Tools & Workshop

Choice Apps for Garden Geeks

Every gardener has a favorite tool. For some, it's a trusty old spade. For others, it's a pair of pruning shears that can do no wrong. And for an increasing number of people, a host of digital tools-that is, garden apps designed for smartphone and tablet devices-are becoming virtually indispensable.


One area in which garden apps can be very useful is planning. For instance, figuring out how many vegetables to plant can be tricky, but Vegetable Garden Calculator takes the guesswork out of the process. Meanwhile, if you want a garden app to help you with design, plant selection, and task scheduling, look no further than Garden Plan Pro, a soup-to-nuts tech solution for serious gardeners, which manages to earn its relatively high $9.99 price tag.


Visually track the development of your garden with Photo Garden, which collects and organizes pictures of your garden and of the plants that comprise it. As time goes by, upload new photos to track progress over successive seasons, and you'll find that a record of hits and misses enables you to repeat successes and avoid those mistakes you've made in the past. Handily, the app also makes it easy to shares photos with family and friends over email and social media.


Even the most experienced gardener occasionally encounters something new, be it an unexpected “volunteer” plant, a mysterious disease, or a pest that keeps coming back. Garden Compass helps you navigate this terrain effectively and for free. Simply take a picture of whatever it is that's got you stumped, and the horticultural experts on the other end will email you an identification. Most of the time, responses come speedily-that is, within 24 hours. Wonderful!


If you're harvesting more than you can eat, AmpleHarvest locates nearby food pantries where you can donate your extras. It's free, simple, and will make you feel good. Those wanting more information on canning vegetables are wise to download Mother Earth News. There's much to admire about the app, especially the free peripheral download How to Can, which not only covers the basics, but also offers recipes for canning ten fruits and ten vegetables.


The Landscaper's Companion puts a plant guide in your pocket. Take it with you to the nursery or even into the garden. With extensive search capabilities and a library's worth of information, this comprehensive garden app gives you instant details on over 26,000 plants in 17 categories. Looking for shade-loving species at home in your USDA zone? No problem. Want to know the growth rate and habit of Wisteria? Find it here with only a few taps.

So when you're loading up your wagon or wheelbarrow and heading out to the yard, don't forget to throw in (gently, of course) your iPad or iPhone. Soon, the latest garden apps may feel as essential to your gardening success as the trowel you've relied on for years.