GrowVeg.com, a subscription based online garden planning tool, has recently launched an iPad app based on the service. It costs $9.99 (no subscription) during the introductory period. It’s possibly the best tool I’ve found yet for planning your vegetable plot or allotment, with a fantastic advanced feature set such as square foot gardening and space requirements for individual varieties.
I must admit I’ve been searching for a decent vegetable plot planner for a while – I did a round up last year and only one of the apps actually lets you map out plots, while the others were just glorified grow guides. Having recently acquired an allotment of 125 square meters, the need to actually have some kind of system to manage it all and the release of this app has worked out nicely. We don’t normally review premium apps here at MakeUseOf, but in this case there are very few alternatives at all – and I feel this is an app definitely worth paying for. Click here to view it on the app store.
Garden Plan Pro allows you to define your growing areas to scale, then plan out what you wish to grow there. Each plant includes seasonal growth info that’s nicely plotted on an easy to understand graphical planting calendar, as well as indicating spacing and area requirements. Let’s look in detail at some of the features that make this iPad gardening app so unique though.
Laying Out Your Plot
This app has by far the most powerful layout options I’ve found yet. While other apps limit you to simple rectangles, Garden Plan Pro lets you define custom shapes, rotate them, and even create curves.
On the downside, things can be a bit fiddly once you start rotating them, which is something they need to refine. Once rotated, it’s nearly impossible to move the shape, and resizing by dragging the corners still functions as if it weren’t rotated. It’s disconcerting, and sometimes you may resort to just deleting the shape and trying again.
It’s not impossible though, and bear in mind you only need to define the basic shapes once, as any subsequent years are copied over. It’s currently limited to geometric shapes (and colors), straight lines and curves – but typical garden objects etc. are promised for the future.
Having made a complete garden and planting plan for a year – what happens the next? In Garden Plan Pro, the garden shape will all be saved for next year – though of course you can still edit it if you make changes from one year to the next. Even more useful is that when adding plants for the next years plan, areas of your garden will be shaded to show where those plants were placed last year, thereby encouraging you to rotate crops. The app apparently remembers 5 years, with older years shaded lighter each year. A minor feature perhaps, but one that gardeners with large allotment plots will really appreciate I think.
You can also edit plans by month if you wish, ready for you to add something else for quick successional planting. There is also an option to split the growing into two entirely separate plans if you have a long growing period, which really shows how much thought the designers have putting into making this a Pro level app.
Another unique feature is the inclusion of a square foot gardening mode, whereby instead of laying out rows and entire beds of a specific variety, you interplant things into 1 foot areas – supposedly resulting in greater overall yields in more useful small batches. Helpfully, a small number in the box indicates exactly how many of that particular item you should fit into a single square foot, as well as allowing for larger items such as courgettes that need more than a single square foot to grow in.
A good amount of plants are included in the database, from both generic varieties to specifics; covering both vegetables, fruiting trees, and herbal/medicinal flowers. Compare this to the SmartGardener online plot planner, which limits the seed selection to specific seeds from affiliated companies – all of whom are American with no generic types for us Brits to use.
The varieties included with Garden Plan Pro are also American based I believe, but with both generic types and the ability to add custom varieties (including the planting schedule and spacing requirements), it’s not a bother at all. In fact, adding custom varieties alone will make this a godsend for organic and heritage growers who tend to save and share seeds that simply aren’t grown commercially.
This the first release, but there seems to be some glaring bugs. Firstly, it’s impossible to delete plans created in error. You can edit individual plots on the plans easily, but you can’t actually delete the entire garden to start again.
The planting calendar also displayed an obvious bug for me whereby the label was moved forward 7 months – so although the graphical planting guide was correct, it said I was currently in July. This doesn’t affect functionality as far as I can tell – if you assume the blue line is the current date, the planting guide will still be accurate.
The date selections also seem to be a bit peculiar. Pressing the minus button will set it to 2201 or something ridiculous.
Despite it’s buggy release lacking such basics as deleting gardens, Garden Plan Pro really still shines as the best garden planner for the iPad, period. It has by far the most advanced feature set (online sites included), catering for both casual gardeners who want a little structure, and serious allotmenteers who want fine grained control over the growing season plan. can forgive it’s shortcomings in knowing that these will be dealt with in time, and I can offer nothing but a 5-star heartfelt recommendation for this iPad gardening app.
I’ll try to answer any app specific questions in the comments if you like, or feel free to give us your own quick review if you’ve purchased it. What features do you feel are missing still?