For all you green thumbs out there who also love technology, you can now combine these two interests with iOS gardening apps. There are many terrific gardening-related apps available for your iOS smart phones and tablets that provide a wealth of information for both the casual and serious gardener. Some are free, and others have a small fee, but all are essential to those gardeners who want to learn more about their favorite hobby.
Gardening Application Buying Guide
Gardening can be complicated and most of us can use a little help. Whether you’re researching plants, designing a garden layout or sharing your garden experiences with fellow gardeners, a mobile garden application can be invaluable. This article will describe the features you will want to look for when evaluating a gardening application and review some of best products.
Plant Information and Growing Guide
One of the key features is a plant information and growing guide database. Some of the information typically contained in a plant database include:
- Plant photographs: Use the photos to identify plants or see a visual representation of varieties of a specific plant. One cool feature in some gardening apps is the ability to take a picture of a plant and use the application to identify it.
- Alternate names: Scientific names, names of varieties, and regional names.
- Sun and water requirements: Get information about whether a plant likes lots of sun or grows better in shade and how much water the plant requires.
- Sowing instructions: Provides any special planting instructions and recommended plant spacing.
- Harvesting instructions: Tells you the correct date (or time after germination) to harvest a plant, how to harvest the plant correctly, and how to plan ahead about ways to improve future harvests. Ideally, it will have pictures to help you know how the plant looks when it’s ready to be harvested.
- Pest and disease control: What types of pests may damage your plants, what diseases are common, and how to manage the situation if your plants are under attack.
- Companion Plants: Which combinations of plants grow the best together by protecting each other from weather, pests or diseases.
- Growing zones: Which plants grow the best in each geographical zone. Typically, you enter a zip code or use the GPS on your mobile device to identify your garden’s growing zone. Many applications use the National Weather Service’s databases for growing zone details.
Visual Garden Design Tool
Smart phone displays are improving every year. Those beautiful screens are perfect for visual garden design tools. Many gardening applications will allow you to interactively design a specific garden layout: raised beds, rows, containers, vertical gardens and square foot gardening. Some will even render a 3D (three dimensional) image of your garden that you can “walk” through using VR (virtual reality). For any layout tool, it’s an advantage if it has a garden design library with examples that you can use as a starting point for your own creations. Ideally, the design tool will also warn you if you plant your flowers or crops too close together or if there may be issues with specific plants being located next to each other.
Garden Management and Advice
A good gardening application should provide you with information beyond details about specific plants. It should give you advice on crop rotation to keep your soil rich and fertile. Ideally, it will actively alert you if you are violating accepted crop rotation practices.
Some applications have databases of seed suppliers or include seed catalogs. In some cases, you can order seeds or other gardening supplies directly through the application.
Companion Online Service
It can be advantage to you if a mobile gardening application is also connected to an online service. Some of the potential online features include:
- Social Networking: Connect with fellow gardeners to get or share advice, share photographs of your plants, trade seeds and learn what everyone else is growing.
- Email Alerts: Get reminders about sowing or harvesting times or other important information related to your garden.
- Synchronizing Data Between Devices: Access your gardening data from your mobile device when you are away, but use the online service on a desktop computer when you are home. This can be a significant advantage when using a visual garden design tool to create a complex or large planting layout.
A mobile application is great for saving notes and photographs related to your garden or to create task lists or checklists. This can be an advantage for you to review what worked or didn’t work in previous growing seasons. An application can also provide alerts or send emails, even without a separate online service.
Gardening Application Reviews
Of course, the specific features we’ve discussed in the buying guide will be more or less important to you, specifically. The following applications are some of the best and will be a good starting point for your evaluation. We’ve highlighted the most important features to save you time finding the gardening application that’s perfect for your specific needs.
This wonderful app, by SnappTech, is jam-packed with information that helps you learn everything you need to know about plants and creating a garden. This cool app will even tell you the name of a plant when you take a picture of it, and has a library of over 20,000 pictures of plants, and also allows you to share your pictures over social networks or get advice from local horticulturists.
- Identifies plants using pictures that you take
- Plant library of over 20,000 plants
- Get custom advice from real horticulturists (local experts)
- Month or yearly subscriptions
Garden Plan Pro
This app features a large plant database and a calendar that helps you identify what you wish to plant and the best time to plant it. It also contains crop rotation help, as well as weather information for your particular area.
- Works with any shape of garden, raised beds, rows or containers, SFG squares
- Graphical layout of garden elements
- Growing information for more than 190 plants.
- Includes data from popular suppliers
- Recommends the best planting and harvesting dates for your area
- Provides advice on crop rotation and succession planning
- Online service to provide planting reminders
This interactive app from Mother Earth News lets gardeners layout their entire garden graphically using representation of the types of plants they wish to grow. It simplifies the planning and planting process by automatically spacing and calculating how many plants you can grow in traditional rows, blocks, in raised beds or by using the square-foot gardening method.
- Include multiple beds or other gardening elements in your layout.
- Includes data for more than 140 crops and plants, including vegetables, fruits, herbs, flowers and cover crops.
- Every crop includes a detailed growing guide.
- The app automatically spaces the plants and calculates how many you can fit into the area you specify.
- Supports traditional rows, blocks, raised beds or the square-foot gardening method.
- Calculates planting times based on your zip code.
- Alerts for violating standard crop-rotation practices.
- Includes catalogs from several major seed suppliers
- Can be used with a Vegetable Garden Planner account.
When to Plant
If you want to know the best time to plant certain plants or vegetables, this app will guide you. It provides the best planting times for more than 120 veggies, herbs, and flowers. Simply enter your zip code and you get a database of almost 5,000 weather stations across North America, and can locate the average frost dates for your garden, as well as the best range of planting dates for each crop you want to plant.
- Calculates planting dates specific to your zip code.
- Full growing information for more than 120 vegetables, herbs, fruit, cover crops and companion planting flowers
- For each plant, the app includes advice on the best soil type and sun requirements, sowing instructions, troubleshooting tips, and how to harvest
- Create a favorites list of the plants you commonly grow
- Easy access to National Weather Service long-range forecast maps (U.S. only)
Veronica’s Garden Tracker
This app, by Jeffery Martin, helps you keep track of what you planted, and when and where you planted it, by keeping a visual journal of your garden. It also provides information on destructive garden pests, best times to fertilize, and much more.
- Plan your garden visually
- Serves as a garden journal that will allow you to record what you learn while gardening
- Ideal for square foot gardens, classic row gardens, vertical gardens, container gardens, urban gardens, back yard gardens, school gardens, allotments, and herb gardens.