Planning a Garden: Using A Garden Planner
Why I started Using GrowVeg Garden Planner
Do you make a garden plan every year?
Do you keep a garden journal?
How do you decide what & when you are going to plant?
Are you maximizing your gardens output with crop rotation and succession planting?
For years I used a variety of different ways to layout my gardens and calculate the harvest. For the last several years I used grid paper and the back of seed packets to approximate number of plants needed and what the harvest would be. This year however, for the first time I used the a garden planning software called GrowVeg from Growing Interactive Ltd.
As of the writing of this post the world is in the middle of a global shutdown due to Covid-19. This pandemic is magnifying the necessity to become as self-reliant as possible especially when it comes to growing our own food.
Digital Not for You?
You may think the method you are using works fine or the idea of using software to layout your garden is unnecessary, but I would like you to hear me out before you bounce.
Although I appreciate and enjoy technology, I do not always advocate using a digital version of a tool. For instance, I keep a handwritten journal and use a grease board to work out ideas but I also photograph important docs for achieving on the cloud, use Evernote for research and use Remember The Milk to manage my to do list.
The Planner takes a lot of the hit and miss out of gardening and allows you to focus on the fun part. You have right at your fingertips the tools to help you understand what and when to plant, harvest, and care for your plants.
A subscription to the Garden Planner comes with following benefits:
- Secure: You will Never Lose or Damage your Garden Plan & Journal
- Garden Plans: I can access my plans year-round so I can edit & produce up-to-date planting lists.
- Accurately Plan: Garden Plantings, Objects (paths, sheds etc.), and Irrigation Systems
- Parts & Plants Lists: Calculate What You Need to Obtain and/or Buy
- Email Reminders: Prompts me when to sow and plant the vegetables in my plan.
- Save Time and Money: Planting at the best time increases harvest success rate.
- Easy Crop Rotation: A color-coded system helps rotate crops each year to avoid buildup of pests or the depletion of soil nutrients.
- Succession Planting: Helps You Maximize Your Garden Potential with Multi-Crop Harvests
- Planting Calendar: Detailed Guide for when to sow and harvest the plants you selected
- Detailed Growing Guides: 200 Crops & 1,000’s of Plant Varieties with Descriptions
- Next Year's Planning: The planning tool can copy a garden layout without the vegetables, making it simple to start on next year's plans.
- Upgrades: New features are immediately available to me as they are released.
- Resources: Thorough Video Library and Users Guide
- Priority Support: Technical support by email.
- GrowVeg.TV: Over 500 videos (and adding weekly) on essential gardening techniques.
- Journal: Track your garden progress
- Guides: Extensive databases for plants and pests.
- Cost: Affordable; $29/1-Year or $49/2-Year subscription.
How to Use This Post
I have tried to keep this post as simple as possible to get you started in your garden as soon as possible so I have broken it into three simple sections:
Part 1: Sign Up
Part 2: Overview
Part 3: Using the Garden Planner
If you are unfamiliar with the GrowVeg Garden Planner I recommend starting with Part 1 and working your way through to Part 3. If you are already familiar with the planner then feel free to jump around.
For the sake of full disclose I want to state upfront that I have no affiliation with or benefit financially from my review of GrowVeg.
Part 1: Sign Up
My recommendation for trying out GrowVeg is to sign up for their 7-day FREE Trial Here
If after 7-days you do not like it, it is no skin off your potato, just let your account expire.
Or if you are digging the planner then just follow the sign-up instructions found by clicking on the email you set the account up with found at the top right of any page on GrowVegs site.
After clicking on your email address an Account Staus box will appear letting you know how many days you have of left of your free subscription and a button directing you to their Secure Subscription Page.
On the subscription page select whether you want to sign up for a 1-year subscription for $29.00 or a 2-year subscription $45.00. After that it is a standard 3-step check-out and confirmation page.
Part 2: Overview
When you sign up for the Garden Planner you get several other useful tools to keep you growing. GrowVeg’s home page main menu offers you 8 different choices which include the Garden Planner, Journal, Guides, GrowVeg.TV, Plants, Pests, About and Contact.
The aim of this post is to get you comfortable with the planner and creating your garden layout as quickly as possible. However, I want to briefly touch on the other 7 menu selections GrowVeg’s provides:
Journal: I really like this app, a lot. Keeping a journal helps you not to repeat mistakes and avoid frustration over wasted time and space. With the Journal you'll learn more about your garden with every observation and photo you add. It makes keeping track of your progress quick and easy. Take photos outside, then upload along with written notes right from your mobile or tablet device. Record when you planted or last watered, diagnose problems and see how much you've harvested.
The Journal includes essential weather forecasts, growing advice for almost 200 vegetables, herbs and fruit, plus videos and written guides on the best gardening techniques. Understanding what to do next makes a huge difference to the success of your garden so the Journal pulls all your information together with reports on your progress and reminders for the coming weeks.
Guides: Over 700 in-depth guides covering all aspects of edible gardening, plus new articles added weekly.
GrowVeg.TV: “Over 500,000 people use GrowVeg.TV every month. Learn essential gardening techniques from planning your crops to storing and preserving. Our videos are full of no-nonsense advice that's practical and easy-to-follow. Whether you're at home or in the garden, when you need advice our videos are available for you to watch on any device in any location”.
Plants: This is GrowVegs Plant Growing Guides database which is also accessible via the Garden Planners dashboard. Click on a plant to be taken to a page full of useful information about how to grow and harvest it.
Pests: This is GrowVegs Pest Identification Guides database. A great source for trouble shooting what’s ailing your garden. Click on a pest to be taken to a page full of useful information about how to identify it and prevent problems.
About: The team behind GroVeg.
Contact: Get at them with your questions
Ok, cool that sums up the home page of GrowVeg, definitely take the time to check out the features I mentioned above, especially the Journal.
Next, lets jump into how to lay your garden out with the planner.
Part 3: Using the Garden Planter
Garden Planners Home Page
Navigate yourself to the Garden Planner page by clicking on it from the top left menu found on every page of the GrowVeg site. The dashboard is broken up into 3 separate panels and my recommendation is to familiarize yourself thoroughly with all three the sections.
Start Using the Planner
Create a new, open an existing or delete a plan.
Your most recently opened plans.
Contains all your account settings, your locations & frost dates and account status.
Filling in your location and frost dates is extremely important so that the software can make appropriate recommendations and prompts for your location.
Support and Feedback
Send your questions/requests via email to the GrowVeg team.
News and Offers
Links to their latest blog posts and software updates.
Note: As of the writing of this post GrowVeg has a pinned Announcement that states “A Major new version of the Garden Planner is launching later this year that does not require Flash”. If you sign up for the planner now, like I did, you’ll receive an email when the new version is available at no additional cost to you.
Garden Planner Guide: This is the planners 62-page downloadable users guide, it’s all in here.
Plant Grow Guides: A searchable database of over 250 plants, from Agastache to Zucchini.
You can sort for plants that are:
You can sort for plants that are:
After you have sorted for the kind of plants you are looking for scroll through the results and click on a plant that interests you. You’ll be taken to a page full of useful information about how to grow and harvest it.
Garden Plans Gallery: A gallery of gardens from around the world. GrowVeg users can upload their garden layouts so you can get new ideas and inspiration fort your garden.
Watch ALL the videos on the Garden Planner page under the Learning to Use section. In total they take a little over 30 minutes to watch and they make learning the software a lot quicker.
Before you can create your garden plan you need to measure your garden dimensions. The more accurate you are in measuring the more realistic of a plan you can create.
Creating Your First Garden Plan
You can create up to five plans per year and it’s simple to get started. From the top of the Garden Planners page Click New Plan located in the top right panel of the dashboard
After giving your plan a name, fill in the dimensions of your garden. Making sure to create the garden size a little bit bigger than your actual garden, so you have plenty of room to work, then hit OK.
Your New Plan will open in a new tab. You can have more than one plan open at a time so you can easily switch between the dashboard and your garden plans.
It’s a good idea to save your plan at every stopping point and always before you close the plan. However, the system will auto-save every 10 minutes and when you change tabs by default unless you turn this option off via the Settings button.
Across the top is the toolbar with tool grouped according to function. File Management, Lists (Plant & Parts), Edit, View, Draw & Format.
Before using the drawing tools, you need to set the Formatting which includes the plan size and grid, color/texture of objects and text, size of text, and
Changing the Plan Size or Units
Click the Plan Size & Grid button.
Adjust the garden measurements under Plan Size if necessary. Switch to your preferred measuring method under Units.
Select whether to display the grey background grid under Options.
If you need extra space at the top or left of a plan, just select Move All Objects on Plan.
Type in the distance you wish to move all items on your plan horizontally left or right, and/or vertically up or down. By enlarging the plan and shifting plants and objects right or down, you can create space at the top or left.
NOTE: In subsequent years, the planner can copy the whole garden layout to a new plan, removing the previous years plants.
Click OK to save your changes.
Roll your mouse over the colors to view and choose. Click once to select. This applies to the shapes, text, and background fill you add. The color can be changed between objects.
You can also select Solid Shape Fill Textures from the selection at the bottom. Roll your mouse over the textures to view their names and see a preview at the top right. Click once to select.
Fill Textures only apply to solid shapes – the solid rectangle, circle or triangle, not to the Background Fill Tool. The Background Fill Tool, the Line Tool and open rectangles, circles and triangles use the last selected color if a texture is selected.
Line Width Button
Click the drop-down arrow to select possible line widths, these apply to the line width of your lines and open shapes.
Text Size Button
Click the drop-down arrow next to select the text size for text boxes you add to your plan.
The Drawing Tools allow you to draw your garden layout and customize your garden plan. The Drawing Tools are Line, Rectangle, Solid Rectangle, Circle, Solid Circle, Triangle, Solid Triangle, Text Area, Background Fill, and Delete.
- Clicking a shape, text box, or plant on your plan will select it. You know you have selected an object when the handles appear. Click again to deselect the object.
- Shapes can be resized using their square corner handles, rotated by their round handles and moved by dragging them.
- Holding down Shift while clicking multiple objects will enable you to select more than one at a time.
- You can also use the Selection Tool to select several objects at once like a raised bed or vegetable box. You can then move or copy all the selected objects at once, which is useful in duplicating or rearranging groups of objects or vegetable beds.
- You delete an item by simply selecting it and then either use the Red X from the Draw Tool set or by hitting Delete on a keyboard.
Drawing Your Garden Plan
There are 2 kinds of shapes you can add to your plan: open shapes and solid shapes.
Open Shapes: Ideal for drawing garden beds & structures ie raised beds. You can resize and move Open Shape per the instruction the section above.
Solid Shapes: One solid color, and work well for patios & ponds. Solids can be like open shapes and resized eaily. The
Background Fill Tool: If you create an Open Shape you can fill it with a color or pattern of your choosing, however resizing or moving is a little cumbersome so this tool is best used setting a surrounding color when your plan is almost complete, or for non-standard or complex shapes.
Non-Standard or Complex Shapes: You can create Complex Shapes out of lines. To create a curved line simply drag the middle handle of the line to the desires curve you want.
If you’d like the end of the lines to meet exactly you can turn on the Snap to Grid option which can find by clicking on the Settings button and under the Settings for All Plans section check the box next to Snap Objects to Grid When Drawing. Also, under Settings there are options to clear the background, or to delete a whole plan.
Text: Can be added by first setting the size and color, then picking up the Text tool, dragging out a text box and clicking inside the box to type. Once finished simply click outside the text box.
Before you select a plant click first on the information icon next to each plant’s graphic and information regarding all the plants planting requirements i.e. exposure, soil type, watering, etc. will pop up.
Or you can use the filter to find those plants that meet your specific requirements.
Use the Plant Selection bar to add plants by browsing them with the navigation arrows at both ends or click the first letter of the plant name.
To add a plant click it once to pick it up, then drag and drop it wherever you want onto your layout.
Click to place a single plant or hold down the mouse to drag out a row or block of plants.
The plants colored background shows you how much space the plants require, and the tooltip shows how many plants you can grow in that area. The color represents the crop family which you can use for crop rotation.
When you are finished with your plan click on the plant list button.
Using a database of over 5000 weather stations the planner creates a customized plant list for your location which tells you when to sow, plant & harvest.
Twice a month the planner will send you email reminders to prompt you what to plant and when.
The Parts List is like the Plants List, but it summarizes the garden objects that represent physical items you need to make or purchase for your garden. Set the Irrigation Layer current and select from the library of various irrigation components to build your system.
Selecting the Parts List from the main menu will activate the planner to query your plans database for all physical items included in your layout and create a list like the one below.
Depending on the type of object, the quantity will be displayed either as a number, a length or an area. If a supplier is selected on the toolbar, then the option to click the Buy button to go to the supplier’s website may be available if they stock that item or something similar.
For any landscaping projects or drip irrigation it is usual to add an additional at least 10% to lengths or quantities when purchasing, in order to allow for unforeseen circumstances ‘on the ground’. Make sure that you have enough extra quantity before purchasing.
Succession Planting Feature
This is an extremely helpful tool in assisting you to maximize your gardens growing spaces over your entire growing season. When you click on a plant in your layout you can set the time period of how long the plant will be in the ground. Then when your forward your garden to a date past a plants harvest date the planner will show that spot in your garden as available for new plantings. This will help you efficiently replant after harvest thus maximizing your gardens seasonal output.
This feature allows you to achieve maximum harvest from a given area and is particularly useful for those with small gardens or long growing seasons.
Planning Crop Rotation
Once you have entered more than one year of plans the planner will warn you about the areas you should avoid replanting the same crop. This helps mitigate soil born pests surviving from one year to the next. Crop families are indicated in the Garden Planner by the colored area behind each plant.
By creating follow-on plans, the Garden Planner automatically links up to five plans and gives crop rotation warnings to help you avoid planting plants from the same crop family in the same area in the following season, which can cause soil nutrient deficiency, pest buildup, and plant disease. When you select a plant in a follow-on plan, areas of your plan will flash red to warm you of where you planted the plants in that family on last year’s plan. This makes it easy to find the best place to plant without having to remember the crop family of each plant.
You can choose to ignore the warnings if required which may be appropriate if you have a small garden with too little space for full crop rotation. Warnings becomes dimmer with every new plan, so a crop rotation warning from a plant that was on a plan 3 years ago will be dimmer than a warning for a plant from the previous year (this reflects the reduced likelihood of disease or nutrient depletion as time goes on). The crop rotation warnings disappear once the plant is placed.
Crop rotation options can be switched off or manually adjusted (see Settings for This Plan). This is particularly useful if you decide to enter the plans for previous year’s planting after creating the current year’s plan so that you can get accurate crop rotation warnings.
Toggling Between SFG & Row Modes
In the upper left of the planner’s dashboard there is a button with the designation of SFG which stands for Square Foot Gardening. To enter SFG Mode simply select the button once and to toggle back to Row Mode simply select the button again.
Row Mode: Pick the plant from the menu, place it where you want the row to start, drag to where you want it to end and the planner will calculate and display the number of plants in the row. You can also stretch the row perpendicular to its orientation to create a “block planting” or multiple rows of the plant.
SFG Mode: Again, simply pick the plant from the menu, place it where you want it, that’s it, you’re done. The planner will calculate how many of the plant you have chosen will fit into one square foot. It displays the plant count next to the plant graphic for easy reference. Great option for raised beds or small planting areas.
The Square Foot Gardening Method consists of dividing your beds into 1 ft. x 1 ft. squares and growing a different vegetable in each square in a quantity of between 1 and 16, depending on the plant. The SFG mode on the Garden Planner enables you to easily arrange 1 ft. squares of plants on your plan.
The plant icons are automatically produced as squares, and a number in the top left corner of the icon tells you how many of that plant to grow in your 1 ft. area based on the specific plant’s needs. (This can be manually adjusted if you wish by editing the default variety.
The Garden Planner places objects on one of five layers. From the top down these are:
- Structures Layer: This is where large structures, or objects that cover plants are placed, such as greenhouses, row covers etc.
- Plants Layer: This is where all plants are placed.
- Text Layer: Any text boxes that you add to a plan are placed on this layer.
- Irrigation Layer: Drip irrigation parts, rain barrels (water butts) etc. all exist on this layer.
- Layout Layer: All shapes and other garden objects are placed on this layer, as well as containers and anything that can hold plants.
Below the Layout Layer is the background grid and background canvas. You cannot place objects on these layers, although using the Background Fill tool stamps a copy of objects from each layer onto the background canvas and then fills it with color – see Background Fill Tool for further details, which also gives details of how to remove background fills using the plan Settings.
The Garden Planner knows which layer each object should reside on, so greenhouses will always be placed on the Structures layer etc.
By default, all layers are visible on a plan and you can edit shapes on any of them. For more detailed editing, use the Layers drop-down menu on the toolbar to select a particular layer. This brings that layer to the top, dimming the other layers. Only the selected layer can be edited until you return to the All Layers selection.
Here are some examples of how the layers system can be used to make planning easier:
- You want to edit plants which are under garden objects such as season-extending garden objects like a greenhouse or cloche. Select the Plants layer, make the adjustments and then go back to the All Layers selection to view the full plan.
- You wish to plan out drip irrigation. Select the Irrigation layer, plan out the drip-irrigation parts required and then print the plan and Parts List to clearly show where the irrigation will be placed.
- You want to make changes to the garden layout without accidentally selecting plants. Choose the Layout layer, edit the shapes and objects, then switch back to the All Layers selection.
Publishing Your Garden Plan
Ok, once you have your plan finished you are ready to get to work in the garden. I find that I rarely get the plan right the first time. Once I start laying out my garden, I always find places that need a little adjustment to either fit in more crops or eliminate overcrowding.
I like to either print out my plan or pull up my plan on my phone as I physically layout my plan, this helps make the process go quickly.
Saving as a PDF
If you wish to save a copy of your plan to your own computer so that you can view it when not connected to the internet or can email a copy to others, you can either use the Publish Plan to Web function and save the JPG image of your plan to your computer or you can convert it to a PDF in the following way:
If you are using a PC, you will need to install PDF conversion software such as Cute PDF, which is free from www.cutepdf.com. Once installed, you can print your plan to PDF. (See Print Plan and select the Cute PDF Writer as the printer. When you click OK, you will be prompted as to where to save the PDF. You can then attach it to an email if desired.)
If you are using a Mac, you can save a PDF from the second Apple print box by clicking the PDF button at the bottom left.
Clicking the Print Plan button brings up the Print box. See the Print Plan section of this User Guide for details.
Publish to the Web
Publishing your plan to a web page makes it easy to share it with others via email, Facebook, Twitter etc or to view your plan on a mobile device. See the Publish Plan to Web section of this User Guide for details. If you select the option for others to be able to view your plan, then it will also be viewable in the Garden Plans Gallery (but cannot be altered by anyone else).
Ready, Set Grow...
Armed with a copy of your plan you are now ready to head into the garden and get your garden in the ground. Putting in a garden should not be an arduous task that you dread but rather a chance to connect yourself with the planet and your food source.
As you work through your plan you will undoubtedly find areas, you will want to edit to make your garden work better for you. Try looking at designing your garden through the eyes of an artist and understand that experimenting with how you layout crops and stack functions is essential to maximizing your garden output.
To really get the most out of the garden planner you will want to utilize all the resources that come with GrowVeg. The plant guides are extremely helpful in understanding your selections and GrowVegTv is regularly updated with hundreds of tips and tricks to help you succeed. The Garden Planners Users Guide also goes a little deeper into the planners more nuanced settings.
Go slow, do not be afraid to experiment and remember to have fun.
Happy Growing to You!