Thursday, February 24, 2011

Product Review: GroOrganic Garden Planner




When I came across the opportunity to review the groOrganic Garden Planner software, I jumped at the chance.  I'm fairly new to gardening, but have set a goal for myself to replace half of my family's produce consumption this summer with produce from the garden, and have the rest supplied by a local green box delivery service.  To accomplish this goal, my garden will have to be much bigger than it was last year and produce a wider variety of produce.  Knowing where to begin was overwhelming.  That's where the Garden Planner came in.

The planner is available directly from the groOrganic website, and doesn't require any special software.  To use it, a membership plan must be purchased.  The website describes the planner as follows:
"This online Garden Planner helps you grow fruit and vegetables to the best of their ability, whatever the size or shape of your garden or plot. With the groOrganic Garden Planner it is easy to draw out your garden plan and decide how best to plant it. The groOrganic Garden Planner software shows how much space plants require and how to group them for maximum success, removing the need to look up planting distances and crop families. Growing advice is just one click away as you select the plants that you wish to include, enabling you to solve problems and maximize your harvest from the space you have."

I found the planner straightforward and easy to use.  The quick start video walked me step-by-step through the planning process, and I had a garden plan started within the first 15 minutes.  The plan opens up on a grid, and it's a simple point and click function to add garden beds and plants from a scrolling menu at the top of the screen.  I also liked that I could create and save multiple plans, allowing me to create different layouts or to focus on one area of my garden in each plan.  The true product value for me is not the visual of the garden that it provides, but the wealth of information available. 

Clicking on a plant allows the user to access an information page, including space and light requirements, companion planting, watering needs and pest concerns.  By entering in my location, the planner provides me with frost dates in my area and advises when to sow and harvest each plant.  The program sends me email updates to remind me when something can be started from a seedling indoors or planted in my outdoor garden. It allows the option of square foot gardening.  It calculates how much space a plant needs and how many plants can be placed in a given area. Perhaps for an experienced gardener this information would be second-nature, but I find it useful for someone just starting out.  I found the list of vegetables and herbs fairly comprehensive, but the program allows additional plants to be added manually.

The main drawback of this program is that it's geared specifically towards growing fruits and vegetables.  I was hoping to plan out both my flower and vegetable gardens.  Although the program does have generic categories for flowers and trees that can be customized, they don't automatically provide the same wealth of information that is provided for the vegetable garden plants.  However, with a little patience, I could enter in the flowers and other plants on my list and add them to the system.  With all of the other benefits, this minor drawback would not deter me from continuing to use the program.

Want to see what the garden planner looks like?  Click on the link to get to the site, then click Try Out The Garden Planner button in the top right hand corner.  It will take you to a sample plan of the White House Vegetable Garden.
http://gardenplanner.groorganic.com/gardenplanner/gardenplanner.html#

Overall, I found this product useful and simple to use.  I can't wait to put the plan into action!

I received one or more of the products mentioned above for free using Tomoson.com. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will be good for my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commissions 16 CFR, Part 255 Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising. Tomoson Product review & giveaway Disclosure.

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