Gardening: There's an App for That!

Lynda Ellis, UM Extension Master Gardener in Anoka County, November 10, 2015.

If you own a smart phone, or are thinking of getting one, you might wonder if there are any gardening applications (apps) with information relevant to Minnesota that are free from ads and from reputable sources. The list below is a sample of what is available; new ones continue to be developed. All are available for the iPad, iPhone and iPod Touch and were tested on the latter. Those with asterisks (*) after their names are also available for Android phones and tablets. The ones that ask for your location or zip code or have videos will need Internet access to use them; the others do not.

The following eight apps are free.

VTree* (http://dendro.cnre.vt.edu/dendrology/factsheets.cfm) is a Virginia Tech Tree Identification tool. It takes your current location (if you permit this) and limits its list of trees to those that live in your geographic area. It includes pictures of the entire tree, and its bark, leaves, fruit and seeds.

Key to Wisconsin Woody Plants (http://www.biology.wisc.edu/Outreach.htm) is from the University of Wisconsin, Madison. Though these are plants of Wisconsin, most also live in Minnesota.

Forest Insects* (http://apps.bugwood.org/apps/forest-insect-pests/) is Forest Pest Insects in North America, from the University of Georgia. It includes pictures of the insects and their signs and symptoms on trees.

IDWeeds* (http://weedid.missouri.edu/), a weed list and identification tool from the University of Missouri, includes pictures. It includes all common Minnesota weeds, though some plants listed are better behaved here.

BeeSmart* (http://pollinator.org/beesmartapp.htm), developed by the Pollinator Partnership, is a tool that, if you give it your zip code, lists plants you can grow that are attractive to bees and other pollinators. You can search the plant list for pollinator type, plant type, bloom color, soil preference, or sun preference.

University of Illinois Extension Apps (http://web.extension.illinois.edu/state/apps.cfm) include Our Rose Garden and Midwest Ornamental Grasses; both contain videos. A few plants listed are only hardy to zone 5, and should not be planted in most of Minnesota.

University of Connecticut Rain Garden* app (http://nemo.uconn.edu/tools/app/raingarden.htm) can be localized for Minnesota and includes instructional videos and a plant list.

Five other apps are available for purchase.

The Purdue Garden Apps (http://www.purdueplantdoctor.com/): Annual Doctor*, Perennial Doctor*, Tomato Doctor* and Tree Doctor*, list common diseases for their subjects, including pictures. The first three each cost $0.99; Tree Doctor costs $1.99.

Minnesota Wildflowers (https://www.minnesotawildflowers.info) contains a searchable list of these with pictures and costs $2.99.

Start with a free app or two, to see if you enjoy getting your gardening information this way. If you do, then expand with apps in your areas of interest. Before you download an app, look closely at its reviews, the organization that supports it, and the geographic area it covers. Your phone may become as useful a garden tool as your garden trowel.