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A green thumb at your fingertips

Gardening apps run the gamut from vegetable gardening to creating a landscape plan.
Gardening apps run the gamut from vegetable gardening to creating a landscape plan.

By Katie Jackson

Gardening is often a way to escape the fast-paced world of technology. We can get our hands dirty instead of wearing out our fingers swiping and typing. However, the time may have come when we may actually want to take technology with us to the garden.

These days, I admit I never fully escape technology when I garden. I tuck my smartphone into my gardening apron along with my clippers and gloves so that I can still take phone calls or listen to podcasts and music as I work. But I’ve begun to realize that my phone is more than a source of distraction; it can be a useful gardening tool that lets me tap (literally and figuratively) into gardening resources and expertise through the ever-widening selection of gardening applications.

Curious about just what apps are available to gardeners, I did a simple Web search for the term “gardening apps” and was linked to all kinds of articles and lists touting the latest garden-related apps, some of which are free and most of which are less than $5 to download to smartphones and tablets.

Got a gardening question or need? There’s probably an app for that.

Among the options are apps that help you identify plants, pests and birds (with photos even!) in the garden; apps that help you design a landscape plan; apps that let you keep an electronic garden journal or remind you when to do seasonal gardening chores; and apps that calculate soil management and watering needs.

A number of the apps are available directly from national and regional gardening magazines or blogs and from seed and plant companies. Some apps focus on specific types of gardening—vegetable, ornamental and organic gardening, for example. Others help you learn new (and old) gardening techniques: There are even applications that teach you how to plant by the moon.

And gardening technology does not stop with apps, either. My Web surfing unearthed a wide array of high-tech gardening gadgets. Among them are sprinkler systems that automatically come on when soil moisture levels are low; robotic lawnmowers that cut the lawn by themselves; and garden drones that ward off pests from our yards. Granted, some of these are out of the typical home gardening budget or beyond our needs, but it’s interesting to explore the options.

For me those options are both exciting and frustrating. For example, I don’t want to download every app (especially the more expensive ones) and clutter up my phone with unused icons and programs, but I do want to find some that are truly useful to my personal gardening needs.

With that in mind, I’m kicking 2014 off by spending some cold winter days and nights at my computer or with my tablet or phone in one hand and a warm cup of something in the other and really researching the capabilities of all this technology. Who knows, while I’m at it I may finally learn how to use Pinterest to organize my gardening schemes and dreams for the coming year!

And, to be perfectly honest, I also plan to let my fingers do some leafing the old-fashioned way: through the pages of printed catalogues and books.

 

January Tips

Plant shrubs, trees, fruit trees and roses.

Prune fruit trees and summer-blooming shrubs.

Service lawnmowers and other motorized lawn equipment.

Shop for outdoor tools and furniture that may be on sale this time of year.

Keep newly planted trees and shrubs watered if winter rainfall is limited.

Keep those birdbaths and feeders full.

Start selecting and ordering seed for spring and summer planting.

Plant spring-flowering bulbs.

Dust the leaves of houseplants and look for signs of insect or disease problems.

Set out cabbage plants and hardy annuals.

Plant basil and other culinary annual herbs in pots and keep them in a warm sunny spot in or near the kitchen.

 

Apps to Try

Below are a few of the many gardening applications available for smartphones and tablets.  These are constantly being updated and revised and there are many others to choose among so let your fingers—and thumbs—do some walking to check out the ones that are right for you.

 

General Gardening:

Gardening Toolkit  – $1.99, for Apple devices

Garden Snob – free, for Android devices

Pocket Garden – free to $0.99, for Apple and Android devices

 

Vegetables:

Vegetable Gardening Guide – $1.99 for Apple devices; $2.99 for Android devices

Mother Earth News Food Gardening Guide – free for Apple and Android devices

 

Plant/Disease Identification:

Landscaper’s Companion – $6; for Apple devices; $5 for Android devices

Garden Compass – free for Apple and Android devices

Leafsnap – free for Apple devices; under development for Android devices

 

Journal/Record Keeping:

Gardens – free, for Apple devices

Gardener – free, for Android devices

 

Games:

Plants Vs. Zombies – free, for Apple and Android devices

Pocket Garden (game), free, for Apple devices

 

Other:

Moon Gardening – $1.99, for Apple devices

The Gardeners Calendar – $1.61 for Android devices