EAT YOUR VEGETABLES: Carrie Lyle posts about vegetable gardening each Tuesday.
I’ve tended the same community garden plot since 2002. Over the years, I’ve become more familiar with the plot — how soon the soil can be worked in spring, which areas get the most sun, how frequently I need to water in the heat of summer. On the other hand, the more I work the same plot, the more seasons become a blur. Did I plant soybeans in the first or second bed last year? Which zucchini survived the squash vine borers?
Each spring, I plan my garden on a sheet of graph paper, marking vegetable varieties and when to plant and harvest. This goes in a pocket of my gardening tote for reference. By the end of the season, though, my plan is blurred by accidental waterings and smudged by dirty fingerprints. That makes it a challenge to figure out where to rotate my crops the next year.
This year, I tested two online garden planning tools in the hopes of finding a more convenient form of record-keeping. Here’s how they stacked up:
$20 for 1 year / free 45-day trial
Growveg.com is simple to use — almost too simple. Beginner gardeners will appreciate the collection of informational articles in the GrowGuides section of the site. In addition, the planning tool has a menu that brings up basic growing information for each vegetable. However, I couldn’t figure out a way to list the specific varieties of plants I’m growing — the whole point, for me, of drawing up a plan online.
One nice feature is that you can look up the frost date for your ZIP code and automatically calculate sowing and harvesting dates. Then, you can set up automatic e-mail reminders. However, some of the information on the planting and harvesting chart was inaccurate. For example, according to the chart, carrots can be planted from mid-April through the end of June. I’ve found that they can be sown much later.
$25 for 1 year / free 30-day trial
Although the graphics are more attractive on growveg.com, plangarden.com wins when it comes to functionality. Its planning tool is similar to growveg.com, but more customizable. For example, the harvest chart can be adjusted to differentiate between a tomato that matures in 60 days and one that matures in 85 days. Also, you can create profiles for plants that aren’t included in the menu. It was fairly easy to create a customized soybean profile from another bush bean icon. The site does require you to calculate your own planting dates, though, and doesn’t generate e-mail reminders.
Another nice feature is the daily log, where you can keep track of things like the last time you fertilized or when the harlequin beetles started to attack the broccoli. Finally, there’s the social networking aspect. Members have the option of keeping a blog. Once you’ve created a plot, you can share it with other gardeners on the site and browse the gardens of others in your area or across the world. Or, you can discuss gardening techniques in the online forums.