Tech Savvy: Tech tools for the garden
I am a planner. While planning my garden, I've spent hours and hours drawing diagrams, filling out calendars, developing task lists and researching plant care. The execution of those plans is another matter, but we can save that for a different c...
I am a planner.
While planning my garden, I've spent hours and hours drawing diagrams, filling out calendars, developing task lists and researching plant care. The execution of those plans is another matter, but we can save that for a different column on a different day.
When it comes to garden planning, pen and paper are fine but there are numerous online sources and phone and tablet applications available to assist in making your plants thrive. I asked Crow Wing County Master Gardeners to share their favorite tech tools for everything from planning to tutorials to disease diagnosis. Here are some of their suggestions.
The all-around garden planner
One of the apps suggested was Burpee Garden Time Planner, an app that incorporates garden planning, tutorials and even weather updates, which of course is a crucial part of any gardener's success. I spent some time navigating the app and found it to be intuitive and chock full of information. You can browse through lists of vegetables, herbs, flowers and fruit and click on ones you're interested in for further information.
If you click on carrots, for example, you're told they can be sown after danger of heavy frost and should be sown every two weeks for continuous harvest. The app recommends loose, deep soil for longer, straighter carrots. There is a link to a video about planting and growing carrots. If you enter your ZIP code, the app will give you the planting schedule based on your plant hardiness zone and whether to start seeds indoors or to plant directly in your garden.
After reviewing this information, you can decide if this is plant you'd like to add to your garden. If you choose to add it, it will join the list with the other plants you plan to grow and will automatically populate your planner with the tasks associated with that plant.
There is also a tab with a list of all how-to videos, if you're in a learning mood and don't want to sift through each plant to see if there is an associated tutorial. The app is free and available in both the Google Play and iTunes stores-although given it's a Burpee product, it does try to sell you Burpee seeds and other gardening supplies, so be aware of that.
Planning your plot
Another planning tool recommended by Master Gardeners is the free Kitchen Garden Planner tool available at www.gardeners.com , a garden supply website. This is another commercial source, although the planner itself can be used without purchasing anything. The planner is based upon the square-foot gardening concept. There are several suggested gardens to choose from based upon what you'd like to harvest-a cook's choice garden, a high-yield garden, even some specifically geared toward salsa, cocktails or stir fries.
You can also design a garden from start to finish, dragging and dropping plants into a grid. As you add plants, a planting guide populates below, with tips on whether to plant indoors or outdoors, how deep to plant seeds, when to transplant, the best ways to harvest and hints about care. If you'd like to learn more about a particular plant, there is also a link to the website's vegetable encyclopedia with more extensive information.
If you're planning a larger site, there is also a tool for this. You can add the gardens you've created with the other tool alongside the suggested gardens to practically plan a farm.
Refining your landscaping
Not a vegetable gardener but looking to landscape? Then the University of Minnesota Extension's new Plant Elements of Design program is the garden tech tool for you. The tool is free to use, although does require creating an account.
You can search for plants to add to your landscape design based upon several criteria, including whether you're looking for a woody or herbaceous plant, the amount of light it requires, the soil it prefers and even its design or landscape use. This includes whether you're looking for an accent plant or looking to attract hummingbirds or butterflies, for example.
Once you've selected your criteria, you'll receive a list of plants that fit the needs of your site. Click on one of those plants and you'll find out much more information about it, including its expected height, diseases it's susceptible to, insects it attracts, and its common and scientific names.
Those who recommended the site also noted the site seems to work best when the criteria is not too narrow. It's also possible to export to a spreadsheet document the list you've created or the entire database. Visit www.landscapeplants.extension.umn.edu to use the tool.
A doctor's diagnosis
So once you've planned your garden and have actually brought those plans to fruition, what happens if you notice your plants are suffering from some sort of ailment? There's an app for that. Actually, multiple apps for that.
Purdue University, through its Extension program, offers four applications to help diagnose diseases, pests or environmental problems with your plants. These apps, available for both Apple and Android products, cost 99 cents each and are the Purdue Tomato Doctor, Purdue Annual Doctor, Purdue Perennial Doctor and Purdue Tree Doctor.
The apps include databases of photos of the problems to match with what your plant is experiencing, and can be sorted by leaves, stems, roots, flowers and/or fruits. The apps recommend how to deal with the problems, and because it is from a university, you can rest assured the solutions are research-based and not motivated by profit.
Look to locals
Now, I would be remiss if I didn't point out the Master Gardeners themselves are a wealth of information-of the face-to-face, low-tech variety. But they also have a website- www.crowwingmastergardeners.org -that is fully responsive to mobile devices. Their website also offers diagnostic tools along with links to the University of Minnesota's yard and garden center, plant reference center and insect identifier. A community calendar includes upcoming classes in the area led by Master Gardeners, and a resources section links to other helpful garden-related websites, including the Lakes Area Growers' Market and the Northland Arboretum.
Still unsure what to plant, how to plant it or how to fix a problem? Call the Crow Wing County Master Gardener helpline at 218-454-4769.
CHELSEY PERKINS may be reached at 218-855-5874 or email@example.com . Follow on Twitter at www.twitter.com/DispatchChelsey .