Tools for Planning: what do you use?

ParmaJonMarch 21, 2012

How do you all plan your garden currently? Paper and Pencil? spreadsheets? some sort of online tool? I can see how digital is nice because it is easily updated but it hard to bring out to the plot with you. Im just curious as to what everyone on here uses.

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I keep a google doc and I also use this planner website:

    Bookmark   March 22, 2012 at 12:11AM
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Avocado101(9A Southern California)

Pencil & Paper/Notebook work best for me.

    Bookmark   March 22, 2012 at 1:48AM
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feijoas(New Zealand)

Plan? Me? After I've avoided planting the same things in the same place and tall growing plants at the front, there's not a lot of planning to do: I wait till there's a gap, fertilise and/or plant wherever I can squeeze things in.

    Bookmark   March 22, 2012 at 3:32AM
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I have 5 raised beds and they are divided with nylon string into foot squares. I drew the beds on graph paper, one sheet per bed and drew the squares to scale. On top of each sheet I clipped a piece of tracing paper where I record everything that is planted. That way I don't have to redraw the beds as the seasons change. I keep these all on a clip board so I can have them at the garden. That way I don't forget to record what I'm doing. I also cut up some yellow sticky notes to fit in the squares and on these I plan possible future plantings.

On a separate sheet of paper I run a dated record of every thing I buy or plant. Initially it took a bit of time to do all the measuring and drawing but I love this system.

    Bookmark   March 22, 2012 at 4:02AM
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dickiefickle(5B Dousman,Wi.)

whats a google doc ?

    Bookmark   March 22, 2012 at 4:12AM
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yep, dont do an extreme amount of planning either. i usually draw out in a little green notebook where im planting things just to make sure theyre all compatible, and more importantly to remember what ive planted and where("i think thats cucumber? maybe its squash? watermelon? well see in a few more weeks..")

i also use a dry erase board for most things, from garden planning to seeding dates/info.

    Bookmark   March 22, 2012 at 9:00AM
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I do graphic design, so I use InDesign to plan out the garden, since I already have it at hand.

    Bookmark   March 22, 2012 at 4:55PM
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I use Excel. That way I can draw out the rows and placement of plants on one tab and on another keep information about what I'm planting. Yet another tab keeps seed starting info and transplanting dates. That way all my info is in one file.

It's also handy because it's easy to print and take. Because Excel is everywhere, practically, it's easy to share.


    Bookmark   March 23, 2012 at 10:00PM
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sunnibel7 Md 7(7)

Pen, notebook, calander, and seed catalog or garden encyclopedia. I only ever fill in a sketch of my garden after I have done my planting, if I do one at all. Mostly I just sit down and think "how many of each of these do I want this year?" then write a list. Then I check my notebook or seed catalog or encyclopedia to figure planting dates and I write them on my calander. Notes of the season are kept in the notebook to aid next year's planning.

    Bookmark   March 24, 2012 at 9:24AM
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Planning is now one of my favorite parts of the entire process, but it wasn't always so. I start with the new seed catalogs and my notes from the previous year, and a few bottles of wine. On my computer I have accurate maps of all of my different garden beds (I also have paper copies of those maps to doodle on and work out quick calculations), a database of crops I've grown in the past, and a new spreadsheet of all of the crops I want to grow based on this years' new seeds and results from last year. The database spreadsheet is listed by vegetable families, and lists all of the varieties' maturity dates, seeding rates, seed sources, planting dates, estimated yields, and other pertinent data, including feedback from customers. As I do my planning, the previous years' crop notes determine what I will order, what I will try new, and where it will fit in the garden. I start with putting the major crops in their specific place and time, then fill in the space or time that is created by gaps around the primary crop - for instance, in a bed that has a primary crop of cucumbers, I might squeeze in an early harvest of spinach first, and follow with fall carrots. Where peas are the primary crop, I might transplant radicchio or kale for winter harvest. I try to get at least two crops from each bed, and can sometimes get 4. The hoop houses are incorporated into that plan, giving me a lot of flexibility with season extension on both ends of the calendar, and typically have 4 or more crops per year, including green manures in the annual rotation. Outdoor beds often have annual green manures, but not always. All of my garden sections have a one year fallow period with green manures for a full year once every 5 years. By the end of the planning process, I have a good idea of what my weekly chores will be, when I may need to schedule more help, and how my budget should look. These get transferred to Google Calendar, which I print out weekly. As tasks are done they get checked off with a date and the number of hours required, in 15 minute increments, so I can double check my labor requirements against pricing. Total harvest yield in pounds, delivery costs, and extra costs like Reemay or sticky traps get put in that calculation as well, which usually affects price adjustments for the following year.

My planning is now a continuous process, depending on weekly notes that get collated in late fall by variety. In December I make my maps, filling in the crops that I grew for the year to plan my rotation, in mid-January I finish my seed order based on those criteria. In February I start planting. I estimate it takes me about 100 hours of computer work to plan about 170 crops on 4 acres. There is always some variation because of forces that are out of my control - an unexpectedly warm winter being the most immediate example that comes to mind - but because it is such an intricate system I try to stay as close as possible to the original, and having an infrastructure that is designed around specific consistent sizes, in the manner established by Henry Ford, I can make some adjustments "on the fly" when things don't work out in August the way I envisioned them in January.

"By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail." - Benjamin Franklin

"Planning is bringing the future into the present so that you can do something about it now" - Alan Lakein

    Bookmark   March 24, 2012 at 4:22PM
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Graph paper and a pen...then a measuring tape, out in the garden. This is for the kitchen garden, since I have that in the middle of the space and it's sort of formal.

The other flower beds...I just get a can of white spray paint and start making outlines. After a few tries, I paint 'the one' a few times, so it stands out, against the grass...then my husband, nieces, nephews, etc...we all start digging! :)

    Bookmark   March 24, 2012 at 9:31PM
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albert_135(Sunset 2 or 3)

One way I like that works for succeeding years is to take pictures with a digital camera of this years plantings, print in black and white and then annotate and make planning mark ups with pencil, Hi-Liters and the like.

    Bookmark   March 25, 2012 at 11:45AM
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Rathos(7b PA)

Graph paper notebook.


    Bookmark   March 25, 2012 at 12:43PM
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Maggie M.(z7 Sunset7 CA Sierra Foothills)

Just posted the Johnny's stuff on another thread. In the cold of winter, I plan away. My references have oftten been the great stuff at U.C.Davis home vegetable planning (including how many plants of anything for a family of four, good references). I sketch multiples of the beds (with 1 foot grids), do a spreadsheet of what I start and by actual planting time it all goes out the window - hmn, I can stick this herb here by the tomato and wedge a few of these there ... It doesn't all go out, I'm new to this zone so getting a feel for the planting out dates. But, I always start more than I can use, give away some and then squirrel in more than I "planned".

Here is a link that might be useful: UC Davis vegetable & home vegetable gardening info

    Bookmark   March 25, 2012 at 6:32PM
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I normally create elaborate spreadsheets to plan out my garden, which includes manually coping portions of seed catalogs into excel. As part of an engineering class I'm enrolled in, I'm creating a computer program which determines the optimal plant layout based on companion planting, plant spread, light, and moisture requirements. Does anyone know of a good resource that has seed data in a spreadsheet (preferably excel) format?

Thanks for your help!

    Bookmark   February 15, 2013 at 6:46PM
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digdirt2(6b-7a No.Cent. AR HZ8 Sun-35)

After almost 50 years of it I decided several years back that "planning" was way over-rated. No matter how much work goes into it, the plan almost always falls by the wayside fairly quickly when it comes to real life.

Mother Nature seems to prefer flexibility if not downright spontaneity.


    Bookmark   February 15, 2013 at 7:20PM
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I use a custom designed computer program since could not find a good one and i hate planning on paper.

    Bookmark   February 15, 2013 at 7:28PM
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IAmSupernova(SE Texas 9A)

I've used a lot of different ways.. I'm new and still trying to find a system that just feels right. I've used Sketchup (3D modeling program) to build a virtual version of my backyard, I've used grid paper and a number system.

Currently I'm using this site called Smart Gardener (I saw someone else on this site mention it) and it mostly gets the job done. You can't do berries or anything on it for free though and I'm not looking to pay for a program or site. As long as you're strictly doing mostly vegetables, then it's a pretty nice tool.

I also keep a notebook for short notes, like planting dates or planting information (spacing, depth, germination days etc). Kinda like a log book I guess...

    Bookmark   February 15, 2013 at 8:46PM
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greenmulberry(5-Iowa City)

I just think about it all winter and figure out what I want to do that way.

I love daydreaming about the next years garden in December.

    Bookmark   February 15, 2013 at 10:04PM
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flora_uk(SW UK 8/9)

Ah Digdirt - same here. I just stare at the garden and fill in any gaps. Rudimentary rotation takes place by making sure the winter brassicas and runner beans always move along one bed each year.

    Bookmark   February 16, 2013 at 8:16AM
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I plan on paper in the fall, but planning designs are like recipes - nice to have for reference, but always subject to improvisation as conditions dictate.

    Bookmark   February 17, 2013 at 2:42PM
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