that (and have space to dedicate to it)

2. Crops that you like to eat. Don't bother growing stuff that you saw a pretty picture of in the shop, or have heard of but never eaten but think you should try. I have no idea why seed companies have plenty of packets of Asparagus Peas, Scorzonera, Salsify and the like. I've grown them all, they aren't worth the effort. If they are, already, your passion then that's different - they would then fall under "crops you like to eat" :)

3. Crops with good flavour. Avoiding Supermarket varieties (often selected to make a uniform and easy harvest-in-one-go for the farmer, and with thick skins that don't bruise easily etc. which are often detriment to flavour) you can choose varieties that you like the taste of (that might take a year or two of experimenting, unless you have bought specific named varieties in the shops that you have liked). You might also choose to grow varieties that are low yielding, or more disease prone, but which you like the flavour of.

Sweetcorn is one of the major winners - pick it straight into the pan, don't store it. As soon as it is harvested the sugars start turning to starch, so its much sweeter if you cut & cook immediately. Can't do that with Supermarket Corn of course, its been travelling for a couple of days, minimum, before it gets to your home.

4. I use a maximum-faff method (well, its considered high-faff by other people, I would argue that it isn't as bad as it seems :) ). I sow almost everything indoors, grow on in 9cm pots, and then plant out. I'm on heavy soil here, its impossible to get it into workable state early in the season most years, and in a bad year, like Spring 2013, the weather can put you a long way behind. For me the benefit is that I can sow, and prick out, in the evening after work on any night that I choose (well ... so long as I can swing the use of the kitchen table for "gardening" past Mrs K!!). Then when soil is right I can plant out. This is obviously more work than just sowing a row of seed direct into the soil. However, when I plant out I hoe off the weeds and the plants have a huge head start on them, and weeding is trivial thereafter (whereas if I hoe and sow then weeds and crop come up together and hand weeding them is fiddly).

I sow only a few of each variety. For example, Cauliflowers will only "stand" for a week to a fortnight once "ripe". We eat a max of 2 cauliflowers a week, so I sow 4 cauliflowers (in my 9cm pots) twice a month. We therefore have a steady stream of harvest. I don't have a nice smart row of Cauliflowers ... I have 4 of them, then a few something-else, and then the next batch of 4 Cauliflowers :) Similarly with Lettuce, Beetroot, Kohl Rabi, and so on.

I also don't have any gaps in my rows / blocks. Lots of people grow Broad Beans overwinter (sowing outside around now). My experience was that in bad, wet, winters I lost half or more. I sow mine, in 9cm pots :) in January and plant out in late February / early March. They are hardly any later cropping than Autumn sown ones, but I have no gaps in my rows, thus I have exactly the number of plants I want, which overall works out more efficient on use of space.

Another benefit of raising in pots is that the next crop is coming on before the earlier crop has finished harvesting. its about 6 weeks from sowing to planting out, so I don't need the ground to be available until 6 weeks after I sow in pots - again, I think that is better space utilisation, particularly later in the season when I am growing Chinese greens etc. for late Summer / Autumn harvesting, and as a follow-on crop for early Spuds and the like.


Re: Free software to plan your vegetable garden

Post by Dim » Thu Oct 24, 2013 5:57 pm

good info there Kristen ... I have a few ideas of my own for next year, but am still undecided, and still planning

my main priority at the moment is to prepare and re-mineralize the soil in the meantime...

I will be building raised beds and using very good imported composts plus stuff like volcanic rock dust, vermicopost etc... and when I plant in spring, , I will use AACT

the whole objective will be to grow 'nutrient dense' food using High brix methods, but I need to plant stuff at intervals, so as to be able to maximise harvesting of each planted type over a prolonged period

thats where I failed this year (food was grown using high brix methods, tasted exceptional, but my planting time was wrong) ... i.e I planted the same types of veg all at the same time...

most tomatoes ripened at the same time, my kids were sick of spinach, my wife went 'off' beetroot etc, because we had so much of the stuff ready at the same time... I need to plant at intervals and spread it out

so, I need to know when to start planting, and when to stop planting so that I can spread out the harvesting to the max over a prolonged period


Re: Free software to plan your vegetable garden

Post by Kristen » Fri Oct 25, 2013 8:19 am

Dim wrote:I will be building raised beds ...
My advice is 4' wide (max you can reach from either side without walking on them), dig the soil out of the paths and put on the beds, that will increase the height without you having to buy in soil. Mine are only a few inches (6" I would guess) but on my heavy soil that is enough to improve the drainage sufficiently to make all the difference.
the whole objective will be to grow 'nutrient dense' food
I will be really interested to see how you get on with that Dim. I have plenty of space here, so I am idle at trying to maximise yield and plant density. I rarely plant a follow-on crop as there is usually enough space to plant it somewhere as-yet unused.

Once you've got it cracked I'd love to come over and see how you are doing :)
I need to plant at intervals and spread it out

so, I need to know when to start planting, and when to stop planting so that I can spread out the harvesting to the max over a prolonged period
Sadly not quite that easy :( Sowing some crops a couple of weeks later (i.e. early in the year) and they ripen within a day or two, so you don't get the spread you would hope for. That's why I use my spreadsheet of Sow/plant dates and First/Last harvest to then work out for following years what to try. To get things a fortnight apart you might need to sow/plant a month apart ... and then you find that you only have 2 or 3 sowings - Sweetcorn, for example, is a race to get it ripe before the end of Summer, I do one sowing for the greenhouse and a later one for outside, but although I sow a third later batch for outside they are usually too late - the plants start making cobs before the plants are properly big, and thus they aren't as good as the earlier crop. If you have a glut of those throw a BBQ and use them up (or freeze them if that is your thing, but we prefer to eat food that is season rather than freezing and preserving).

Maybe you should also research Freezing and Preserving? Especially if you or your wife have time to do the processing work. I have dried Apples, and they make lovely, sweet, "chips", but apart from Chillies I haven't found drying that useful for other things

Onions and garlic store easily, Butternut Squash store through the winter, I find that my main crop spuds are all sprouting by Christmas (although we find that Pink Fir Apple, which we like a lot, keep very well) and other than that pretty much everything is only eaten fresh from the garden.

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