Gardening Software?

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Gardening Software?

Post by robert nusbick » Fri, 30 Sep 1994 22:39:39



I am somewhat of a gardening neophyte, but I am rather enthusiastic.
While I have several reference books, I am truly spoiled by the comnputer
world and was wondering if there was any gardening software available.
The ideal software would be able to recommend various flowering plants by
soil type, sun/water requirements, blooming period, geo. zone, height, as
well as, provide basic care information and trouble shooting advice.

Is this just a pipe dream or does something like this actually exist and
where do I get it?

Thanks

Andy Nusbickel

 
 
 

Gardening Software?

Post by Andreas Michael Kraf » Mon, 03 Oct 1994 07:46:14


Floppy Disking the Garden
by judywhite
Copyright 1992 judywhite. All rights reserved. Playing around on
the computer is about as far removed from the garden as you can
get.  There's something aseptic about a keyboard and monitor
compared to mucking around in the back forty. Computers and gardens
wouldn't seem to have much in common, but in the unlikely manner of
this continuously changing universe, now they do.
     As a gardener, I love the idea of getting organized.  My
garden "records" are often a mass of scattered papers, half-torn
seed packets, catalog pages with the corners turned down, marked-up
gardening books and hasty pencil sketches dotted with dirty
thumbprints. Those of us who haven't gotten it all figured out yet
are constantly seduced by systems that promise to clean up our
gardening act -- great ideas that never seem to last very long.
Into this mess, inevitably, comes the computer.    
Gardening-related software programs break down into three basic
types: (1) Drawing and Design, (2) Plant-Finder/Databases and (3)
Miscellaneous, including disease diagnosis, calendar journals,
magazine index, even weather forecasting. Programs are often a
mixture of types. Some are great fun, some incredibly frustrating.
A few belong in the compost heap; others are worth their weight in
mulch. All in all, there's a lot to keep gardeners busy with
electronic eggplants and double disking.

Drawing and design
     The flashiest software comes from the graphics of
computer-aided drafting and design. Frankly, if I had to be
stranded on a deserted garden with one gardening program (presuming
I've been stuck there with a computer, a color monitor, a mouse and
a very long electrical cord), I'd choose Gardenview ($195). This
feature-rich package concentrates on actual gardens rather than
houses and landscapes and comes equipped with a superb, modifiable,
450-plant database. Gardenview lets you watch your theoretical 3-D
garden change colors through the seasons, seeing plants grow and
spread over years. You can vary elevations and the sun's angle;
succession plantings allow lettuce, then marigolds, then broccoli
in the same location.  Powerful search capacity finds plants on any
combination of 37 criteria, including unique traits such as
fragrance and rock garden use. The drawbacks are that while the
graphics are gorgeous, plants appear as colorful blobs rather than
in detail, and it's cumbersome to place a search-found plant into
the design. But these faults are minor. A real gardener created
this program, and it shows -- with great respect for plants, and
for the essential living heart of a garden.
     Next best in designers is LandDesigner ($89). While its 300-
plant encyclopedia has no criteria search capacity, additional zone
libraries are available, and you can input more. This is an "entire
property" designer, with house plan and "hardscape" items such as
birdbaths, gazebos, even a pink flamingo (something no landscape
should be without). LandDesigner has a dozen overlays, allowing for
practical development over seasons or years as time and money
permit.  Graphics are good, plant placement easy, but there's no
growth feature. LandDesigner is enamored of sprinklers, with
backflow valves and PVC pipes, and even tests the system. Also
unusual is the generation of plant/materials purchase list, with
amounts and costs calculated, yielding helpful tax records of
improvements.
     Design Your Own Home Landscape ($99.95) has fun graphics for
views from top, front, back or sides, and trees look like
lollipops, even if houses are all sort of the same pink shape. The
only plants are 45 trees and shrubs (with additional tree/shrub
regional libraries). Plant information is down-scaled, with no
search capacity. An aging feature shrinks or grows a plant, but to
see the landscape change over time, each plant must be aged
individually, a tiresome chore. The program makes object
manipulation easy, although other parts can get frustrating,
without much onscreen help.
     Expert Landscape stands out because it's incredibly
inexpensive ($14.95) and because the plant and accessory drawings
are incredibly awful. I think that's a turkey vulture next to a
cooking range, but I can't be sure.  It's also absurdly easy to put
bricks everywhere, even over trees. What's worse is the plant
information, kept in an isolated program. Misspellings,
half-finished sentences - a copy editor's nightmare. Thankfully,
data can be corrected and added, although search capacity is
dreadful. I swing between wanting to throw Expert Landscape in the
garbage, and admiring its tawdry charm.  
     The manual for Home Series: Landscape ($59.95) is great. The
program sounds sophisticated, with advanced drafting techniques.
With mouse in hand, it's a different story. Unforgivable is the
interminable wait for the plan to redraw itself. The plants are
sketches marked "deciduous," "evergreen" or "shrub," with no plant
information, although leisure lovers will enjoy tennis courts, lawn
chairs and the inevitable sprinklers. This program seems more for
architects than gardeners, although I did like the "oops" command.
     Although there are no fancy graphics in The Gardener's
Assistant ($15), this is a gem.  The Gardener's Assistant is
"shareware" -- a concept of free distribution with users
honor-bound to send a registration fee after a trial period.
Gardening shareware is often available through a modem on the
CompuServe computer network, in the excellent gardening forum
called (what else?) the Gardening Forum.
     The Gardener's Assistant draws a vegetable layout after you
choose vegetables and input family size, bed dimensions and sun
orientation. It also calculates planting amounts and
planting/harvest dates. The database has 50 vegetables and space
for 50 more. The program allows succession planting and remembers
to keep asparagus in the same spot while annually rotating other
crops. An excellent, adaptable program with sturdy advice.
     Another shareware program -- "freeware" since there's no fee
-
- is the Garden Planning Program. No graphics; pick from 23
vegetables and tell it how many feet to plant, and the program
calculates yield and seed needed and suggests spacing. This
planting information is almost too basic.
     CompuGarden ($69.95) is another magician that maps out your
vegetable garden, made more powerful by a supremely good modifiable
database of 80 vegetables, herbs and flowers that searches on any
of 43 criteria -- it will even find vegetables high in niacin or
other nutritional data. CompuGarden is rich with detailed
information and journal log, calculates yields and amounts needed,
suggests companion plants to your selected vegetables and prints
specific when-to-do-just-about-everything charts. The program's
slow, and on-screen directions not the best, but CompuGarden's a
good bet for serious vegetable gardeners with a penchant for
computers.
Plant-finder/database programs
     Plant-finder programs are enormously useful, integrating lots
of encyclopedic information, a definite advantage over paging
through scattered books and catalogs, and good systems make
searches fast and efficient. The Cadillac of the plant-finders is
Hortis Opis ($250). Only Volume I is available, with 5,000 trees,
shrubs, vines, bamboos and grasses. Complete with cultivars and
vendor sources, it's a computerized catalog. (Unfortunately, Volume
II -- annuals, perennials, bulbs, roses, ferns -- may be awhile,
and vegetables aren't even planned.) Easy and well designed, Hortis
Opis has 18 search criteria with pop-up help menus, a gratifying
feature. Plant information is meticulous and exhaustive, with a
pop-up journal for notes. If you could add plants to this
magnificent encyclopedia, Hortis Opis would be perfect.  
     PlanScape ($49.95) is a different kind of plant-finder, one
that searches by asking questions instead of checking specific
characteristics. The no-add encyclopedia has 1,200 plants with fine
information, but it's divided into three databases (herbaceous,
annuals, woody), resulting in laborious multiple searches. The
question format can be a problem: I tried to search for
white-flowering bulbs to grow in part shade and couldn't; there's
no way to specify "bulb." While PlanScape is friendly, after a
while it feels restrictive, although excellent for gardeners who
prefer letting the computer do most of the work.
     Similar switches between three datafiles -- flowers, bulbs,
plants -- have to occur in Flower Finder/Bulb Finder/Plant Finder
($99.95), although searches are by 10 criteria, not questions.
Information on 500 plants exists with add-on capacity; mail-order
sources are included. There are two big drawbacks: First, searches
require cryptic codes, with no help menu, necessitating continual
reference to the manual. This is painful. The second flaw is more
serious: Searches often yield plants with different characteristics
than requested. For example, I again specified white-flowering
bulbs for part shade and got 50 that fit the bill, which was
wonderful, but also received 10 that only grow in full sun, an
inexplicable error. There are alternate ways to scan plants,
scrolling lists by height, for instance. If you're willing to
forgive this program a lot, it can be useful.
     Hort-A-Sort ($69.95) from Birdbrain Software easily wins the
silliest name award, but its 2,000 plant encyclopedia shows an
intelligent mind under the humor. Hort-A-Sort is divided into nine
databases, but they seem more logical than Flower Finder's three --
flowering plants, for example, are lumped together, with separate
categories for cacti and succulents, alpine and rock plants, herbs
and everlastings, etc. No plants can be added, and the biggest
drawback is you can only search by one criterion at a time. This is
laborious (and searches are slow even in the small-sized demo
version I reviewed), but help menus are onscreen to list choices.
Herb information was ...

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Gardening Software?

Post by John Spic » Mon, 03 Oct 1994 02:11:14


See my other message in this forum about "Make It Grow! 1.1"

Thanx, John Spicer
Dragon Software.

 
 
 

Gardening Software?

Post by Jack Honeycu » Tue, 04 Oct 1994 00:25:02


Hello robert!

29 Sep 94 08:39, robert nusbickel wrote to All:

 rn> Is this just a pipe dream or does something like this actually
 rn> exist and where do I get it?

I have shareware and freeware gardening, landscape, and botany files on by BBS.
The BBS is free; just call in and down load.

The phone number of The Garden pond BBS is 1-503-735-3074.  I support V.FC, V.34, V.32bis and all other speeds.

Jack