Spring has sprung here on the East End. Yes, I know I’ve used this lead twice in the past few weeks. Despite the recent chilly temps, I have spotted my first set of purple crocuses (or is it croci?), so you know that green grass and high tides are just around the corner.
Those purple crocuses are an annual reminder that it’s time to plant my garden. Now, let’s be honest about my botany cultivation skills. My “garden” basically consists of four potted plants: mint (grows like the weed it is) rosemary (impossible to kill, even in nuclear war), radishes (never eat them, but they produce tangible results for my kids), and a miscellaneous “herb to be named later” that always ends up dead by June.
Clearly, I am far from a green thumb. But this season is all about hope springing eternal, right? This is the year to make a real effort to grow edible foods in a small backyard garden.
Did you know there’s an app for that? Several, actually. Here’s a running commentary on what I discovered:
First, I searched the term “planting gardening vegetable” and found a free app called Beginners Gardening Guide. Seemed like a great place to start—until I discovered that this app is only available in Android. This made me wonder: are Android users inherently cheap? Do iPhone fans simply go to Whole Foods or Schmidt’s? Beats me. But since I own an iPhone, I decided to skip this app and move on to iTunes.
Don’t Read the Book
Next, I altered my search to “home gardening.” The results retrieved a huge list of gardening magazines. There was everything from Organic Tofu Monthly to The Irish Garden (insert potato joke here) to Beecraft Magazine. Most of these were free, and for good reason: they are tablet-based editions of everyday magazines, all of which presume that everyone already has an apiary and beekeeper outfit. Still not right; I need apps with real instructions and information.
I took my search out of the iTunes store and tried “best home gardening apps.” Now we’re getting somewhere. The first app I discovered was called Garden Tracker. It lets you design and plot your garden in terrific detail. You type in which plants you intend to grow, and the app tells you when to plant and how to best care for them—even outlining the necessary distance between seeds. It even reveals which veggies are incompatible and shouldn’t be planted next to each other. I call this the “Middle East” feature.
Garden Tracker costs $1.99 for iPhone, $3.99 for iPad. The price difference is presumably due to more real estate and ground to cover on the iPad. I found it to be a little too advanced; another weird feature is that you can only plan rectangular gardens. Me, I just want to plant some food and eat it in July. Let’s move on.
There are many simpler apps to give you the basics. Garden Time Planner is free and focuses on the critical question: when is the right time to plant? The layout is sufficiently dumbed down for brown thumbs like me. The “My Garden” feature is cool, too—it lets you enter your zip code to retrieve info on specific weather and soil quirks about your location.
At the other end of the scale is Garden Plan Pro. This puppy costs $9.99; it’s the Great Gatsby of gardening apps. It has planting and tracking data for over 140 plants and vegetables, along with plotting information for gardens of all shapes, sizes and dimensions. (This would come in handy for some of my readers out on Daniels Lane in Sagaponack, or Further Lane in Amagansett. You know who you are.) This app even gives you priority tech support at the Garden Plan website, which comes in handy for those tough decisions about rhubarb and rhododendron.
The bottom line is simple: no matter what the cost or your expected level of detail, there are dozens of useful apps to help you be successful. Happy growing!