Online Garden Planner Review

The Snarky Gardener loves to plan his garden planting and is what he depends on year after year. Online Garden Planning Tool

When it comes to my garden, I’m a planner. I love to design it over the winter when the snow’s on the ground, obsessively moving plants around over and over again. lets me undertake this without issue. Each year is represented in its own plan with the previous year copied over onto the next one so to include perennials and mark the previously planted families (nightshades, legumes, spinach, etc).

The red represents legumes (beans and peas) that have been planted in the previous 2 years.
The red represents legumes (beans and peas) that have been planted in the previous 2 years.

In preparing for battle I have always found that plans are useless, but planning is indispensable. – Dwight D. Eisenhower

Here's the planner interface. This represents my Fenced Backyard Garden as of July 2015.
Here’s the planner’s interface. This represents my Fenced Backyard Garden as of July 2015.

Shown above and below is the planner’s interface. The garden displayed is my 50′ by 30′ fenced backyard garden as of July 2015. Another nice touch is the ability to not only represent the various fruits and vegetables via graphic (notice the strawberries to the upper left?) but to also attach the variety to the plant. You can even add your own varieties if they are not listed (looking at you Snarky Orange Cherry tomatoes).

A closer look at my July 2015 garden
A closer look at my July 2015 garden
An example of my July 2015 plant list including starting, planting, and harvesting times.
An example of my July 2015 plant list including starting, planting, and harvesting times.

Monthly charting is easy and straight forward.

Another plus of using an online garden planning site such as is that you can see your garden’s progression through the season. Here’s an example of my garden from April to September 2015. See how the spinach disappears (because it bolted and when to seed) and others come in to take their place. Succession planting at its best. In June the Swiss chard, eggplants, and peppers are planted. and in July, beans (both green and dry) to fill out my garden. Note: the brown rectangles represent my raised hugelkultur beds.

Fenced Backyard Garden April 2015
Fenced Backyard Garden April 2015
Fenced Backyard Garden May 2015
Fenced Backyard Garden May 2015
Fenced Backyard Garden June 2015
Fenced Backyard Garden June 2015
Fenced Backyard Garden July and August 2015
Fenced Backyard Garden July and August 2015
Fenced Backyard Garden September 2015
Fenced Backyard Garden September 2015

Plant Families with previous 3 years
$45 for 2 years
Publish to Web
Plant List includes location based planting and harvest times
Ability to add your own varieties
Detailed growing information on each plant.

There are some downsides to

I do really love the ability to publish my plans out to the web, but there are limitations to the size you can show. Of course this is because if you get too wide, the detail will be difficult to see, but it’s a restriction nonetheless.

You can also notice by the graphical nature of the software, it’s really easy to tell when I’m not working on work at work. I’ve had many a curious co-worker as me what I was planning on planting. It’s so obvious to those who don’t even garden. Guess I’ll just have to plan at lunch time or at home (which isn’t a bad idea anyways).

As shown earlier in this post, I do enjoy the month-by-month tracking of my garden. My only wish is that I could go week-by-week instead. I’m a detail oriented person, and knowing which week something was planted or removed would help immensely.

Size limitations if you use Publish to Web
Co-workers know that I’m not working
Wish for more granularity (weeks instead of months)
More plants (missing yarrow for example)

A valuable tool to plan your garden.

So as you can see, has many features to let you design the perfect garden. Month-to-month and year-to-year representations of your plots are available at your fingertips.

Gardening While Renting

The Snarky Gardener is now a Mother Earth News blogger! His first post is an adaptation of “Permaculture While Renting” with more gardening and less permaculture.I Blog For Mother Earth news

It’s not easy being a gardener who rents or a renter who gardens. In “Gardening While Renting“, I discuss the trials and tribulations of putting in permanent infrastructure (fences, raised beds, and improved soil) while knowing the stay could be quite temporary. Spoiler alert: it’s all about the relationship between renter and landlord.

This is the first of many blog posts on Mother Earth News. I’ll be writing under the “Organic Gardening” topic area with new posts coming out twice a month. I’m excited for this wonderful opportunity to expand my reach and bring other snarky gardeners into the fold. “What does this opportunity pay?” you ask. No cash per se, but it does give The Snarky Gardener unprecedented exposure that doesn’t involve an embarrassing “wardrobe malfunction”.

The Snarky Gardener posing by his favorite (and only) crab apple tree. "Does this tree make me look fat?"
The Snarky Gardener posing by his favorite (and only) crab apple tree. “Does this tree make me look fat?”

The Snarky Gardener (aka Don Abbott) is a gardener, blogger, author, educator, speaker, reluctant activist, and permaculture practitioner from Kent Ohio. Professionally he’s a software developer but spends his spare time producing food at Snarky Acres, his rented .91 acre urban farm. His blog – – assists others with growing food in Northeastern Ohio and beyond. He is also the founder of the Kent Ohio chapter of Food Not Lawns. In Spring 2015, he received his Permaculture Design Certification from Cleveland Ohio based Green Triangle. Please like him on Facebook as he likes to be liked.

Please contact the Snarky Gardener at

Growing Jalapeno Peppers at Work

The Snarky Gardener has a new experiment for the winter. He’s growing jalapeno peppers at his office.

Starting Jalapeno peppers in my AeroGarden 3
Starting Jalapeno peppers in my AeroGarden 3

I’ve had much success growing indoor plants with my AeroGardens over the years. An AeroGarden is a small hydroponic garden with a grow light attached at the top. It’s designed so the light comes on first thing in the morning and shuts off 16 or 17 hours later. Once your seeds are started, just add water and (unfortunately chemical) nutrients every two weeks or so. Pretty straight forward even if you don’t know much about gardening.

Over the last 10 years or so (has it been that long? Wow!), I’ve grown a variety of edible vegetables and herbs in my 4 AeroGardens. The list includes cherry tomatoes, jalapeno peppers, basil, lettuce, spinach, thyme, chives, and arugula. They also have an insert you can use to grow starts for your outside garden. I’ve even started leeks and Swiss chard this way, so growing some peppers should be no big deal.

The twist this year is that I brought my AeroGarden 3 into work. This is the smallest of the AeroGardens I own, and fits in my cubicle nicely. Most of my co-workers know that I have a gardening blog and that I’m “the Snarky Gardener”. I had kept that fact under wraps for the longest time until this summer. People knew I was an avid gardener, and often ask me lots of questions (which I don’t mind at all). Once everyone heard about my blogging and such, it sort of hit a whole new level. It’s my own darn fault for passing out my Snarky Gardener business card to my boss.

My experiment this time is a social one. I’m seeing how my co-workers react to having peppers growing in the office. I chose peppers because people know what they are when they see them. Added to this is the fact they are fruit, so there will be flowers and tiny little peppers. I also like that pepper plants are prettier than tomatoes (at least in my opinion). Basil was my second choice, but wasn’t sure I wanted to be smelling basil every day.

Loading up the plugs with seed.
Loading up the plugs with seed.
The first sprouts a week and a half later.
The first sprouts a week and a half later on 12/9/2015.
Growing first leaves on 12/14/2015.
Growing first leaves on 12/14/2015.

Flash Fiction: Biological Warfare

The Snarky Gardener has been inspired to write a very short fictional story of around 500 words known as “flash fiction”. And of course it takes place in a garden.

Biological Warfare
Biological Warfare

Biological Warfare

I just love “managing by walking around” outside in my vegetable garden. Checking on every single object in the garden; making sure nothing is out of place. Order is everywhere just like it should be. The straight lines of the broccoli and turnips. The weedless barren soil between the rows, how beautiful. If only the rest of life could be that way, then my world would be perf . . .“Ow! What the hell!” My hand jerks instinctively to my right arm. discovering a wet juicy welt. Glancing down, I find a rotten tomato smashed on the ground. Looking in the direction of the strike, I see no one. “OK jerks! Come out and show yourself!” Has to be one of those damn neighborhood kids. Really? Who throws tomatoes?

Boom! Another projectile strikes the back of my head. Over grown yellow and green zucchini pieces splatter all around me. I quickly duck down, removing myself from the firing line as another zuke flies overhead. Can’t spot where this stuff is coming from but seems to be pretty close. Standing up quickly, the view is unchanged except for some moving tomato vines. I walk a few steps in that direction as I get a fleeting glimpse of something under my plants, Suddenly I stumble and flail back into the black raspberry thicket. “Ahhhhh!” Sharp thorns tear my clothes and skin. Swear I was pushed but again nobody there.

I ungracefully roll out of the brambles and onto all fours, wincing as I move. Don’t trust my feet at this juncture. Crawling slowly, more objects are launched from several directions, some striking my back and legs. Red liquid streams from my wounds; the acid from the tomatoes causing them to sting. Dragging myself along with heavy breathing, I make progress towards the garden gate. Just a little farther and I’ll be in the clear.

Squirming past a flawlessly mulched straight line of jalapenos (oh the perfection), a cloud of pepper spray fills the air, burning my eyes and taking my breath away at the same time. Frightened and disoriented yet defiant, an adrenaline surge hits my system. Rising up quickly, I pull my soil knife from its sheath. In the past, I’ve brandished this “weapon” playing He-man garden warrior, but today it’s for realsies. Wished I had something more formidable as I sense true danger here. The blade’s sharp serrated edge will have to make do.

Soil Knife
Brandishing a soil knife

Stepping backward slowly, pumpkin and cucumber vines trip me up, causing my substantial body to strike the ground hard. “Ohhhh” I moan with a deep searing pain coming from my left side. As I remove the 6 inch steel shank, a river of blood pours out. I struggle to get back on my feet but to no avail. As a black fuzz surrounds my compromised sight and consciousness fails me, a single thought passes through my mind, “They warned me about planting those GMOs.”


So, what do you think? Has the Snarky Gardener lost his mind? Should he stick to writing gardening and permaculture non-fiction? Would you like to see more fiction in the blog?

Let him know at


Shade Gardening in Northeastern Ohio

A shade covered yard shouldn’t keep you from growing your own food.

Snarky Acres in the shade
Snarky Acres in the shade

Not everyone is lucky enough to have a sunny plot. Trees are great to climb and sit under, but not so much if you want grow vegetables. The first question you should ask yourself is “How much and what kind of shade do you have?” Not all shade is the same. Dappled shade under a tall tree is not equal to total shade on the north side of a building. There are several ways to determine how much sun you have on a given site.  If you are more technological, there are devices that will give you an exact reading, like the Suncalc Sunlight Calculator.  Just pop it into the ground in the morning on a sunny day (which isn’t always available here in Northeast Ohio), and by evening, it will tell you how much sunlight you have at that specific spot. I would recommend setting a phone alarm on your phone to remind you to pick it up at the end of the day. I once forgot about it for several days and thought a mushroom had popped up in the yard until I had a flash of memory.

Here is Suncalc’s definition of full sun through full shade:

Full Sun 6+
›Partial Sun at least 4 hours up to 6
›Partial Shade 1.5 to 4
›Full Shade less than 1.5 hours

Stick it into the ground at your site in the morning, and by evening you'll know how much sunlight you have.
Stick it into the ground at your site in the morning, and by evening you’ll know how much sunlight you have.

Another way to determine how much shade you have is to observe the current plants growing in your yard (including weeds). Both violets and ground ivy (shown below) are indicators you have at least partial shade (if not more sunlight). If the spot in question has issues even growing grass, you probably don’t have enough sun. Just remember that different times of the year will have different amounts of sunlight. For instance, in the spring before the trees leaf out will have much more sun than in the summer.

If you don’t have the time or patience to just observe the site, try some limited trial plantings in pots first. I’d also advise starting with the 2 to 4 hour veggies listed down below, especially the leafy greens.  If those are successful, you can then try plants that need more sun.

Ground Ivy or Creeping Charlie
Ground Ivy or Creeping Charlie

›Front Yard Herb Shade Garden

My shade perennial herb garden receiving its one hour of direct light of the day
My shade perennial herb garden receiving its one hour of direct light of the day

2 to 4 hours
Herbs – Chives, Cilantro,Garlic,Lemon Balm, Mint, Oregano,Parsley,Thyme
Asian greens – bok choi, komatsuna, tatsoi
Mustard/Turnip Greens

4 to 5 hours
›Peas/beans – bush
›Root veg – beets, carrots, potatoes, radishes, turnips
Swiss chard with stalks

More than 6 hours per day

Identify and Utilize Your Current Weeds

One possibility you probably didn’t think of is identifying and eating your yard weeds (of course only if you don’t spray chemicals on your lawn). Many of the “weeds” we despise are actually edible and good for you. Dandelions are an excellent example of this. The leaves (in the spring), flowers,  and roots all can be eaten. I have a complete list at “Northeastern Ohio Edible Garden Weeds


Mushrooms are another solution you may not thought of. There are plenty of kits on the Internet that allow you to grow mushrooms under your trees, in your yard, on logs, or even inside your house!