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You asked for it, so we added it: Vertical Gardening!

It doesn’t take a lot of space to have a great garden. You can grow more than you think, even if you have a small area to work with. You just have to be careful choosing your plants and creative in how you grow them. Urban gardeners have perfected the techniques of vertical gardening, growing nearly everything in a postage stamp sized garden just by training the plants to grow up.

Many of our fans have already incorporated vertical gardening techniques into their gardens, and have been begging us to add the ability to change their garden layouts to reflect that. We’re happy to announce that we’ve partnered with Storey Publishing to bring you this exclusive Smart Add On featuring Rhonda Massingham Hart’s Vertical Vegetables & Fruits.

For only $4.99, you will be able to access all this:

  • Additional Guide chapter all about Vertical Gardening
  • Plant Guides with Vertical Gardening instructions
  • 10 Signature Gardens to give you inspiration
  • How-tos for building your own Vertical Garden structures

 
Even if you’re new to vertical gardening, this Add On will guide you through the steps, help you choose the best vertical growing options for each plant, automatically adjust the spacing, and assist in planning your plant placement in your garden by height so everything gets the best exposure.

What’s Included
Informative Content: Rhonda Massingham Hart’s Vertical Vegetables & Fruit will appear as part of your garden Guide for easy access to information about growing vertical.

Guide: The Vertical Vegetables & Fruit section is chock full of informations including the benefits of vertical gardening techniques, an explanation of the different types of structures used, and which plants are best suited to vertical gardening.

Picking a Growing Approach: Under the “Plants in this Garden” tab, you can pick a specific footprint to match how you want to grow your plants vertically.

Your Vegetables: All vegetables in your garden that can be grown vertically will be automatically adjusted to their new spacing and a new grid will be created.

Plant Guide: Each Plant Guide, for plants that can be grown vertically, offers up suggestions and images for the best support for that particular plant.

Signature Vertical Gardens: Get exclusive access to 10 beautifully designed, inspirational Gardens that take advantage of vertical techniques and methods.

Announcing our new Smart Add On: Vertical Vegetable and Fruit -- Great vertical gardening tips and information!SmartGardener and Storey Publishing — a perfect match!
For 25 years, Storey Publishing has helped millions of independent readers enjoy simpler, more satisfying lives. Through an array of how-to books, Storey arms readers with practical skills and inspiration on a range of do-it-yourself topics: gardening, cooking, knitting and other crafts, backyard building, animal care, farming, and home improvement.

Readers turn to Storey for accurate, time-tested knowledge on topics from preserving garden-fresh produce to crate-training a dog. Whatever the subject — natural body care recipes, green thumb tips, inspired color choices for hand-knit projects, ways to raise healthy backyard chickens, or ideas for turning kitchen scraps into stunning houseplants — Storey provides the information that fuels readers’ passions.

Storey is at the center of a vast revival of do-it-yourself lifestyles, a movement that has been fueled by an awareness of environmental responsibility, an appetite for the homegrown and locally raised, an appreciation for one-of-a-kind items, and a passion for nature. Whether picking up a needle and thread for the first time, or nurturing a decades-old passion for horses, readers know that they can turn to Storey for no-nonsense advice and new ideas — every time.

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Smart Squares

The Smart Gardener Team listens very carefully to your feedback. Many of the Smart Add Ons we have, and will continue to offer, are in direct response to your remarks and comments. While keeping the basic product as clear and simple as possible, Smart Add Ons let you personalize Smart Gardener with additional functionality and content that is specific to your garden, growing conditions and interests. One of our newest Smart Add Ons, Smart Squares, was created in response to your feedback and requests for Square Foot Gardening capabilities.

Smart Squares is based on a square foot model for French intensive gardening. The Add On converts all appropriate plants to the standard Square Foot Gardening layout and measurements. In some cases where plants are grown vertically, we’ve changed plant heights and necessary structures in the Smart Garden plan. The biggest advantage to using the square foot method is growing more food in smaller spaces, but there are other benefits like using less water and less weeding.  If you have limited space for a garden, or just want an abundance of fresh garden goodies without too much extra work, this one is for you!

Smart-Add-Ons

Introducing Smart Add Ons

Smart Add Ons* are optional extensions to your Smart Gardener account for a small fee. They enhance your garden by adding new functionality, content and the ability to personalize what you are growing and how you want to grow it. These are our first Smart Add Ons, and we welcome your feedback. Registered users who send us feedback will get a coupon code for a free Smart Add On in the future when we launch more!

Bundle: Shade, Shapes and Succession
Smart Gardener offers an exclusive Smart Add On for Smart Gardeners who asked us for a couple features that would really help them manage their gardens better – being able to add in shaded areas, to lay out paths, structures, or trees that are also part of their garden area and to be reminded via their To Dos to interval sow certain edibles for a continuous harvest.  $5.99 (One time fee)

 

Smart Shapes
Smart Gardener offers an exclusive Smart Add On for Smart Gardeners who want to include other items in your gardens, in addition to your planting areas. Lots of you wanted to be able to show where fences, trees, pathways and buildings were on your layout. $2.99 (One time fee)

 

 

Smart Shade
Smart Gardener offers an exclusive Smart Add On for Smart Gardeners who wanted to be able to designate the shaded areas in their vegetable gardens. Smart Gardener will know to recommend and place your shade tolerate plants in those areas. $3.99 (One time fee)

 

 

Succession Planting
This Add On converts your households total quantity of plants for a variety into small batches that you sow or plant over time. Several smaller plantings are made at timed intervals, rather than all at once. The plants mature at staggered dates, establishing a continuous harvest over an extended period. $1.99 (One time fee)

 

* More about Smart Add Ons…
We will be adding more of these over time, Smart Add Ons for square foot and vertical gardening, culinary herbs, fruit trees, recipes and lots more. You’ll find all this in a new section we are calling GOODS. GOODS will eventually include a Community Marketplace for sharing and trading your harvest locally. Local goods and services will also be offered, along with great products we hand select and offer from our online partners.

 

Smart News Wire

New CONNECT Area Added

CONNECT is about making meaningful connections with other Smart Gardener members, with our friends, and with others in the world interested in growing organic food, learning more or staying current with food issues. Here’s the first features we’ve added to this new area…

Connect with other members means being able to share, view, filter and save Signature Gardens. Signature Gardens are gardens made public and shareable by any member of Smart Gardener. A Signature Garden includes all its plants, the layout, plan, and Journal for that Garden. Any other Smart Gardener member can view it, copy or save all pieces of the Garden to use.

Connect with friends includes being able to share one of your Signature Gardens with your friends on Facebook using the Smart Gardener Facebook App. The App includes your plant list, along with a link back to Smart Gardener to display your entire Garden plan on a publicly viewable page.

Connect with friends also includes being able to invite friends to join you on SmartGardener.com, even inviting friends directly from Facebook.

Connect with the world through our Smart News Wire, and get an up to the minute collection of what all the most influential social media sources are saying about Organic Gardening and Food Policy.

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Now… a bigger garden area up to 150′ x 150′

Many of you needed much bigger layout areas for your larger vegetable gardens. So now you can layout your garden within a 150′ x 150′ space! And there’s more… you can now zoom in and out, making it so much easier to see your whole garden or just a part of it.

Screenshot of some of the new containers and planters

More container and planters

We’ve added many new round, square, and rectangular planters in standard sizes to choose from for your garden.

 

Screenshot of some of the new containers and planters

Add a New Variety

Add your own varieties

1. Select “Browse” under the PLAN menu.

2. In the Browse panel, you will see a new link underneath the Variety list. Browse to find the variety you think is the closest in type to the new variety you want to create.

3. Select the Variety “Beefsteak” (our example) . Then click on the blue “click here” link as seen in the closeup above. A new version of the Variety “card” will appear below the original one. Just rename the Variety and edit (or not) any of the information in that card. You can change the image and the description. Most importantly, making sure the days to maturity and plant height are as accurate as possible for your new Variety will help Smart Gardener give you the correct To Dos. Your avatar will also appear alongside the Variety you created.

4. Save it when you are done. Your new Variety will now appear anywhere you select plants.  It will then be Smart Gardener’s goal to find a vendor and the most accurate data for that variety.

Winter gardening planting

Starting the Winter Garden

One of the simplest ways to keep the garden producing at full volume is to make sure it is full of growing crops at all times. After you harvest the first of the summer crops, you will often have time to plant more of them (and should), but you should also start thinking about the fall and winter garden. Winter crops need to do most of their growth before cold weather and short days arrive and slow them down. The almost mature plants will then continue to grow slowly (if the winter is mild), or sit in the garden in an edible state until harvested (if the winter is cold).

Planning the winter garden starts with choosing suitable hardy crops, which would include Asian Greens, Beet, Broccoli, Brussels Sprout, Cabbage, Carrot, Cauliflower, Celery, Chard, Collards, Chicory, Kale, Kohlrabi, Leek, Lettuce, Parsnip, Rutabaga, Spinach, Turnip and more. You also have to choose the right varieties for winter growing, as there can be considerable variation within a crop. You want cultivars bred to tolerate cold temperatures and short day length.

The right time to start your winter crops depends upon where you live, but generally you can start planting the slower maturing crops, such as leeks, parsnips, celery and Brussel sprouts in mid-summer (July). Transplants of broccoli and cabbage can be started in August for planting in the garden through September. Quicker maturing vegetables, such as turnips and kohlrabi may be planted through mid-October. Generally if you’re your garden isn’t super fertile it’s best to start all of these earlier rather than later. If plants are too small when winter arrives they will just sit in the garden looking pathetic and embarrassing. When spring comes they will resume growing for a week or two and then bolt.

When you open up large areas of bed by harvesting, it makes sense to use the first of them for direct sown crops such as carrot or parsnip that can’t be grown from transplants. At this time of year the bare soil of a seed bed will dry out very quickly, so it’s a good idea to cover it with shade cloth. This keeps it cooler and moister and reduces the need for watering. I like to go even further and cover slow germinating crops like carrot or parsnip with a sheet of cardboard or plywood until just before I expect germination to occur (this also keeps weeds down). Cool weather crops often don’t germinate well at high temperatures, so if a period of cool weather is forecast I try and take advantage of it and get sowing.

Where possible I like to grow winter crops as transplants, as I can get them growing while the garden beds are still occupied; no need to wait for vacant space. You can start the transplants in the greenhouse if it’s not too hot (some cool weather crops won’t germinate if the temperature is too high), but it is usually warm enough to start them outside too. You can simply grow them in flats on a table covered in bird netting, though they will need frequent watering, as containers dry out rapidly. You could also use a specially designated nursery bed, which is simply an area of bed with good soil and covered with bird netting.

For those of us in the milder parts of the country the winter garden is often just as important as the summer garden and this is a crucial time of year. If you miss the window for getting your plants established, you won’t have a winter garden.

A garden's optimal orientation to the sun

Where to Put the Vegetable Garden

If you are completely new to vegetable gardening, one of the first things you need to think about is where to put the garden.

In a small garden you usually don’t have many options. It has to go where there is room. Don’t make the mistake of putting it where it won’t work though. If the best place is already occupied by an ornamental bed or a garden shed, it may be necessary to rearrange things to make room for the vegetables. In some situations you might have to remove sources of shade, such as a tree, in order to get enough sunlight.

In a large garden you’ll have many more options. If you have several choices you should try to take advantage of any favorable microclimate, such as a south facing slope. Ideally the vegetable garden should be fairly low down on a slope to avoid high winds and to get better soil with more moisture. However it should not be so low that it is in a frost pocket. In a dry climate you might put the vegetable garden in any area with naturally moist soil. A flat area often isn’t as warm as a south facing slope, but it is generally easier to work with.

There are certain conditions that all food gardens must meet in order to be productive. Consider the following before you start digging:

    • The most important factor in growing a garden is sunlight. More sun means more plant growth. In fact, the majority of crop plants need at least 6 hours of direct sunlight a day to grow well. So your first objective is to put the vegetable patch where it will get the most sun.

A garden's optimal orientation to the sun

  • A fertile soil is also a big help, but it is less important than sun because you have the power to improve the soil through your gardening activities.
  • Good drainage is important because plants won’t grow in waterlogged soil. This is particularly important in spring because you should never dig wet soil (it will damage the soil’s structure). And waiting for the soil to dry out can cause delays (wet soil also warms up more slowly than dry soil).
  • If your garden is exposed to strong winds, you will need to think about shelter. Strong winds can batter plants, cool winds can chill them and dry winds can increase evaporation. If there is no natural shelter you will have to think about a windbreak (without creating shade however).
  • You should never put your vegetable beds on the north side of tall objects such as buildings, walls, trees or shrubs where they will get little sun. You should also keep them well away from any trees or shrubs, as their creeping roots will move into the fertile and well watered soil and extract most of their available nutrients (this would drastically reduce your crop plant growth).
  • Consider the proximity to the house. The closer the food garden is to the kitchen the more you will use it. Ideally the garden should be within 100 feet of your kitchen door so it is easy to nip outside and harvest while cooking. If it is further away you tend to limit your trips out there , so the harvest becomes more sporadic. Someone once estimated that the harvest declined by 30% when the garden was over 100 feet away. A garden that is close to the house gets tended more conscientiously, not only because it is more convenient, but because it is so visible. You make more effort to keep it looking good because otherwise it would be embarrassing every time someone came to visit.
  • Finally it’s nice if the vegetable garden is in its own area and isn’t on the way to somewhere else. If it is right in the center of a play or entertainment area then plants may get damaged by passing children, dogs and wheelbarrows; and those tempting ripe tomatoes will keep disappearing.

SmartGardener.com creates a Smart Garden Plan for you which automatically and optimally orients all your plants in relation to the sun – so you can get out into the garden!