Garden & Landscape Tips

Purdue Tomato Doctor app
The Purdue Tomato Doctor was developed by experts at Purdue University to help gardeners identify, diagnose and manage problems on their tomatoes.
© Jo Ellen Meyers Sharp

These days, with so much information at our fingertips on smartphones, we decided to examine some of the best-rated garden apps (applications) to help you in your garden and landscape.

Garden apps focus on different aspects of gardening including identifying plants and helping you find just the right plant for your garden; they maybe even suggest where you can buy it. Or they can figure out the best design for your flower or vegetable bed. Others diagnose insects and diseases, and offer remedies; still others track your planting calendar and remind you when to harvest. Most apps are free, and will work on iPhone and Android systems. They can be used in the garden, nursery, or while visiting public gardens.

Here’s what we found:

What Plant is This?

Pretend you’ve just moved into a new house and there’s a garden full of plants you don’t recognize or know how to care for.

Garden Compass, by Team SOA Inc., free

The most reviewed and highly regarded app has lots of answers. Garden Compass (free for iPhone and Android), will identify plants by name. A photo you take of the unknown plant is sent to a Garden Compass expert in your region. Usually the reply comes within 24 hours, but sometimes it can take a bit longer.

"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!” – bobvila.com

Leafsnap.com, by Columbia University, University of Maryland, and the Smithsonian Institution, free

Visual recognition software guides Leafsnap’s identification of Northeastern tree species from photographs of their leaves. Developed by researchers from Columbia University, the University of Maryland, and the Smithsonian Institution, currently Leafsnap includes only trees from the Northeast, but there are plans to include those from across the United States.

ID Weeds, by University of Missouri Extension, free

ID Weeds allows users to search for weeds from a list by common or scientific names, or based on foliage and floral characteristics. It was developed by University of Missouri’s College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources’ Division of Plant Science.

Growing Your Own Food

How much space do you need to grow tomatoes and what kind of sun requirements do they have? When’s the right time to harvest green beans and corn?

Mother Earth News Vegetable Garden Planner, by Mother Earth News.

Among the top-rated interactive apps for vegetable gardening is Mother Earth News Vegetable Garden Planner, (subscription based: $25/year after a 30-day free, home trial).

“My favorite feature of the tool is that it allows you to easily map out the spacing each plant will need at full growth (goodbye to rhubarb shading out… everything). Using the planner is easy, especially after you take a few minutes to watch a number of the helpful video tutorials on the different features offered.” – Nicole Nejad, The Denver Post

Vegetable Garden Calculator, by Primolicious, free

It can be tricky to determine how many vegetables plants you may need for each crop you want to grow. Vegetable Garden Calculator helps show the average number of vegetable plants you need to feed yourself or your family. More than 90 vegetables and herbs are covered.

Vegetable Tree, by Mohammad Azam, $3.99

Apple’s iTunes says this is the No. 1 vegetable gardening app in its store. Besides including the basics of sowing, growing, and harvesting of each vegetable, the app also provides tips and tricks, and connects to Facebook and Twitter for sharing notes and other helpful information. It can be personalized for your particular garden and crops.

Garden Plan Pro, by Growing Interactive, $7.99

Garden Plan Pro helps you plan your vegetable, herb, and fruit garden with flexible designs, growing information, and advice tailored to your locale.

“The ultimate garden guide! Though a little higher cost than most apps ($7.99) Garden Plan Pro starts by helping you design a plan for the shape and contents of your garden. Using its database of plants and some drawing tools you can virtually rearrange plants, then track their progress as your garden grows (it even helps you space them correctly). The app also adapts to your location giving you personalized advice on planting and harvesting dates based on local climate.” Housebeautiful.com

Gardenate, by Hutchinson Software Pty, $0.99

“Upon opening this app, users will enter their ZIP code. This will set the app to your current climate zone. From there, users can see a list of recommended plants based upon your location. Next, receive tips and advice on how to care for your plants. Gardenate also allows you access to an online community where you can receive advice, support, and share stories with fellow gardeners.” mikesbackyard.com

Garden Design and Plant Selection

Finding just the right plant for your garden can take hours of online research, but with a good design and plant selection app, the job is much easier. The apps have experts to delve through the thousands of plant possibilities and come up with those recommended for your growing zone, light conditions, and other environmental factors.

Garden Pro!, by Sebastian Burrieza, $3.99

“Tapping on a plant takes you to a page with more information, including what type of soil it prefers and some basic care instructions. You can add the plant to a list of your preferred plants, which is a separate section of the app. In this section, you can program the app to remind you to do things like water – a reminder will pop up when a particular plant is due for a drink.” Kit Eaton, The New York Times

Dirr’s Tree and Shrub Finder, by Timber Press, $14.99

Anyone connected to gardening, the plant trade, landscape design and ornamental horticulture knows the name of Michael Dirr from the University of Georgia. Dirr’s Tree and Shrub Finder brings his classic work, The Manual of Woody Landscape Plants, to your fingertips in an easy-to-use, affordable, mobile format. Tree and Shrub Finder covers 1,670 species and 7,800 cultivars with 7,600 high-quality images and more than 1,120 line drawings. The plant database is searchable by 72 criteria, including hardiness zones, water and light requirements, growth characteristics, flowers, fruits, and fall color. This app offers the latest and most reliable information on woody landscape plants for the landscape professional and the home gardener alike.

Armitage’s Greatest Perennials and Annuals, by Sutro Media, $4.99

“Having Allan Armitage’s app on Greatest Perennials and Annuals is the next best thing to having Allan personally by my side (or yours),” said Joe Lamp’l, executive producer and host of Growing a Greener World, televised on public television stations throughout the country.

“If you’re a fan of Armitage, you won’t be disappointed by this app. His voice is evident all throughout this handy resource. More than just a database of plant information (which alone would be worth it), there’s a listing of great garden centers around the country, tips for deer control, video links, words of wisdom, and plenty of opportunity to leave comments or ask questions. Don’t be surprised if you even get a personal reply from Dr. Armitage! One of my favorite and must-have apps for any gardener,” Lamp’l told upshoothort.com.

What’s That Bug? Is My Plant Sick?

Even the best-tended garden may suffer from an infestation of insects or a disease problem. Before buying and applying any cures, it’s essential to identify the problem, which is where apps come in handy. Garden Compass can help with identification of insect and disease damage, and so can a few others.

Purdue Tree, Annual, Perennial and Purdue Doctor Apps, by Purdue University, $0.99 each

Purdue recently revised its Tree Doctor app to including information to help homeowners identify emerald ash borer infestation in their trees and analyze treatment options.

“Each application is searchable by the type of plant, symptoms, insects, or disease, and includes extensive images for comparisons to help users identify the problem. These apps provide you with the latest science-based recommendations on how to manage the specific pests. Recommendations start with cultural practices that prevent or minimize the problem, along with pesticide recommendations, if needed.” Michigan State University

Bugs in the Garden, by Justin Davidson, $0.99

This app includes more than 40 bug photos and 33 illustrations to help you identify what’s eating your plants. There is extensive info on 24 of the most common pests. Practical advice is given on how to assess damage and to manage or control the insects.

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