December 08, 2011
There’s a handful of gardening apps that will have any gardener — from pro to novice — gladly smudging their pricey phone and pad gadgets with muck while working with shovel in one hand and app-filled gadget in the other. Whether your gardener works with veggies, design, bugs or vines, as the saying goes “there’s an app for that”!
Here are a few of my favorites, culled from the many commercial and relatively useless others on the market. I’ve even included one that won’t cost you a dime!
Dirr’s Shrub and Tree Finder from Timber Press: Any horty out there is going to bow their head in deference at the mention of a man named Michael Dirr. He’s the authority on woody plants in North America, and he’s written more than one book to prove it. If you’re going to buy one app for a gardener, this should be it! His heavy, tome — Manual of Woody Plants of North America — is a reference guide no serious plant geek can get by without. Fortunately for the plant & gadget geeks out there, Timber Press compressed this huge reference guide into a convenient and relatively inexpensive app. Plus, the app is filled with color photos, which the book doesn’t have. The app will run you $14.99 from the Apple App Store. The original book is now out of print, but a new edition (now dubbed Dirr’s Encyclopedia of Trees and Shrubs looks like it’ll run just over $56.00). And, yes, I do want the new book too! My old edition is held together with duct tape and many prayers for its future longevity. Fortunately, I no longer haul it everywhere I go. Instead, I pull up the app on my iphone.
Sketchbook (Express) by AutoDesk is the best app I’ve found so far for quick, on-the-fly garden design sketching on my ipad. I can snap a photo in a client’s garden & create drawing layers on which to rough sketch a visual concept drawing to show a client — or email them photographically later. It isn’t perfect for creating to scale drawings or real landscape designs. But, it does give me an inexpensive way to rough out ideas in a photographic way for myself and for my clients. And, for free in the Apple App Store, well…anybody can afford this one! Or, plop down $4.99 for the Pro version. I haven’t, but maybe Santa will decide to stuff this one in my stocking this year!
Bugs and Insects by Darren Gates makes for an impressive insect reference guide and repository for your own garden bug (and bug-like-creature) research. I was thrilled and shocked to find this pocket guide to the insect world costs just under $1.00 in the Apple App Store. Seriously, wrap this up with some chocolate covered grasshoppers, and you’ve got a great stocking stuffer for your favorite techy garden explorer. Perfect for serious insect lovers and inquisitive kids alike!
IVeggieGarden by MooritSoftware is one I’m on the fence about. It provides a lot of detail about growing veg by veg — from climate requirements to disease susceptibility to harvesting time details. Plus, it allows you to build shopping lists, add your own varieties, build your own garden and more. But, I found it kind of clunky for my needs, and I wasn’t able to figure out how to port calender year information to another year. Those features may be in there, but I couldn’t find them. Frankly, I get a lot of printed calenders every year for the holidays. If I make notes on one year, day by day, it’s really easy for me to reference that in the next year to help avoid repeating failures (and to be sure I repeat successes). If I could do that easily with this app, I’d likely be singing its praises a little louder. Now, just because this app didn’t quite work for me, it might be great for a new gardener (or someone who can get past the tech blockers I found). For the individual crop information alone, this app may very well be worth the $9.99 price point in the Apple App Store.
Full Disclosure: Iveggiegarden app was provided to me for free to try out and review. All others shown here I have purchased/downloaded at my own expense. No compensation has been provided to me for writing this review. Apologies for not including details on Android availability; I don’t have those devices, so I cannot speak to apps for them.
August 04, 2011
Overcrowding in a greenhouse — or even in a planting bed — is a sure-fire way to invite pest and disease problems. And, if you’re like me and unwilling to spray pesticides and fungicides, then keeping your greenhouse clean and well-ventilated, and being sure plant crowding is minimal is ideal.
So, perhaps I really should have titled this post: “Oh, here go hell come.” (Calvin Tran).
Yep, my greenhouse is just asking for it this year.
Yes, it is well ventilated. But, it is also terribly over crowded with overlapping vines and leaves of multiple cucumber and tomato plants.
I’m watching it closely. Thinning the tomato suckers almost daily. Cutting out cucumber leaves that look suspicious. And, I’m unwinding areas that are really getting thick and are building up moisture, which fungus and mildew loves — especially when its coupled with little airflow and warm temperatures. (Sounds like a greenhouse to me.)
So far, I’m doing okay with things as crowded as they are. The cucumbers are producing beautifully. And, the tomatoes, while still only green, are laden with fruit. Air is flowing through the vent and the dutch door windows. Bees are traveling in and pollinating. Fruit is forming, and so far disease isn’t.
Protecting both these crops from this year’s incredibly long spring and late arrival of summer, has been a good thing in the greenhouse. But, I may have over-done it. And, I may pay for it later.
If the vines start getting sick, they’ll be culled. Again, I’m checking them at least once a day. But, really kids, don’t try this at home. It requires a trained eye and regular, diligent inspections to make this work.
And, let’s be honest, in the end, it may end up failing completely. So, please, for your own sanity and success, follow the old adage: do as I say, not as I do. All this maintenance and worry probably isn’t worth the potential of an extra tomato late in the season. My greed may result in a total loss. Or, if I work hard at it, I might get an overwhelming glut.
Stay tuned. Updates will follow.
June 22, 2011
About the time bean seeds germinate and emerge from the soil, baby birds are learning to fly around the garden. And the two really don’t mix very well — assuming you hope to harvest food from those bean stalks someday.
Baby birds are very cute, but they’re also randomly destructive. They peck away at just about everything, learning what’s okay to eat and what isn’t. Last year, baby robins and sparrows took out quite a few of my emerging bean plants. They didn’t actually eat the bean sprouts. Instead, they pecked at them, pulled them up, spit them out and looked for worms & beetles that scurried by after they’d disturbed the nearby soil. It was REALLY annoying.
This year, I hope to foil them.
Yesterday, we finally had some warm temperatures, following lots of wonderful rain. My edamame responded, pushing up through the soil and preparing to spread out their first leaves. Soon those birds would see them and begin their pecking and foraging. So, to save my crop from those winged, singing little demons, I spread out a light layer of row cover over the crops. This will help add just a tad more heat to the baby beans, allow moisture to reach them and keep out the birds.
April 04, 2011
By now gardeners are either shopping for cold hardy crops at nurseries and plant sales, or they’re finding that their seedlings are ready to go into the earth. Even if early season crops can handle cool, wet temperatures, a hardy hail may destroy them.
To protect tender, young starts from the snow, hail, wind and even birds that peck away at newly planted tasty goodness like broccoli, kale, chard, lettuce, and rabe, consider adding some sort of hoop or cloche to get them started.
Although floating row cover (aka horticultural fleece) is a nice protective layer that will also raise soil temperatures a bit and keep out flying pests, but it won’t do much to keep the plants from crashing under the weight a rapid-fire hailstorm.
Instead, something like a plastic hoop house or a glass cloche over your new plantings will help keep out the flying pests, raise temperatures to speed up growth and provide transitional protection for plants just out of a greenhouse, and scatter any pummeling ice hammering down from the sky.
Keep in mind that hoops can end up raising temperatures too much if days get really hot and sunny, so be sure to check and vent them regularly. Venting will also keep up airflow, which helps deter fungal damping off, which will kill your seedlings just as rapidly as a good icy beating.
Also, be sure to check soil moisture. By sheeting your crops water-repelling substances, you may be sheeting water away from their roots too. Open your hoops on days when the rain is gentle; close them at night and when freezing rains sleet down to earth.
September 13, 2010
If you grow plants with edible parts, one of the first lessons you learn is that wildlife keeps an eye on what you’re doing. Birds spy from above, watching berries ripen, diving into an un-netted patch to snatch up the first of the juicy morsels. Rats, mice and squirrels troll fence lines and thick planting beds, nibbling on ripe (or nearly ripe) crops, often destroying our best fruits before we even consider them ready to harvest. Raccoons climb our fig trees, breaking branches and devouring black-purple fruits. Bunnies stand on hind legs, mowing down, well, just about everything in sight. And then there’s the deer that take thorny roses to the ground long before they’ll bloom. Sometimes its enough to make a gardener wish a wildcat would make a quick sweep, taking down all these destructive, wild herbivores before they mangle every fruit of our gardening labors.
Recently, I’ve found evidence of one rodent or other trolling my veggie beds. In one tomato and bean filled bed, I’ve been picking slugs out all season. It never got warm or dry enough this summer to beat them back, so the beans have a few holes. And, so do the tomatoes. But, the slugs don’t go for the tomatoes until after a rodent punches a hole in them, and boy is there rodent damage in this bed! (more…)