Why does it always seem like you spend all winter waiting, wishing, and hoping for spring, then when it arrives, your brain goes into panic mode, and suddenly you have no idea what’s going to go where, or how many of what you’re going to plant? Just me? That’s fine, that’s fine.
This year I’m doing a garden renovation, which I plan to share in a future post, so it hit me even harder this year, where I’ll have a lot more room to plant, some new raised beds, and a whole feast of things to overcome, like new dirt and possible introduction of disease from the garden soil and compost we’re bringing in. It’s definitely a little overwhelming, because my garden soil has always been so, so good to me; I could probably grow a lemon tree from seed in New England.
All of this led me to look for vegetable garden planner apps that I could use now that I’m more or less starting from scratch. Usually I know where everything goes, and this year I’ll have more room, different planting conditions, two new trellises, and just a whole lot more veggies I’ve never tried to grow before.
The first one I found was a recent crowdfunding project, and I was able to get into the demo, called Seedtime. It’s not yet available to the public, but it allows you to input everything you want to plant, and it will tell you when to germinate, when to plant, when to harvest, etc. based on your zone, frost dates, etc. But they’re certainly not first to market, and they’re also not available yet to the masses, so I figured why not put together a list of all the great vegetable garden planner apps available so you can pick and choose which ones work best for you?
The truth is, garden planning apps are hard to come by, and interfaces on them are often clunky and feel a little bit like time warp back to Windows 95. However, I was able to dig up a few that are generally useful and a couple that appear to be the best in class.
1. Garden Manager
Garden Manager is a web app that allows you to visually create your beds, then say what you want to plant per square foot. Based on your information that you give it about the amount of sunlight the bed gets, and how deep your soil is, and your planting zone, it will help you choose the best vegetables to plant. The free version is very simple in its implementation. Paid versions offer professional help with planning your garden.
The most helpful feature in this vegetable garden planner app was a somewhat visual representation of my garden, and the chart it created to tell me when to plant everything.
Gardena is another app, which I might have found particularly helpful when I was designing my new garden layout. In terms of organizing real plants you want to grow, the selection is very limited, so this isn’t a true vegetable garden planner app, but could be useful when renovating an existing garden or building out a new one. This is what I was able to do in about 15 minutes to try and mimic the drawing I came up with for our new garden. The interface was easy to use for the most part, but it’s only available on desktop.
3. Smart Gardener
Smart Gardener felt like a combination of the first two vegetable garden planning apps, and for a $10 quarterly cost. It starts off stronger than the first two by asking how many people are in your family that you plan to grow for, where you live, and your frost dates. From there you can just start adding everything you want to plant, which contains all the information that you can find on the back of your seed packets. Once you’re done, it’ll give you a weekly task list of what seeds to start, what to transplant, and what to start outdoors.
If you add something that’s not ideal for your growing climate, it will tell you but still allow you to add it to your garden. But a nice feature is that it will tell you how many seeds you should plant per square foot and when.
In the end, like magic, after you tell them how many of each you want, they put everything in place in your garden plots (virtually of course) based on the size of your plots, companion planting, and other strategies. You can move things around too, and lock items that you want to stay in a specific place. Overall, this app is totally useful and worth the $10. This is what my garden looked like when I was done. Looks like I’ll have lots more room to plant! My only gripe with this app is that when you’re adding your vegetables, there’s no search function so you need to manually scroll and select each variety you’re planting.
As for vegetable garden planner apps for your phone, there are a few of those too, though while I initially wanted a phone app, I appreciate the bigger interface of the web apps.
4. GrowVeg Garden Planner
The GrowVeg Garden Planner has similar features to Smart Gardener, though it’s more focused on the design of the garden. One niche feature I liked was the ability to make curves. All the other tools allow you to make squares and triangles, but if you want to represent a garden that isn’t square it’s difficult. While I don’t get any background information on the plants I am arranging as I plan the garden, I do get a checkbox that asks if I want to show companion plants, so for example if I arrange a box of tomatoes, I can then tell it to show me companion plants, and then choose ones that I’ll plant with my tomatoes, like basil, carrots, onions, or even asparagus. Out of all the apps, I found this implementation of companion planting suggestions the most useful.
Then, like the other apps, you get a useful calendar of when to start seeds indoors, when to plant, and when to harvest. A bonus feature is the garden journal, where you can log what you’re doing or planning for your garden. Compared to Smart Gardener, this is a close comparison, but I prefer their app more because this app is still only offering broad planting advice on plants, not specific varietals. Meaning, I can’t choose the exact type of tomato I am planting and get all the information for that specific tomato. That said, I like the guidance on companion planting much more than the text version and automated versions of companion planting suggestions you get from Smart Gardener, so it’s a close call. GrowVeg also comes with a free trial and no credit card required.
There are only a handful of vegetable garden planner apps similar to the ones above where you can use visual cues to plan your garden, and the Planter app is one of them. Overall, you get to build a garden, then drag vegetables onto the plot to visually see how things look.
There are some pointers offered, for example, tomatoes take up four squares, whereas shallots take up one, so you know they need four times the space. And when you click on the individual vegetable, you get planting information, but it’s general information, not specific to the exact type you’re planting like in the Smart Gardener App, and it doesn’t give you a schedule of planting like the other apps in this list do, once you choose your vegetables.
Still, comparable to Gardena, it’s good for visual design of your garden with the bonus of information about each plant such as spacing, depth to plant, how much sun, frost-tolerance, watering and harvesting.
6. Veggie Garden Planter
This is the best vegetable garden planner app I’ve come across, and while Smart Gardener is at the top of my list, for a handheld garden planner, Veggie Garden Planter makes a dent.
First, skip the free version which is more of a demo environment, and pay the $3.99 to get all the features. Next, you add all the veggies that you want to plant to your list of “My Veggies”. This is not specific, when you select tomato, you’re selecting all tomatoes, so the calendar you get in the end you can take with a probably-mostly accurate grain of salt. What’s useful in this app is that in each plant profile, they tell you the “good neighbors” and “bad neighbors” along with how to plant, though it may vary by varietal.
One feature that stands out is when you use their garden design tool, if you drag one crop near a “bad neighbor” or a “good neighbor” it will let you know, which is a feature none of the other apps offer. Generally once you start planning your garden in the other apps, you’re on your own, but the feedback while designing in this app is nice and offers active learning, though admittedly still hard to design on a smaller screen. Plus, you get that trusty calendar that says when you can start planting, and when it’s time to harvest.
There is a free version, but you need to cough up the $1.99 to get more than a handful of vegetables, and $3.99 if you want all the vegetables with their garden design tool. Still, for $3.99 it’s a decent vegetable garden planner app.
It’s time consuming to set up a new app to plan a garden, but so is going through the back of all your seed packets to decipher all the information you need to start planting. The app I will most likely use going forward is Smart Gardener, because I like that I can choose the exact seeds I am planting, and planting data is based off exactly what the seed packet I’m holding is telling me. The garden design feature where it will organize your garden so that plants are all near their companies, is also a nice feature. In my pocket, I’d definitely use Veggie Garden Planter. It’s more simple, and I’d recommend that they consider allowing users to scan the seed packet to easily add it to their garden.
Do you use a vegetable garden planning app? I’d love to hear which one, and why. Leave your review in the comments below!