Digging Into Garden Planning Software
Gardeners wanting to plan before they plant are making use of advances in garden planning technologies. Apps and websites take some of the risk out of designing and building large and small gardens. There's plenty of reward, too, when it comes to websites that help teach kids and gardening newbies the basics of harvesting healthy food.
Apr 30, 2013 5:00 AM PT
When Catherine Kasper Place in Fort Wayne, Ind., needed to help refugees plan garden plots for themselves and for the organization's community suppored agriculture, it turned to GrowVeg.com's Garden Planner and its affiliated iPad app, Garden Plan Pro.
Garden Planner is a subscription-based service for planning and managing gardens. Garden Plan Pro (iOS, US$9.99) is a stand-alone garden planning app that doesn't require a subscription to use, but can be synced with Garden Planner accounts.
"It makes a lot of sense, saves time, and makes gardening more productive," Jeremy Dore, managing director of the company behind these services, Growing Interactive, told TechNewsWorld. "As you add plants, it shows you how much room you need. It calculates how many plants will fit into a given area, and it tells you how many seeds you need to start indoors."
It also facilitates crop rotation, which can increase production.
"It automates crop rotation," explained Dore. "Crop rotation used to be a real headache for people. You have to remember what plants you've planted and what family they're in. We have a color-coded system that tells you where not to put certain plants, based on what was there in previous years, in order to avoid pests."
Catherine Kasper Place's Fresh Food Initiative helps local refugees -- who are primarily from Burma at the moment -- chart out garden plots that include their native vegetables, such as bitter gourd, taro, Thai peppers and watercress. It also helps them to plan and manage plots of vegetables sold through the CSA.
"This was the only system in which we could build many different designs," said Chaille. "Most of these apps are built for a person with one farm. Very few have options for more than one farm, and none with as many."
Pictures and a simple, intuitive interface help gardeners plan what to plant and how much to plant, and then manage the garden throughout the season.
"Not a lot of our clients are literate in English," said Chaille. "The program is picture-based, and it makes it easier to work together when we all have a common idea of what a carrot is."
The site and app offer a variety of options for planning and organization.
"We chose to use the square foot gardening option, and we're hoping to produce more than what a row crop would," said Chaille. "It will produce more produce in less space."
The goal is to help both the refugees and the community by providing an abundance of healthy food.
"It's fresh, local food, which is very meaningful," said Chaille. "A lot of our clients live in food desert areas that keep them from getting to grocery stores. They're hard-pressed to find the kinds of vegetables that they want to eat. This allows them food equity, since the farm is right across the street where many of our clients live. And it benefits the whole community."
Planning to Succeed
Another organization, the Recipe for Success Foundation, works with schools to plan and plant gardens that are used to teach children about everything from gardening to healthy eating.
The foundation encourages its affiliate partners and schools to use Garden Planner and Garden Plan Pro to plan and manage their gardens.
"It's a very easy design tool to use," Gracie Cavnar, founder of the Recipe for Success Foundation, told TechNewsWorld. "The beauty of this is that you can do it pretty quickly with the embedded tools. For us, as an organization that builds a lot of gardens, it's cut our prep time down dramatically." These new garden planning technologies, she said, are making the school gardening projects more effective and educational.
"The biggest thing that this technology has done for us is reduce the cost of delivering our program," said Cavnar. "[Growing Interactive is] beginning to incorporate lesson plans into the program, so that teachers can more readily use it in the classroom."
Ultimately, garden planning sites and apps give gardeners access to a wealth of information that might otherwise be difficult to track down.
"It's not for everybody, since some people want just paper and dirt," said Dore. "But many people want an app. There's probably a mobile device with you when you're in the garden, so you might as well use it."