Greener BeeGreen GadgetsSmartphones apps and garden gadgets that could make your life easier

Is gardening going digital?

Instead of asking Master Gardeners or the Iowa State Extension Service for growing advice, will we now turn to our smart phone garden apps? A slew of high-tech weapons could soon occupy home gardeners’ arsenals. From soil humidity sensors, to computer-generated growing tips and weather-detection devices, these electronic tools challenge the notion that plants need a human touch.

Typically, my smart phone sits on the back stoop or beside me in my yard cart as I work in the garden, but until now, I haven’t really considered using it to help me be a more informed gardener. Have you? The National Garden Bureau used crowd sourcing to identify popular, useful apps for smart phones. Here are some inexpensive garden apps that you might find helpful.

  • Purdue Tree Doctor (iPhone and Android; $1.99)
  • Purdue Annual Doctor (iPhone; 99 cents)
  • Purdue Perennial Doctor (iPhone; 99 cents)
  • Garden Compass (iPhone; Free)
  • Garden Time Planner (iPhone; Free)
  • GardenMinder (iPhone; Free)
  • Leafsnap (iPhone; Free)
  • Plant Diagnostic Sample Submission (iPhone; Free)
  • Our Rose Garden (iPhone; Free)

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Whether you’ve mastered indoor herbs, wrestled with roses to no avail, or painstakingly crafted a backyard flower patch, the new generation of garden gadgets could make your life easier. Here are a few of the most intriguing new techie tools for green and black thumbs alike:

PlantLink — You’ve heard of the Cloud, that ambiguous storage space for all the world’s data, well this garden gadget relies on data stored in a cloud. Place the PlantLink in the soil near your indoor or outdoor plants — each plant or lawn area needs its own link — and enter the plant type into the company website. You’ll then be provided with a watering schedule, which you can access online and be alerted to via email. PlantLink is a Kickstarter project, developed by a group of University of Illinois engineering students.

Click n’ Grow Smart Garden — Almost eerily prescient, Click n’ Grow is always one step ahead of you. The sleek flowerpot has a refillable water reservoir and plant cartridge filled with seeds and special growth medium — a super-vitamin for soil. Tucked inside the pot are electronic sensors and software that measures the plant’s needs, releasing precise amounts of fertilizer, air, and water.

Erbiza — There is more to this unassuming herb box than meets the eye. Constructed from PEFC-certified spruce wood, Erbiza brims with organic potting soil and seeds, and comes with a special code that enables registration on The site doles out daily advice to ensure your chives, thyme, oregano and parsley flourish.

Windowfarms Tower — Grow a vertical indoor garden beside a window year-round with this automated plant feeding and watering system. The tower supplies plants with nutrient-rich water that spurts upward from a reservoir in the system’s base, before funneling down from plant to plant. Thanks to a simple electric timer, the system is energy efficient; once installed, it will only cost a few dollars per year.

Sprout Robot — This website answers the question on every new gardener’s lips: where do I begin? Simply input your zip code and Sprout Robot will craft an easy-to-follow gardening plan based on your location and climate. Get seeds in the mail just in time for planting season, or opt to receive seasonal reminder emails to keep your garden on track.

Pocket Garden App — For just 99 cents, this mobile growing guide covers an impressive range of gardening questions and concerns. From seed type, to germination and harvest time, to general planting suggestions, such as soil depth and plant spacing, Garden App is an uncomplicated yet thoroughly helpful resource.

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