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What’s hAPPening in Your Backyard? Find the Best Apps to Help Your Garden Grow

Nothing else tastes quite like biting into a fresh tomato, grown and harvested in your own backyard. To make this August dream a reality, gardening enthusiasts must start planning—and possibly planting—now. A variety of gardening apps offer tips and tricks for making home gardens a success.

Garden Manager: Plant Alarm is fun and intuitive. Its best features are the photo log and alarms. The photo log lets users take pictures and make notes about each plant, creating a kind of online journal for gardeners to track what works—or fails to work—for individual plants. Gardeners can also set up alarms to water, weed and fertilize, ensuring that those necessary tasks do not get overlooked. Garden Manager is a well-designed app, easy to use even for technophobes. It is also a fantastic educational tool to engage kids in planting and taking care of a garden; parents can help children use the online journal to track conditions and reflect on the results. (Free; available for Android)

From Seed to Spoon is a vegetable, fruit and herb planning guide with a unique approach. Upon login, users see plants categorized by health benefit; categories are extensive, ranging from immune health to heart health to brain and memory. The app creators are passionate about their “urban backyard food farm” and want to share what they know about sustainable, affordable gardening. The app’s resources include a wealth of practical information, presented clearly. For instance, if the user selects raspberries (cancer-fighting!), she or he will see a three-sentence profile and get specific indoor and outdoor spring planting dates for the area. At a quick glance, the would-be planter will find out raspberries are a perennial, can survive a hard freeze, take two years to bear fruit, require full sun, must be watered weekly and require yearly fertilizer. Harvesting, cooking and eating advice is readily available – which, while not complicated for a raspberry, can be extremely helpful for asparagus or cauliflower. From Seed to Spoon includes everything an aspiring gardener needs to know before deciding what to plant. (Free; available for iOS and Android)

Some gardeners swear by their plant diaries. In addition to the pleasure of writing about their plants, the information contained therein is useful in planning and improving a garden from year to year. Gardenize offers a digital platform that elevates the plant diary to a more interactive level. Gardeners document their plants with photos and notes. An “events” feature allows users to set reminders for watering, fertilizing and trimming plants. The app incorporates social features for those interested in connecting with fellow gardeners or reading gardening blogs. (Free; available for iOS and Android)

Apartment and city dwellers might not have space for large-scale gardening, but they can still be part of the action. Urban Veggie Garden is designed for gardeners creating container gardens that can thrive on a small balcony or in front of a sunny window. The app explains when to plant and harvest, with tips for how much and how often to water particular vegetables in particular-size containers. Enthusiasts can also find information about composting, organic gardening and common plant diseases. (Free; available for Android only)

Smart Plant Home is an excellent resource for identifying and understanding how to care for plants, but its best feature is its ability to connect home gardeners with seasoned horticulturists. The experts will answer specific plant questions and give advice about care. Additionally, Smart Home Plant’s barcode scanning feature is a boon when wandering the aisles at a local garden center. One click lets shoppers find out about the plant’s hardiness and care, enabling, for example, an informed decision about whether the consumer is up to the task of coaxing an African violet to thrive or is destined for agricultural heartbreak. (Free; available for iOS and Android)

Should the idea of a garden seem appealing but ultimately overwhelming, consider Terrarium: Garden Idle. This app lets players discover, collect and grow virtual plants with zero effort, cost or dependence on weather. Though playing the game will do exactly nothing to produce a real vegetable or flower, it might provide a few minutes of respite from daily stress—without the aphids!

One of the best resources for garden planning is not an app, but a website. Johnny’s Selected Seeds Planning Tools and Calculators page offers detailed guidance, charts and spreadsheets for garden planning for everyone from novices through experts.

Whether your gardening aspirations tend toward a pot of cherry tomatoes on the deck or you are more inclined to create an eclectic garden full of heirloom vegetables, doing a bit of research on the best plants to fit your plans will help make the process a pleasure.

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