Monday, December 29

Garden Planner Beta testers---

I've sent out a beta to several testers.
Notes for those of you who came here to look for more information...
  • you need to install MS Excel Analysis Toolpak - (on office 2007, hit the round button, and "Excel Options" on the lower right, then choose "add-ins" and follow prompts to install)
  • I forgot to add a couple succession planting numbers, so it won't calculate multiple harvests for Peas, Pole Beans, and Peppers.

Saturday, December 27

Garden Planner Spreadsheet

I've been putting this spreadsheet together for several years now, and it's finally in a fairly useful stage. Since I haven't been convinced by anyone to make it into a 'real' application, it's currently in a Microsoft Excel spreadsheet, with heavy use of multi-worksheet formulas, form controls, and a couple macros.

The final output (at right) is a form with drop-down crop variety selections, room for cultivars, order info, source, and it automatically populates a weekly calendar with tasks for the garden. The succession planting column allows for scheduling multiple iterations of the crop without confusing the scheduler. Everything is based off the Last Frost date as entered in the spreadsheet, so the scheduler is portable to other zones.

Future improvements I'm still working on are a automatic bed plan, and some different output options for the schedule. The bed plan will order crops by family (Legumes, Brassicas, Roots, Curcurbits & Grains, Solanaceae, and Alliaceae); and keeps historical records from the last several years of crops to facilitate rotation for pest control and maintain soil nutrients. Schedule output options I'd like to add are a printable schedule based on popular binder-style planners, and outputs to Microsoft Outlook and/or Google Calendar appointment systems.

I've created a small version that I could email, if you want to try it out for yourself.


Sunday, December 21

12-21-2008 A winter wonderland

We're sitting here at -11 F, with a windchill of -30 F, and almost 2 feet of snow cover. It's safe to say winter has reached Wisconsin.

The garden is, of course, buried.

So, what did I accomplish this past season? Just about nothing. I did harvest almost a peck of carrots, some of them wormy, most not too bad. (Not sure if this is recommended, but I found that soaking in water encouraged the worms to come out). Two of the apple trees did well, the third was not so great. I only sprayed the organic pest deterrent once, so maybe next year I'll hit them more frequently. Between the two, almost 10 gallons of good (not pest-ridden) apples were picked, and the third had about a gallon or so of smaller, but still good apples. I've lost the slip of paper describing which tree is which, so I need to do some investigation.

The apples were made into homemade, unsweetened apple sauce - quartered, dumped in a stock pot with a quart of water, and boiled/steamed until soft. Then sent through a food mill to remove the seeds and peels. What was left was a beautiful rose-colored sauce (for the yellow color you get in stores, peel the apples before cooking). It froze well, and some was used for Christmas cookies this year that didn't survive until Christmas. For the cookies, take some commercial puff pastry dough, thaw it out, coat one side with cinnamon & sugar, spread applesauce on the other side, and roll it up like a jelly roll. Freeze it to give it some shape, and cut thin slices with a sharp knife. Bake according to package directions. You end up with cute little spirals that are so good I only got 2 myself.

Next year....
I should plan better. And not drown the melons.

If I can revive my other computer, there is data on it for creating custom 'day-planner' style calendar pages that remind me weekly which tasks need to be accomplished in the garden - for example in mid-February, it has a note to start pansies indoors, mid-March to start herbs, and mid-April to start tomatoes, with the corresponding dates to plant them outdoors. I find it much easier to follow a calendar with all the dates listed rather than try to remember each individual plant. Again, I need to revive a computer to get the data. ugh.

I'm going to kill off some of the strawberries this year. The lipstick hybrid has outgrown it's usefulness - beginning to spread too much, and not providing enough fruits. So I hit them with roundup once this fall and didn't mulch them in. Next spring I'll hit any stragglers with more roundup, and plant some of my seed-started non-spreading strawberries in their place.

I also hope to tackle the area outside the office next year - know anyone who can teach me to build a stone wall with my huge supply of round stone?