Hatching a Plot
I have discovered that successful gardening needs a plan. Ever since I hatched my cockamamie plan to turn my backyard plot into a real garden, I have been pinning ideas on Pinterest–pins about how to grow tomatoes in containers, how to start your own backyard compost, how to maximize space, etc. My husband is fully on board with the idea and has relocated (or torn down and rebuilt) a shed, an empty chicken coop and an over-sized, dilapidated green house to make room for my larger plot, compost bin, and smaller and more functional greenhouse. My sole contribution to the project thus far has been pinning.
SmartGardener.com–A Game Changer!
Then, I stumbled across a pin about free online garden planners. The article, from The Balance describes several free or cheap online planners and their advantages and disadvantages. Ultimately, I decided to go with Smart Gardener.com. This particular site is not free, but so far it seems worth the price. You can choose a 90 day plan for $6.00, or 365 day plan for $19.99. I chose the 90 day plan (which can be renewed) for starters.
Choose Your Zone and Choose Your Plants
First I entered my information about the growing season in my areas, temps, etc. This is little more than putting in your zip code and then confirming the details. Next, I was able to choose from an extensive list of vegetables, fruits, herbs, and edible flowers. I was able to see a variety of information about the plants/ seeds as well as where to order them. I had the option to add any plant to “my garden,” but when I attempted to add anything that was not compatible with my hardiness zone, the site would warn me and ask me if I was sure I wanted to add that to my garden–a very handy feature for the clueless (me).
Build Your Garden
After I had added all my plants to my garden, I was able to “create.” I entered the dimensions of my backyard and used the grid and “drag and drop” features to add garden plots and beds. I was even able to add areas of shade. The rest was just simple drag and drop from the side menu of the plants I had chosen. The little plant icons were bigger or smaller depending on how much space the actual plant needs, to prevent overcrowding. I can even see which plants pair well together, and which do not.
How Much Is Too Much?
So far, I have decided to try my hand at growing corn, pumpkins, zucchini, summer squash, russet potatoes, fingerling potatoes, sweet potatoes, red cabbage, green cabbage, Brussels sprouts, asparagus, carrots, yellow turnips, two types of sweet peppers, chilies, purple cauliflower, white cauliflower, broccoli, chives, oregano, dill, basil, cilantro, Asian mixed greens, oak leaf lettuce, spinach, radishes, yellow onions, green onions, garlic, blueberries, strawberries, Echinacea, tomatoes, and rhubarb. I might be over extending myself. We shall see.
What Every Beginner Needs–A “To-Do” List
Here is the very best part, though. After you set up your garden, Smart Gardener provides you with a calendar of “to-do’s.” The site actually tells you when you should be starting each plant indoors, transplanting outdoors, or starting outdoors. There is even an online journal to take notes and add photos! The site also has loads of tips on soil composition, planting, harvesting, etc. It is fantastic! According to my schedule I should have started my strawberries two weeks ago … better get crackin’!
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