6 High-Tech Tools to Help Your Garden Grow

by Linsey Knerl on 1 June 2011 4 comments

In many areas of the country, the seeds have been planted for various veggies and flowers. Trees have taken root in preparation for years of fabulous fruit. Time, sweat, and tears used to be the only way to ensure a bountiful harvest — and even then, there was no guarantee that weather and critters would cooperate with your best laid plans.

While I can’t promise that these six tools will usher in a promise of return on your investment, they are fun to use and can help fill in the gaps of your gardening strategies. (See also: Vegetable Gardening: Four Cheap Hacks)

PlantJotter

This subscription-based site offers a free 30-day trial, which makes it perfect for testing out before you buy. Features of PlantJotter include a handy journal, planning guides, photo book, and a maintenance calendar, all designed to help you reduce the guesswork of caring for and harvesting your garden. As with most gardening tools, PlantJotter won’t tell you exactly what to do (there’s no “Hey! It’s Thursday, time to pick those tomatoes!”). It does, however, provide you with a loose framework and a personal history of your gardening, something that will help you improve year after year. In my experience, I’ve found that your own experience is the key to successful gardening.

Home Farming

If you don’t mind garden tools with a commercial sponsorship, this free site by Triscuit is actually very useful. In addition to a simple garden planning guide and some nice descriptions of various plants in their crop guide, the robust community surrounding Home Farming may be the most helpful of all components. With over 1,000 questions already asked by community members, the answer to your burning gardening question has likely been addressed. It also features some nice social media perks, such as the posting of your garden status to Facebook.

FlowerPedia App

If blooms are your thing, you’ll surely love the smartphone app from FlowerPedia. While not free, it’s priced way below a good hard-copy field guide, and it features photos and descriptions of over 150,000 species from around the world. Use it to identify that rogue perennial that pops up every year, or see what is blooming on a map near you. (This could be a fun way for kids to help learn their botany, too!)

Dirr’s Tree and Shrub Finder

Not sure what that woody shrub is in your yard? The Tree and Shrub Finder app can help with that! Priced a little higher than most apps, this is actually an application version of the actual complete field guide for trees and shrubs. It includes zone info, water and light requirements, and planning tips. Because it’s written by an actual expert, it has the most clout of any other app of its kind! (I could see this as being an invaluable tool for students as well as landscaping enthusiasts.)

Herbs+ App

Many people love growing herbs. They are simple, easy to care for, and have a plethora of uses. Armed with a great app like Herbs+, you can effectively use herbs for cooking and medicinal purposes wherever you go! Perhaps the best features of the app are the crisp, full-color photos, which help you identify unknown herbs, and the ability to view the Wiki page for each — without ever leaving the app!

Dave’s Garden

Dave's Garden claims to be “hand down favorite website of gardeners around the world,” and I believe it. It provides an endless supply of videos, a fantastic community forum, and article info you can’t get anywhere else. Perhaps the most useful tidbits, however, come in the form of the collaborative tools. My favorites are The Garden Watchdog (a free directory of 7,292 mail-order gardening companies that have been peer reviewed by the community) and PlantScout (a searchable database of vendors by plant type). There is also a neat seed and plant swap component that really brings garden lovers together!

Growing a garden may not be all that high-tech. Getting it right, however, may take a little extra skill that we can best acquire from our computers and iPhones.

Do you have a savvy site or awesome app that we should know about?

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Meg Favreau's picture

I love the idea of an app that I could use to identify flowers I like when I'm out and about. Do you know if any of these are good for helping to suss out edible weeds?

Linsey Knerl's picture

Hmmm.. good question! I don't know of one, personally. I'm assuming you'd need the knowledge of what was good to eat going in, and then use the apps to identify. Maybe a good herbal app might have some info on edible weeds? Many "weeds" are actually herbal in nature.

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Lisa

Check out First Ways: An Urban Foraging Blog. That's their specialty and they welcome questions.

Meg Favreau's picture

Awesome. Thanks Linsey and Lisa!