Here in the northern hemisphere, it’s springtime, and thus time to weed the back yard and plant the garden. If you’ve been sowing seeds and staking tomatoes for years, you probably know what to do, but many of us would like some guidance about what to plant, when to plant it, where to plant it, and when to expect a harvest. Should something go wrong, we’d also like some help figuring out whether those little crawly things are aphids or spider mites, and how we can eliminate them without spraying our precious veggies with toxic chemicals.
Sound like you? I’ve rounded up a handful of iOS apps that can help you plan your garden, learn about various kinds of plants and pests, and receive customized assistance.
Plant It -- One of a number of garden planner apps available on the App Store, Plant It ($1.99, iOS 5 and later) features an index of 185 common plants — mostly vegetables and herbs — complete with information on what you should plant and when. Plant It pulls your location data to give you customized information for the climate and growing conditions for where you live, which can take some of the guesswork out of planting.
In addition, Plant It also provides some information on where to plant (for example, whether to place something in the sun or shade), which plants pair nicely with one another, and other useful nuggets.
On the downside, its plant index is somewhat limited — if you venture beyond common garden denizens, Plant It won’t be of much use to you. Also, it would be nice if Plant It provided a calendar function that gave you an overview of what you’ve chosen to plant, when you should plant, and when you might expect to harvest. You can have the app send you email reminders, however.
Sprout It -- Another garden planner app, Sprout It (free, iOS 7) works much like Plant It — it even has a similar name — but sports a few features that Plant It lacks.
Most notably, Sprout It’s Grow Plans can help you track when everything will be ready to harvest — useful if you want to space out your planting so you don’t end up with a massive haul of one crop all at once. In addition, the app steps you through the process of growing a vegetable garden: it asks you if your seedlings have sprouted, for example, and tell you what to watch for as your garden reaches certain milestones.
Sprout It is designed for use with Miracle-Gro’s Gro-ables seed pods (Gro-ables plants within the app are denoted by a badge next to the plan name), but you don’t need to buy into Gro-ables to get a lot out of Sprout It.
Another useful feature for beginners is the Shopping List, which tells you what you’ll need to carry out the Grow Plans that you’ve set.
Like Plant It, Sprout It focuses on fruits and vegetables, so it isn’t particularly helpful for those who want to plant flowers. You’ll also need to create an account with the Grow It online service, which means providing the app developers your email address.
Garden Compass Plant/Disease Identifier -- What is that ground cover with the purple flowers? What is this weird-looking bug? Why do my potatoes have spots on their leaves? Those are the sorts of questions the Garden Compass Plant/Disease Identifier (free, iOS 6 and later) tries to answer. Here’s how it works: Take a photo of the plant or plant problem you have questions about and submit it through the app. Garden Compass’s horticulturists will review your submission and get back to you with an answer to your burning gardening question.
Garden Pro -- If you’re looking for a more comprehensive reference guide, Garden Pro ($2.99, iOS 7) is worth a look. It’s a full-fledged reference guide for gardeners, and provides information on over 7,000 plant varieties, as well as a number of common pests and plant issues.
Garden Pro also features a Todo list that lets you keep track of garden tasks, and a Plants list you can use to track all the plants you have in your garden. The app does have a few shortcomings: it’s slow to launch the first time around and its interface has various quirks. Also, being the writer and editor that I am, I couldn’t help but notice a few typos. That said, it seems to be a good reference tool for any gardener.
Landscaper’s Companion -- For a broader view, Landscaper’s Companion ($4.99, iOS 6.1 and later) not only provides information on a wide variety of plants — both indoor and outdoor — but also boasts some features that the other apps we looked at lack.
Landscaper’s Companion serves up detailed information on over 26,000 plants, ranging from vegetables to ferns to evergreens and everything in between. You can mark plants as favorites for future reference, and the app comes with a powerful advanced search feature to help you narrow down your results to specific types of plants. For example, you can run a search to show only shade-loving plants, or only plants that don’t need a lot of water if you’re getting into xeriscaping.
Also, you can set Landscaper’s Companion to display only those plant species that will grow in your area based on the USDA’s Plant Hardiness Zones.
Need a little inspiration? Tap the Plant Pictures icon to view a random selection of plant photos. If you want to learn more about a particular plant, tap its photo to see that plant’s listing. You can also search for photos of specific plants.
A $5.99 in-app purchase upgrades you to the Professional version, which lets you add plants and photos to the database, take notes on plants, and keep multiple plant lists (useful if you have various gardening or landscaping projects that you’re working on).
GreenDiary -- Let’s say you want to document your garden’s progress for future reference so you can note what worked — and what didn’t (cilantro shouldn’t be this hard!). GreenDiary ($0.99, iOS 6 and later) helps you do just that.
With GreenDiary, you can keep track of your garden using text entries, photos, and videos, and you can note any tasks you carried out and when. No need to try to remember when you last fed your tomato plants again — the answer is only a tap away.
There are undoubtedly numerous other garden-related apps in the App Store, and if you’ve found one particularly useful, let us know in the comments!