With spring's arrival comes a nagging realization that we should be outdoors weeding, digging, fertilizing, staking, and generally cleaning up the debris from winter. So our thoughts naturally turn to ... sitting indoors with a cup of tea and looking at pretty photos on an iPad or iPhone. How productive does that sound?
We're rounded up ten gardening apps to help you design, plant, and ID everything that's lurking in your garden. Download them now. Then get to work outdoors (next week).
Above: ID plants and flowers with Leafsnap. Photograph by Michelle Slatalla.
Updated by its developers last month, this iPad garden design app allows you to lay out a kitchen garden in any size (or shape) plot and "add" plants. The app offers full growing information on 140 kinds of fruits, vegetables, and herbs (and their many varieties) and will calculate how many plants will fit into your garden. Last year our reviewer Jeanne Rostaing wrote of an earlier version: "Fortunately there is a video tutorial to get you started, because the app has many features and, on first look, does not seem intuitive." Newly released Version 1.0.12 is an update recommended for all users; it fixes glitches in how the support screen looks.
For UK and European gardeners, MySoil offers everything you want to know about the composition of your local soil. "Descriptions of soil depth, texture, pH, soil temperature, organic matter content, and dominant habitats" are mapped across the UK. For other European gardeners, the app offers information about "soil parent material and access soil depth, texture. and dominant habitats. Users are encouraged to upload photos and details about local soil conditions to enrich the database. Compatible with iPhone and iPad; requires iOS 4.3 or later.
This is one of many iPhone apps that promises crowd-sourced advice. Snap a photo of something in your garden—a mystery weed, a bug, a leaf with a black spot—and upload it to Garden Compass to get help identifying and solving the problem. In conjunction with its online shopping website, Garden Compass, the app also will identify local brick-and-mortar garden shops in your area.
Updated in October to fix bugs and update a reference guide of 26,000 plants (no orchids or tropicals), Landscaper's Companion allows you to search the database of plants by "size, color, cultivation requirements, and resistance to deer," our reviewer Jeanne Rostaing wrote of an earlier version. To upload your own photos, you have to buy the $9.99 "Professional" version.
Above: A screenshot from Into Gardens.
"The wind howls and the rain batters the windowpanes but it is always warm and dry at intoGardens," begins the description of the app at the iTunes store. British garden writer James Alexander-Sinclair always entertains, and his iPad app offers recipes, garden visits, recipes, and trenchant observations on "the curse of the raccoon." (If only we could get him to write for Gardenista.) Updated in August, 2013, Version 2.3 contains fixes bugs associated with subscriptions. As our reviewer Kendra Wilson wrote of a previous version, "There are so many ideas fizzing out of the new gardening app Into Gardens, that the hand can't help reaching for pen and paper. Not necessary. It takes notes for you."
Coming soon from the same team that created the popular Leafsnap plant ID app, Birdsnap is an electronic field guide to help you ID 500 common North American birds. You can see a sneak preview of how the app will work if you visit Birdsnap, where you can spin the wheel to identify birds based on physical characteristics or bird calls. An iOS app is in development.
Above: Photograph by Michelle Slatalla.
Updated in October, this app describes 100 handpicked plants for small gardens. Features include plant photos, cultivation tips, a pronunciation guide, and a link to an online nursery that sells each plant. The newest release, Version 1.0.1, fixed bugs and improved display. Optimized for iPhone 5, this app requires iOS 4.3 or later.
A free app that works on both Apple and Android phones, Plantifier is supposed to help you ID plants. Or, to be more precise, Plantifier's other users are supposed to help. A crowd-sourced app created by Belgian-based designers TrendsCo., Plantifier lets you snap a photo of a plant you see, then upload it so other users can suggest names (or, in the absence of making a positive ID, suggest clues that might help you identify the plant yourself). How well does Plantifier work? In a recent review, we had hit-or-miss results, making us think there wasn't a big enough crowd to do the sourcing. Its main value was organizing our photos in one spot.
Above: Plantifier in action. Photograph by Michelle Slatalla.
Billed as offering "access in-depth horticultural advice from the UK’s leading gardening organization, as well as timely reminders to manage your crops, whilst you are out and about in your garden with your iPhone," this app gives growing advice about 20 popular kinds of fruits and vegetables. For £1.79, you can upgrade the app to add more plant information.
Inspirational design ideas, for Android users. The app offers hundreds of images to help you design rooftop, vertical, water-wise, succulent, container, vegetable, or flower gardens. You can upload and share your own photos as well.
For more, see The Top 10 Gardening Apps You Need Now.