As I write this, it’s snowing outside. Sitting here at my kitchen table, I can see my little garden outside, all snowy and white.
But inside, on my computer, my garden is bursting with peas and carrots, tomatoes and tomatillos, zucchini, eggplant, and strawberries. I’ve been using the free website, SmartGardener.com, to plan my garden for this year, and I must admit: I’m TOTALLY HOOKED.
Growing food is a big part of the family foodie lifestyle, to me, even if the amount of food grown is more symbolic than sustaining. I would love to fancy myself a suburban homesteader, grassy plot all dug out, food under every leaf and around every corner. But to be perfectly honest, I’m not a good enough gardener for that yet. I suppose, if my family were relying on it, I would learn much faster, but as it is, I am content to have a small, roughly hundred-square-food hobby garden.
We put our first four-by-four plots in the same summer we moved into this house, and I’ve been gardening—more or less successfully—ever since. Last year, for mother’s day, my husband dug me two more plots, and we’ve added berry bushes and infant fruit and nut trees as well. But I’ve never taken much of a scientific approach to the task; basically, I’ve just headed off to the garden center, popped whatever looked promising into the ground, and hoped.
Not this year. I discovered SmartGardener last year, too late in the season to really do me much good, but I knew as soon as I saw it what an amazing tool it could be.
Here’s how it works: First, you set up your garden. You tell the program your location, how many people are in your family, and even your food preferences. Then you can lay out your garden design with a simple drag-and-drop grid. Don’t have a garden dug yet? No problem. The site has tons of information about how to choose your location, amend the soil, and all that good stuff.
Then, you go through and pick your plants. The site will recommend varieties that grow well where you live. Since I am doing this on a shoestring budget this year, I actually went out to the garage, and input all the seed varieties I still have hanging around from previous years. (Yes, new seeds are best, but we’re just going to cross our fingers and see what comes up.) You can even order seed packets directly from the website, so you can get exactly the varieties recommended for your area.
Once you’ve selected what you want to grow, the program will tell you how many of each plant variety you need to feed a family your size. Isn’t that COOL? No more guessing! Of course, if you’re like me and have a limited amount of space, you may not be able to grow as much food as they recommend; that’s OK too. You can adjust how many plants of each variety you want to grow until the space needed matches the space you have available.
Next, you click the “Plan” button, and SmartGardener will even lay out your garden for you based on all kinds of metrics. Of course, if the recommendation doesn’t suit you, you can play and rearrange until your heart’s content.
Finally, and this is probably my very favorite part, each week, the site tells you exactly what you need to do for your garden, right down to watering and weeding. It’s like gardening for dummies! I love it.
The whole site is free to use, but they make money by selling add-on functionality. For the cost of an app ($0.99–$1.99), you can add different little bundles of added goodies. The site works perfectly well without them, but if you’re like me, you won’t mind paying a little fee to add fruit (I have strawberries, raspberries and blackberries in my garden) or the ability to do succession plantings (as in, plant lettuce in the spring and replace it with tomatoes in the summer) to your amazing free garden planner.
I’m not affiliated with SmartGardener in any way, I just think it’s a super cool tool that can REALLY help you grow the garden of your dreams.
But, if you like a little more hands-on love when it comes to learning the art of the green thumb, I am affiliated with the amazing Nicola Chatham and her Abundant Veggie Patch System. Nicola’s got some extremely good tips in this free video, so you should definitely head over to her site to check it out!
Here’s what you’ll learn:
- Why growing organic food is one of the best SELF CARE practices to support your health & wellness.
- How to set your garden on AUTO-PILOT so it keeps growing, practically without you.
- Nicola’s step-by-step 5 Secrets to Creating an Abundant Organic Veggie Patch with a PDF Fun Sheet included.
The video is 100 percent free, so check it out!
Are you ready for a challenge?
Put your money where your mouth is and your spade in the proverbial dirt: I challenge you to take a few minutes this week and decide if you will make growing your own food a priority this year. It doesn’t matter how big or how small (SmartGardener has templates for container gardens, too!); what matters is that you make the decision! And don’t forget to watch Nicola’s video to learn her top five secrets for an abundant veggie patch.
Comment below when you’ve done it and let everyone know that you are a gardener!
2 thoughts on “Start Planning Your Garden with These Tools”
Committing to eating healthy, whole, and organic foods is expensive (at least more expensive than eating crud), so we will definitely be growing our own food this year. I have already used SmartGardener to plan the beds and can’t wait to get started. We will be experimenting with the milk jug method for seed starting this year.
Awesome, Jacki! Growing some of your food is such a great way to cut down on costs.