For you little gardener and lover of trees
December 11, 2014 1:07 PM   Subscribe

It's wintertime in the northern hemisphere, and the seasonal chill is taking hold. With the year's harvests complete and the earth freezing or frozen, now is the perfect time to plan next year's garden.

Luckily, there are a multitude of apps to help green thumbs and black thumbs alike in their quest. Smart Gardener is free garden-planning tool that includes a plant database, layout tool, growing conditions, to dos with e-mail reminders, and a garden journal. The online gardening community Folia, which has over 40,000 members, also offers free garden-organizing software (you can even catalog your seed collection).

If you're willing to invest more than just your time, there are many paid options both for web and mobile apps. Old Farmer's Almanac's Garden Planner is made specifically for planning vegetable gardens and uses growth times and data from weather stations to help with sow/plant/harvest schedules. Garden Planner is useful for gardening/landscaping layout, with a graph-paper-like interface with objects that you can place onto it. Gardening Toolkit offers location-based recommendations, an integrated to-do list, harvest and bloom tracking, sowing advice, and more. Other options include Vegetable Garden Planner,, Kitchen Garden Planner, and

If apps aren't quite your speed, the web's still got you covered in the form of pre-made Excel templates. For a more hands-on approach, you can use Excel to design your garden from scratch; myBackyard offers some instructions, and My Everchanging Garden provides additional ideas for using Excel for garden layout. Prefer a still-lower-tech solution? Grab a pad of graph paper (or print some), some of these plastic stencils, and have at it! And if even figuring out what to plant is intimidating, The Demo Garden offers free pre-planned templates for 4' x 8' gardens that are perfect for raised beds.

Of course, you'll need more than just layout tools to help you plan. GardenWeb and Dave's Garden have a wealth of resources. Compostings and Skippy's Vegetable Garden offer tools for determining planting schedules. US residents, don't forget to make use of the USDA plant hardiness zone map. For help with what to plant, there's the PlantSelectr database, which is filterable by height, hardiness, color, type, soil quality, drought and shade tolerance, deer resistance, and more. Or perhaps you want to try companion planting. If you're looking to add raised beds to your garden, Gardener's Supply Company offers a useful soil calculator. For those unanswerable questions, in addition to Folia, there's also, a social network where gardeners can share their struggles and triumphs. And, as always, your local cooperative/extension service is an excellent source of information and local wisdom.

Previously: 1, 2, 3.
posted by cellar door (13 comments total) 66 users marked this as a favorite
Oh man... time to be overly ambitious!
posted by sparklemotion at 1:20 PM on December 11, 2014 [1 favorite]

One of my bitterest regrets about moving to the lovely city where I live now is that it meant forsaking having a garden as we live in a lovely but narrow rowhouse apartment where there is no patio/lawn/nothing. Despite my haphazard gardening attempts in the past, I still loved it. I must confess that as we hunt for a house to buy, one thing I am quite certain of is that I want a defined amount of space for a couple of raised beds, perhaps plant a fruit tree or two (if anyone tell me what the best fruit trees to grow in a hardiness zone 5a in Ontario, please tell me!).
posted by Kitteh at 1:21 PM on December 11, 2014

Oh, how timely! I'm convinced that I should start a garden in a spot in my front yard in the spring..
posted by needlegrrl at 1:35 PM on December 11, 2014

Thankfully, I live in the land of sunshine that is Southern California. Not just So Cal, but the San Fernando Valley, home of porn and oranges.

In the last 3 weeks I have planted cauliflower, snap peas, lettuce, onions and shallots. Also, my artichokes are thriving and I shockingly still have watermelons and pumpkins growing from the summer and fall. I know it's unusual, but a winter garden tends to do really well in my area and I didn't take advantage of it the first couple of years I was in our home because all of the books talk about mulching over in winter. As it never gets much below 40 degrees F, and only maybe a couple of times each winter, I don't have much to worry about.
posted by Sophie1 at 2:09 PM on December 11, 2014 [1 favorite]

Another great resource for inspiration as well as information is You Bet Your Garden, the Car Talk of American gardening. I wake up to it on NPR every Saturday morning. The host, Mike McGrath, used to be the editor for Rodale Press's Organic Gardening.
posted by mmiddle at 2:20 PM on December 11, 2014 [5 favorites]

Where is the app that weeds the garden for you?
posted by MonkeyToes at 3:42 PM on December 11, 2014 [6 favorites]

Something occurred to me last month when I took down our garden for winter. I found some weeds underneath the dead plants, including a few strange seed pods, which I handled carefully lest they burst and spawn another generation of weeds. Seems that the prevalence in fiction of alien pod creatures as an almost Jungian archetype speaks to the agrarian, weed-fearing roots of our civilization.
posted by exogenous at 5:22 PM on December 11, 2014 [3 favorites]

It is NOT time yet to consider a garden. First of Feb--by then the blisters and pain have been forgotten, and all I can remember is the sweet, sweet taste of homegrown tomatoes.

I'm still cultivating the compost pile, layering on waste hay and horse manure, since we have way higher than normal temps here (scary,) and I'll haul some more composted chicken manure and leaves over to the plot and spread it in the next week or so. I'd like to have another hard freeze, but it will be what it is.

I am in awe of that much planning. I suppose I did more of it 25 years ago, but now it's plant what you can and see what comes up. Throw a dart and see if it will be a good year for...
maybe beans, YEAH!

(and screw those volunteer squash that came up everywhere--Mr. B was kind-hearted and let them stay. NO MORE rampaging butternuts!!)

With the way the climate change is going, every year's another crap shoot. The one thing I do know is this year we're going to mulch the ever-livin' out of everything in an attempt to control the moisture levels here in the desert. I may invest in a water timer.

Where is the app that weeds the garden for you?

I've been searching play store all afternoon and can't find it.
and the garden fairies don't weed worth a damn at my house!

San Fernando Valley, home of porn and oranges.

Please tell me there's not a correlation here.
posted by BlueHorse at 5:59 PM on December 11, 2014 [2 favorites]

I was *just* about to ask Metafilter if anyone knows of a good basic compendium on common diseases and ailments of veggies and houseplants. Anything to add along those lines? I'm looking for something to have offline, not having to hunt through every single ag extension website for every state U in the country.
posted by gusandrews at 6:11 PM on December 11, 2014

Sophie1, watch the boasting or we'll all move into your garden!

Srsly though, if you're looking to understand California gardening, you could do worse than Sunset Magazine's various resources, including the classic Western Garden Book.
posted by gusandrews at 6:16 PM on December 11, 2014 [1 favorite]

The app for weeding your garden, I can personally attest, is called wood chips. In Portland, where every weed seed comes up at least twice, I've had to invent reasons to spend time in the garden, since weeding is unnecessary with a generous application of these free--delivered--arborist cast-offs. As long as you don't work them in, there's no nitrogen deficit, and they dramatically reduce water requirements. There's a great Paul Gautschi film about it if you're interested, and Linda Chalker-Scott has addressed it in an FAQ paper as well. Honestly the easiest gardening I've ever done. Can't recommend it enough.
posted by perhapsolutely at 6:24 PM on December 11, 2014 [2 favorites]

The app for weeding your garden, I can personally attest, is called wood chips.

Oooh, I have that app! Also have really large gardens and only me behind the shovel. But where I do manage to get wood chips down, the weed suppression is pretty good.
posted by MonkeyToes at 5:55 AM on December 12, 2014 [1 favorite]

I'm a big fan of Sunset garden resources. My Sunset Zone (20a) is so relatively rare, even Sunset talks mostly about putting away the garden for the winter - but when I do find a page or two talking about our area, it's awesome.
posted by Sophie1 at 7:44 AM on December 12, 2014

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