How to Plan Your Garden
An online tool.

I mentioned last year that I used the Mother Earth News Garden Planner to map out my Front Yard Vegetable garden. It was great. A useful tool that I figured I only needed to use once.

Garden’s planned. Done.

Not so. You see you’re not supposed to plant the same plants in the same area year after year because it depletes the soil of the nutrients that particular plant feeds on and it makes the soil more prone to the disease and pests of that particular pant.

I knew all of this information, it’s just that I was going to ignore it. The way men ignore the warning about how many aspirin you can take in any given day when they have a headache or feel a tiny bit sick. 2 aspirin every 4 hours? That’s just a suggestion. I’m pretty sure it’s O.K. to take 5 every 2 hours.

So what convinced me to change my plantings around every year? The Mother Earth News Garden Planner. Let me explain what it is a little bit.

The planner is a program you can go into and design your garden. Either flower garden or vegetable garden. You lay it out and design it and pick the plants you want to grow. You basically just drag and drop them into the spot you want and the planner automatically tells you how many will fit in your space and puts a little picture of them there. You can choose to make your plan according to traditional row gardening or the newfangled and VERY impressive Square Foot Gardening method.

It’s easy. Aspirin directions easy.

This is my plan from last year.  Which I thought would be my plan for all years.




The program keeps your garden plan on file, so when it’s time to start your garden planning the next year you can take a look at your old garden plan to see what you did. You can also create a whole new garden plan based on your current layout. That’s what I did because I wanted to change out some of the vegetables I grew.

When I started to drag and drop my tomatoes into my new garden plan whole sections of my plan started to show up in red. Like a stop sign. Alert! Alert!  Do not proceed past the Big Red Blog.

The garden planner was remembering what I planted last year and alerting me to the fact that I shouldn’t plant my tomatoes (or anything else in that plant family) there again.

As much as I tried to ignore it I couldn’t. Big red blobs are difficult to ignore.


A Big Red Blob.



Did you notice the big red blog? Case in point.

So the Mother Earth News Garden Planner overrided my stupidity and laziness and forced me to pay attention to crop rotation. The other good thing about the planner is every week they email you a reminder to start certain seeds based on your location so even if you’re using my Seed Starting Calculator, you’ll also get an email reminder that it’s time to start tomatoes.

The planner is free for the first 30 days to try out but you won’t be able to save your plan and it won’t send you email reminders etc. It’s still works great though and is perfect if you just want to quickly map out a garden to see exactly how many plants will fit where. Then if you decide you absolutely love it, you can pay the $25 a year subscription to it. I did. And yes it was worth it.

I’m investigating how I can apply the power this planner has over me to the power a bottle of aspirins and a headache has over men.


  1. Amie Mason says:

    Awesome thanks for sharing! I’ve just started my seedlings for my autumn crop and this will come in handy!

  2. Judith says:

    LOVE the garden planner! I tried it as soon as I read your post last year and ended up subscribing – can’t wait to play with it for this year’s crops. I was wondering how the crop rotation thing would show up!

  3. Bonnie says:

    I love this, and I am not into gardening or planting, in the least. I am,sending this to my sister in law right now however. I am sure you will have a new subscriber immediately!

  4. Anita says:

    I am trying the Square Foot Garden Method this year. Crap can’t remember the author but the book is from Rodale. Anyway he talks about planting in a 12X12 square. Depending on your vegetable, that is how many you plant in the square. Onions you can plant 16, same with carrots, tomatoes and peppers- only 1. Some how this is supposed to be the most efficent way to garden, Plus it will help with my crazy need to keep everything in order.

    • Karen says:

      Anita – Yes, that’s how I plant and it definitely is more efficient and you get more plants into a smaller amount of space. Works well! ~ karen

      • Anita says:

        good to hear. I have a 10×20 plot at my community garden and I have always gone a bit crazy with the tomatoes and hot peppers every year. I thought I would try this out and see how much of a difference it makes. Plus I like the idea of having my lettuce, beets and flowers in neat little rows.

  5. ev says:

    Great idea. We only have two strips of garden about 4 feet wide and 15 feet long. We planted potatoes ( huge failure) squash, peas, beans and tomatoes, with spring onions here and there. Haven’t decided on this years choices yet. For those who have many crops in a small space like yours, the planner sounds perfect. Well done!

  6. ev says:

    Where are the comments? Did I miss something?

  7. jackie says:

    Whoa, weird. Last night i was on that very site…that is bizarre. I heard about it through my community garden in 2008. I’m disappointed they don’t have a free version. I love using because it has a free version, and I feel it’s a bit better, but without the scheduling that this one has for a garden. I just didn’t want to be the fool that pays for something if I could find a similar version free. Since you have put this up, I’m going to assume there isn’t a free option elsewhere. Or…we’re both fools??

    • Karen says:

      Jackie – I took a quick look at floorplanner and it doesn’t really do the same thing as the Mother Earth News planner. The Mother Earth News planner has a list of all the vegetables you can imagine and you click and drag them to the spot you want them in your garden. It automatically tells you how many you can plant in one square foot and plops them in there. It also tells you what plants go together, if it will shade another plant etc. etc. There is a free version you just can’t save it. Also, since I go to the Mother Earth News site all the time and get all kinds of information for free, I don’t mind paying to use one feature that must have taken forever and a lot of money to develop. ~ karen!

      • jackie says:

        I was regarding it purely form space-planning, the ability to see from multiple views (like 3d) and the ability to have a free version that is longterm, saveable, printable. My own work is in the field of GIS (maps) and there are multiple opensource softwares for that. I would like to see more landscape (garden) softwares for free, as there are a multitude like floorplanner as well in the realm of architectural technology (ie. Sketch-up). I don’t need all the functions like the scheduling, but I would like to see 3d, add simple structures, patios, etc. Basically I want it all, but a simple version.

        • Karen says:

          OH! So you’re not really using it for planning a vegetable garden, you’re using it for planning a “space”. If that’s what you’re looking for then the other might be what you’re looking for. But if you’re planning an actual garden focusing on what area is best for what plant, then it’s the Mother Earth News one you want to use. ~ karen!

        • Jackie says:

          Like I said, I want it all! First spring in our 100 year old house and it needs a little from Column A and a little from Column B.

  8. Pat says:

    Thanks for the great info! We get into the habit of planting according to our own visual memory and forget about the reason for crop rotation. By the way, the square foot gardening method has been around for a dog’s age…or longer. I was using it back in the early 90s.

  9. kate says:

    look into using “cover crops” towards the end of the season or for a winter planting (that means you sow the seeds in the fall – they over winter and sprout in spring. These are not crops that you will allow to mature but cut or turn under to provide the useful nutients they promote in your soil or to add nutricious green matter on which soil and garden crops thrive.

  10. Nancy Blue Moon says:

    I will look at this and see if it will work for my raised garden sounds like it would be a big help!

  11. Going to forward this to my daughter as she loves to garden! Cheers.

  12. Maryanne says:

    “big red blog” *hee hee Sounds like a great tool and one day I’ll be organized enough to use it.

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