As mentioned, we recently moved to Fairbanks, Alaska and haven’t really had the opportunity to figure out where we’ll be long term. Our lives are in transition. That said, we didn’t really ever consider not having a garden. Having maintained community plots for the last three years elsewhere, it just makes sense to utilize these resources and participate in that community here in Fairbanks, Alaska.
It’s difficult to plan out a garden when you have no idea what it looks like or how much space you have. We had to come up with a plan of how many starts we needed of the varieties we wanted to grow, but also don’t have the luxury of space like a greenhouse where excess can be handled easily. Whatever plan we came up had to get started in a 12 square foot germination and early growth space, lit by an 8-bulb, 2 foot by 4 foot CFL lamp.
We’ve used web based garden planning software in years past, it provides the convenience of reminders by email, customized start schedules and a relatively easy planning environment that takes account for plant spacing. Given the constraints we faced this gardening season and a need for concise planning, I opted to pay for a $29 registration at GrowVeg.com for their garden planning software.
In the end, it was well worth it. We had a garden plan put together in a couple hours with everything we wanted to grow. It produces a planned out garden space, full start list and schedule and allows for easy adjustments for “what if” scenarios. Given the ease, we’ve been able to develop two major strategies depending on what happens with our garden space and we also plan to develop an alternate “what if” we use the UAF community garden’s raised beds.
What’s really beneficial for us, though, is that we can quickly figure out how many plants we need for each plan. We planned our starts around the 1200 square foot dual plot scenario which allows us to fit into pretty much any scenario that’s thrown our way. If anything, we might have a few extra starts to try and sell on CraigsList, something we’ve done in the past to help fund our gardening hobby.
In the end, paying for a service ended up being the right choice for us. It seems a bit silly to spend $29 for garden planning software, but in the end, the flexibility it allows is great for planning out multiple garden scenarios. There are free solutions out there, but in our evaluations, offering up a few bucks made for a much nicer, faster and well laid out approach to our Fairbanks garden. If our plan has to radically change due to space or other factors, we can easily revisit our plans and quickly make the adjustments necessary.