How to plan your fruit and veg garden with my new free tools
Last year I decided that planning my allotment on a spreadsheet wasn’t for me. I’m a visual person and I found messing around with a spreadsheet was a real chore, I wanted to enjoy my planning. I decided to use Airtable as the basis for a solution, I chose it because it had many of the same features that a spreadsheet did, but rather than just being boring text, it was beautiful, or at least it could be beautiful when loaded with photos of the wonderful fruit and veg that we grow.
My databases have evolved over time and become more of a joy with every yearly update that I work on. This release adds functionality for managing seed packets and integrates these into the rest of the database. It also adds a first attempt at bed planning, which will no doubt improve next year.
The database is not an app, I don’t sell it, I don’t really support it, I just gift it to the community to do with as they will. It’s ready to use as it is, but to really get the best of it you should customise it to suit your specific needs, take a copy of it and make it your own!
This may be way too complicated for your needs, if so I suggest that you look at this video https://steves.seasidelife.com/2020/01/18/all-year-round-vegetable-sowing-planting-guide/ for something simpler!
This first video, shows you how I use it, why I use it and some of the basic features.
This second video shows you how to get started, how to create an account, take a copy of my databases and then customise them. It shows you how to have a play with my data and then how to add your own. Don’t be afraid to break things, you can take another copy and try again.
This third video goes deep into the seed packet management functionality, which I’m most excited about, it’s already paying dividends for me! It’s not only saving me money and reducing waste, but it’s also so much fun to play with.
This next video provides a bit more information about the features that we added to the database in summer to keep track of all of our preserves, the recipes we used etc.
Finally we have the two older videos, which might still be useful, because they go deeper into some of the older features, but you need to remember that these show a very different version of the database and not everything shown will exist now. This is the very first video:
This is the second release, a bit more refined, but still a long way to go!
Ok, so that’s the videos over with. If you want to get a copy of the tools that I demonstrate in this video please click on this link and create an account:
If you already have an account then click on this link and https://airtable.com/universe/creator/usr9tY4KaKvgGM1um/steves-seaside-allotment take a copy of the databases to use for yourself. Remember you can customise it to suit your own needs.
Here’s a brief summary of why I chose to develop this database:
- I wanted an easy way to capture everything I was learning about gardening
- I wanted a way to manage all of the seed packets I have
- I wanted a way to plan what to plant in each bed and when
- I wanted a way to plan and track everything I was sowing
- I wanted a way to share that with youtubers
- Ideally I wanted to be able to share views onto the database for particular videos, for example “everything I sowed in January”, “everything I planted in April”, “all of the cabbages I’m growing this year” all from a single source
- I wanted something to have fun doing on rainy winter days!
- I wanted an app that would work well in the browser, on my PC and on my iPhone
Since my database is built on top of Airtable, you can learn a lot by watching their tutorials and reading their guides too: https://support.airtable.com/hc/en-us
Finally I’m aware that there are lots of other tools out there, ranging from spreadsheets to full blown graphical planning applications. I’ve tried a few of them, but they don’t meet my needs, some don’t deal with my climate very well, or they don’t work well for early and late season planting or they are just too complex or expensive.
You might however find they suit you better than mine, because:
- Mine doesn’t have professional support
- It isn’t very slick and polished
- It relies on you customising it to your needs
- Migrating data from one version to the next isn’t automated
If you are new to my allotment videos you might find a bit of context useful. We have three allotments in my family, mine (Steve), my wife’s (Debbie) and my middle daughter’s (Jennie). We also have a small kitchen garden at home. They are all managed in an integrated fashion, so don’t expect to see the usual mix of veg on each plot.
On Jennie’s plot, for example, we focus on potatoes, squash, alliums, and brassicas. This video provides an overview:
I do an update of the allotments, roughly one a week, you can find the tours here:
Our approach to allotment life is to: grow as much as we possibly can, to be self-sufficient in veg all year round and in fruit in season, to give away our huge surplus to friends and family, and to have as much fun as possible.
My wife and I spend about 4 hours a day, 4 days a week on the plots (on average) and we keep nudging that down as we eliminate non-productive work: like grass cutting, weeding and watering as much as practical. We are both newbie gardeners, only starting the allotments in 2016.
I’m a bit obsessive about the nutrient density of the veg that we grow and making the plots easy to work because it’s through this allotment lifestyle and food that I’ve overcome a debilitating auto-immune disease.
I’m always aware though that it might not last so I make sure that I don’t work too hard, eat as much organic fruit and veg I can and design the plots so that I can still work them if I flare up again.