Farmville, but for real.
December 22, 2010 9:29 PM   Subscribe

Now that winter is officially here, maybe you're thinking about warmer times, and your vegetable garden. Here are some online tools and resources to help you plan your next bumper crop. Mother Earth News Garden Planner is an online app that can help you layout your garden, and once you've done that, it'll tell you when you should start planting, based on your location. It even takes into account things like successive sowing and crop rotation, all with an eye towards organic farming practices. (Don't like associating with the Mother Earthers? The same app is available via Considering more unusual varieties this year? How about heirloom varieties? Seed Savers Exchange | Victory Seeds | Seeds of Change. And of course, there's always Burpee for your more garden variety seeds. And be sure to check out these composting tips. Or if all of this is just too much work, you can always sign up for a share in a nearby CSA.
posted by crunchland (22 comments total) 59 users marked this as a favorite
Gardener's Supply Company offers a similar, free, garden planning tool.
posted by tidecat at 9:52 PM on December 22, 2010

Northern Hemispherist
posted by pracowity at 10:04 PM on December 22, 2010 [1 favorite]

Seed catalogs are a colorful little ray of hope that spring will come again. Thanks for the post!
posted by Horatius at 10:10 PM on December 22, 2010

Great for non-gardeners. Not much help for me with my 30'X300' garden.
posted by Jumpin Jack Flash at 10:11 PM on December 22, 2010

That's not a garden. That's a farm.
posted by crunchland at 10:40 PM on December 22, 2010 [2 favorites]

Winter? My orange and pear trees have started fruiting in *winter*? Woah.
posted by rodgerd at 11:02 PM on December 22, 2010

> 30'X300'

This back to basics is going too far.
posted by stbalbach at 11:13 PM on December 22, 2010

My family tried planting a raised vegetable garden in our tiny backyard last year, spending over $100 in seeds, plants, lumber, and soil. Everything was growing nicely for a while; until the local fauna discovered the patch. Our harvest? One fingerling potato, two small tomatoes, and a few wilted leaves of spinach.

Our neighbor also experienced the near-complete annihilation of her tomato crop, and blamed the non-existent neighborhood kids. But really, when was the last time you saw a kid steal a vegetable?
posted by Soliloquy at 12:05 AM on December 23, 2010 [1 favorite]

Ha ha, gaze upon my southern hemisphere tomatoes and weep. The new peach tree has got a handful of tasty looking fruit ripening too. And I ate a sweet, sweet strawberry the kids missed straight of the plant today.
We've had staggering amounts of rain in the last two months, and no burning heat, so everything is green and growing with vigor.
posted by bystander at 3:24 AM on December 23, 2010

until the local fauna discovered the patch

Oh yeah, we had some very fat and happy bunnies in our neighborhood. The only good part was that they seemed primarily interested in the soybeans--they ignored almost everything else. Next year we'll probably a few soybeans on the other side of the yard to keep them away.
posted by uncleozzy at 4:31 AM on December 23, 2010

there's always Burpee for your more garden variety seeds.

I see what you did there.
posted by Faint of Butt at 4:39 AM on December 23, 2010

But really, when was the last time you saw a kid steal a vegetable?

For eating, never. But would you rule out the possibility of some boys sneaking into Mrs So-and-so's tomato patch by night, making off with a few of her juiciest specimens, and throwing them at one another or at trucks and trains? Things like that weren't unheard of when I was growing up.

Also, depending on where you live, real live hungry people might be snatching free food.
posted by pracowity at 4:58 AM on December 23, 2010

About four years ago here I began building raised beds (4x8 and 4x10) in our yard here in Cleveland's sunny suburbs (ha) and planting a variety of crops. We've had very good success with:

Tomatoes: roma, beefsteak and cherry
Sweet Corn
Lettuce varieties
Sugar snap peas
Bell peppers

There are a few keys to success. One, you need to build excellent soil. Don't cheap out on the $1.25 bags of dirt at Home Depot. Get some good basic soil, then you need to blend in lots of manure, humus and even a few bags of the pricier garden soil. I also am a fan of the Espoma-Tone organic fertilizers to blend into the soil. The location you use should get lots of sun - ideally southerly facing.

For tomatoes, there are a few rules as well: consistent watering is a must. If you over-water or are inconsistent you'll get bottom rot. Blech. Next, don't over-crowd tomatoes. I always overplant and then have to remove a good 1/3 to 1/2 of what I plant, especially if I get good Beefsteak tomatoes (yummah). My wife laughs at me beacuse each year I cut back on the tomato plants I end up keeping in the beds. In a 4x10 bed I would recommend planting about 3 - 4 beefsteak plants, and even that may be overkill. Finally, you need to stake or trellis tomatoes. I've experimented with a lot of different ways of doing this: stakes in the ground and twist-ties (too much work), a trellis cage/box (cumbersome), and this past year I tihnk I found my favorite. I built an "A" frame out of cedar wood (minimizes rot, but expensive lumber) and then ran nylon string down to the ground and tied it to a bottom post. The nice thing about this is that each tomato plant begins to twine itself around the string and it works its way up on its own with minimal management.

You should also find yourself a good local nursery - they're usually more than willing to help you out with things like soil balancing, recommendations, etc. I also recommend Park Seed and Nature Hills as good sources for seeds and for saplings. The beefsteaks I planted this year came from Park Seed in the form of saplings that we planted and they were by far the best I've had.
posted by tgrundke at 5:03 AM on December 23, 2010

But really, when was the last time you saw a kid steal a vegetable? --- back when he was a kid, my brother planted a pumpkin patch right over our septic field. The pumpkins he grew were enormous, weighing hundreds and hundreds of pounds. One early autumn morning, he went out and discovered that someone had carved a triangle out of the top of one of the pumpkins. Asking around the neighborhood, he learned that one of the older kids who lived nearby, either on a dare or out of sheer malice, fornicated with the giant squash the night before.

But I'm sure that's not what happened to your tomatoes ... I don't think.
posted by crunchland at 5:40 AM on December 23, 2010 [1 favorite]

Here is my annual plug for drip irrigation. I am a lazy gardener by nature, but for the last few years I spend 1/2 day setting up a tubing system I got from the awesome company Dripworks. I prepare the garden bed, plant the seeds, set up the timer and pretty much forget about everything except the occasional weeding.
posted by jeremias at 6:06 AM on December 23, 2010

Re fauna, my in-laws bought an excellent motion-sensitive sprinkler doohickey that keeps the larger fauna (deer in their case) away. Also, it is fun to watch them jump when squirted. You do have to move it around now and then so they don't figure out a work-around.

The raccoons seem to prefer scavenging from their bird-feeder leavings, for now. Which is good because those little (&*(^ are too smart to fool with a sprinkler.
posted by emjaybee at 7:46 AM on December 23, 2010

But really, when was the last time you saw a kid steal a vegetable?

As I'm involved in urban agriculture, sadly I see it often. Unless I mean, happily I see it often.
posted by ecourbanist at 8:16 AM on December 23, 2010

We've been committed clients of various CSA's over the years, since I no longer have time to do the big garden myself. The thing I sometimes wonder is whether boxing up produce grown/bought elsewhere is much of a temptation. The premium is pretty high on those subscriptions. I'm sure the small farm is hard pressed to provide a consistent, full yet varied box.
posted by Mei's lost sandal at 8:26 AM on December 23, 2010

I've always had trouble with carrots, so this year I tried like 8 different varieties. By far the best -- best germination, best growth, best crop -- was the Danvers carrot from SeedSavers. That's the only one I'm bothering with next year.
posted by rusty at 9:39 AM on December 23, 2010

I like Peaceful Valley for seeds and things. But that's probably because I can drive up the hill and go there myself rather than ordering online.

And after trying out several types of 'specialty' carrot, I have also given up and am sticking to one sort, the scarlet nantes.

Drip irrigation is doubly awesome if you live in a hot climate - it keeps down the powdery mildew.
posted by elsietheeel at 10:03 AM on December 23, 2010

real live hungry people might be snatching free food.

That is a non-zero possibility, but they'd have to scale a six-foot fence under the watchful eye of said elderly neighbor with nothing better to do. Besides, the missing produce included bulbs, which don't generally make the menu around here. No matter; whether it was hungry squirrels or humans, they clearly needed it more.
posted by Soliloquy at 12:03 PM on December 23, 2010

+1 on the drip irrigation system. I bought one last year but didn't have the time to put it in. Trust me, I won't make this mistake again this coming year. It's going in come hell or high water.
posted by tgrundke at 2:21 PM on December 23, 2010

« Older "Return with us now, to those thrilling days of...   |   Greetings from ISS! Newer »

This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments