This article was first published in Spring 2016 issue of Search Magazine
Back in the 70’s, my grandfather was a part of the organic gardening movement using natural predators and flowers in his gardens. He used science, math, and astronomy for bug control, plant spacing, and sowing the harvest. Back then, I didn’t care about the whats or whys he did the things he did, because my only job was to pick potato bugs, pull weeds, and haul rocks. I didn’t think gardening was that great at the time, but I cherish the memories now. Still, I could have done without the rocks.
My grandfather spent hours researching what kinds of plants were growing in his garden and trying to identify the flower type the bees loved so he could propagate them. He would spend evenings combing through the seed catalogs, and the next season grandma was cooking all kinds of crazy stuff we’d never seen before. That’s when I learned about kohlrabi and how deliciously weird it is.
It wasn’t until I had a home of my own that I realized how much I had paid attention to the ramblings of an old man. If he were alive today, I’m sure he’d love the time-saving, technology of the gardening apps available for identification, growing cycles, and living harmoniously with insects to protect and preserve our gardens. I know you will, too.
Check out some of my favorites!
1. Sprout It is a great app for those who want to jump into gardening but have no clue about what to do or where to begin. By loading your zip code, Sprout It helps you determine your temperate growing zone and length of the season. It offers up many planting ideas with customized step-by-step growing instructions for the plants you have chosen as well as vivid images demonstrating pest and disease issues. Sprout It tops off the app with fresh ideas for cooking and preserving your beautiful bounty. The feature I like most is when you load in the time of your planting. The app simulates growth over time and visually demonstrates what your plants should look like during the growth cycle. This app is also a fantastic space planner so you’ll understand how close seeds need to be so you won’t have artichokes choking your tomatoes.
2. For those of you who have been around the tomato plant a few times, Moon and Garden app is based on the natural ebbs and flows of the moon phases. Not sure whether to propagate during the waxing or waning moon? This app will help you plan those decisions. Plants are naturally dependent on lunar phases from the full moon to the new moon, and there are advantages to planting in the right lunar cycle. For centuries, people have successfully planned their gardening activities such as sowing, re-potting, transplanting, and harvesting based on the rotating cycle. Two unique features of this app are the astronomical data for planting and the time precision for the biodynamic events. It even has alarms to help you remember your planned dates.
3. Want more Bees? Bee Smart Pollinator Gardener is wonderful in its mission and what it accomplishes. Every gar-den needs pollinators, and this reference app allows you to learn what to plant by what type of pollinators you desire. Have you built bat houses? Bee Smart helps you learn what to plant in your temperate zone to attract them.
You can attract bees, butterflies, hummingbirds, beetles, and bats. One of the coolest features is the regionally specific plant list based on your geospecific and ecological attributes (your ecoregion). All of these features are available by entering your zip code. The Bee Smart database has over 1,000 native plants, their light and soil requirements, bloom colors, and plant type to attract your critters.
4. Love flowers? Who doesn’t? Like That Garden is a free visual app that compares an image you take of your flower and then matches it up to thousands of flowers in their databases. Like That Garden teaches you more about the flower, its sun tolerances, when it blooms, and whether it’s an annual or a perennial. I enjoy this app because of its high-resolution images with detailed descriptions. It has quite a bit of reference material with helpful information to assist in my perennial planning and buying decisions.
5. Don’t have time or space for a garden but want to learn more about plants when you’re hiking? My favorite app for the traveling type is Project Noah. By taking pictures, you can identify plants, trees, bugs, and wildlife, and then you can share your experiences within the app community. Project Noah keeps track of your scouting missions, spottings, and provides field guides worldwide. The cool-est feature about this app is how the database is filled with user contributions. Groups studying certain species can share their findings with other members. Kids love this mobile program as it gets them involved in learning the nature around them and earning cool badges for their accomplishments.
No matter if you want to feed a family of butterflies or a house of twelve men, you’ll find time-saving gardening tips to make the most of your creation with the apps above. May the blessings of spring and earth be upon you and yours!