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Gardeners, there’s an app for that

“Again and again our writers have introduced … the machine as invading the peace of an enclosed space, a world set apart …”

— Leo Marx, "The Machine in the Garden," 1964

Whenever I’m working in the garden, I mute my phone so incoming calls, emails or texts won’t invade the peace of my little world set apart.

That doesn’t mean I don’t have my phone with me, though. I keep it in my pocket so I can take pictures of plants that I post on my blog or use to identify a bug or plant problem. Truth be told, sometimes I even check my text messages during weeding breaks.

The point here is that smartphones are little machines that can be useful in the garden in many ways. One of those ways is by downloading garden apps that can be used on site.

Admittedly I’ve come late to the world of smartphone apps; in fact, I’m not sure what most of the icons on my phone are for. However, I now recognize the blue and white App Store icon on my iPhone, and I have even downloaded a few garden apps that I think will be helpful in planning and maintaining my flower and vegetable beds, or just because they sound like fun.

Apps are available for iPhones, iPads and Androids; prices range from free to $10. Here are some garden apps I think are useful. Post a comment about these apps, or others you recommend, on my blog at http://blogs.esouthernoregon.com/theliterarygardener/.

• Leafsnap is a free app that uses visual recognition software to scan an uploaded picture of a plant leaf against its database of thousands of plants. When the app identifies a match, it brings up an image of the plant leaf and its flower, bark and fruit, as well as other detailed information. This app is helpful for identifying unfamiliar plants anywhere in the U.S.

• Landscaper’s Companion has a huge database of plants, plant information and pictures that gardeners can use to create personalized garden lists and planting guides. Cost is $10.

• Garden Tracker-Bumper Crop allows gardeners to plan and create multiple garden plots and then track their progress. The app has a database of common vegetables and planting instructions, and gardeners can add their own vegetables, herbs or flowers. Planting and harvesting dates can be tracked, and notes can be recorded and emailed. Cost is $4.

• Sun Surveyor was developed for photographers, but many gardeners find the app useful in calculating sun exposure hours and direction for planting purposes. The three-dimensional compass is helpful for visualizing the sun’s track throughout the day in a particular location. Cost is $10.

• Perennial Match has a database of 278 plants to help plan a perennial garden. Users can use search filters to select flower combinations, and then the app immediately shows if the plant selections are compatible and will work well for particular site conditions. Attributes of each plant can be viewed alongside colorful plant pictures. The cost is $5.

• Purdue Tree Doctor, Perennial Doctor and Annual Doctor apps assist gardeners in diagnosing insect pests and diseases. Search for information by plant or symptoms, and then compare your garden specimen with the images that come up. Recommendations for addressing the problem are based on integrated pest management practices. The Tree Doctor app costs $2 and the Perennial and Annual Doctor apps cost $1 each.

The machine in Leo Marx’s garden is a metaphor for industrialization that “invaded” agricultural America in the 19th century. Some would argue that our smartphones are a modern-day assault on peace and privacy. Yet when it comes to planning, creating and caring for our gardens, we can find an app for that at the touch of our fingertips.

— Rhonda Nowak is a Rogue Valley gardener, teacher and writer. Email her at Rnowak39@gmail.com.