My favorite, versatile, new gardening tool is my "smart phone"
Photo by Melody

My favorite, versatile, new gardening tool is my "smart phone"

By Sally G. Miller (sallyg)February 2, 2012
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My smart phone has an awesome utility for keeping records, issuing reminders, and gathering information. lt's taking my gardening proficiency to the next level.

Gardening picture

The sales pitch came from my husband. How could I refuse? He felt sure that my next phone upgrade should be to a "smart phone," a tool that could give me some of the functions of our computer and more. So I agreed, and went back to planting my birthday batch of fall pansies, and he went off to wrangle with the salesman at the store.

He came home with a little beauty whose operations had me baffled. I was captivated nonetheless. The nifty screen, the icons, so many features to explore! Within minutes of showing my new toy, I mean phone,  to my teenagers, one had figured out the memo function and left a note: "I love mommy."  There was no turning back!

My first task was to use the phone as a phone (imagine that.) But I soon lightly cultivated the fertile ground of the features. Aha, memos! No more lost scraps of paper, bearing cryptic plant-oriented scribbles. Since my phone went almost everywhere I did, all day long, I started keeping plant notes in the memos. While reading about plums, I made a note in the cell phone. Later, at the nursery, my phone note reminded which cultivar to choose. ('Santa Rosa') Another day, I found faded labels while trimming my chrysanthemums. Again, the handy smart phone was in my pocket. I documented the names of hardy varieties, so I could recommend them, add them to my Journal, or comment on them in PlantFiles (Prophets 'Regal Cheryl, 'Ursula', 'Vicki,'  C. morifolium).  I used my smart phone to note the location of a special native tree in a local park. Of course, my plant notes memo is entered on green virtual note paper, to make it easier to spot. It has to stand out among Books to read, Xmas shopping, and Wine list, for example.

yellow flowers with brown centers, B and A TrailFlower picture from cellphone, a drizzly day on the B and A Trail

Have you seen pictures from one of these things? Cell phone cameras are getting better all the time. I can't believe the quality I get from this little device, especially in coping with low light situations. I used my phone to take a pictorial note of wildflowers as I walked the dog. I can email the pictures to myself, and then post them on the Plant Identification Forum, if need be. Are you, like me, shopping wisely these days? I took pictures of price labels when I comparison shopped for birdseed (safflower, at Lowe's, six pounds for nine dollars.) I have a picture of a bag of granular, insect repellent yard treatment, which I might research or purchase later. My phone holds a lovely portrait of a sunkissed compost tea brewer in front of the local organic market. A picture is worth, etc, and in a split second I can capture an idea or scrap of plant information, to dwell in my phone for whenever I want to retrieve it. I have an embarrassing number of pictures in my phone, and room for hundreds more.

Smartest of all is when my phone provides internet access. One day I came upon bare root roses at bare bones prices. Such temptation! But having been burned before by roses, I hardened my heart, hesitated, and had a flash of brilliance. I could view PlantFiles on my smarty pants phone, and see if those varieties were anything to go gaga over. They were NOT. After reading comments from other Dave's Gardeners, I passed by those cheap roses without regret. I saved myself a few dollars in initial cost, more in doomed remedies, and lots of gardener angst and disappointment over yet more rose failure. If I had this capability a few years earlier, I would have bought more of those 50-cent Montauk daisies, and less of the dollar 'Oriental Limelight' artemisia (what a thug!)  It can link me to Dave's Garden at almost any time. I need never buy a plant without a second opinion from a fellow gardener.

The internet doesn't stop at Dave's Garden. This week, while walking the aforementioned dog, I cut tree twigs and took them in my van. Then I examined them as I sat in a parking lot, waiting for one of the aforementioned teenagers. The handy twig key by Paul G. Davison from the University of North Alabama, was online and in my hand. Instead of listening to mindless music radio, I exercised my twig identification skills. Is there an app for that? I'm not sure; I have only just begun to browse through the many apps available on my smart phone. I'm tempted by one that would help me take notes about my own plants over time. It would complement my Dave's Garden Journal, while letting me takes notes right in the yard or garden. A database of plants is another tempting app. While I can't advise you on apps, the virtual market where I am shopping for them has user reviews attached. Maybe yours does too.

What else will turn up, when I double-dig the functions of my fancy phone? Portable and versatile, my phone is now my number one management tool, in the garden as in the rest of my daily life. How about keeping a calendar appointment to get my seeds planted on time? A note for when I applied fertlizer, and a reminder to apply more in two weeks? A weather forecast, as I stand in the back forty (feet) of the yard debating turning on the sprinkler? The versatlity and fun of using my smart phone are making it an everyday tool in all my gardening endeavors. I would never have hesitated on this new device if I had known it would not lure me away from the garden, but keep me happier in it.


  About Sally G. Miller  
Sally G. MillerSally grew up playing in the Maryland woods, and would still do it often if life allowed! Graduate of University of Maryland, her degree is in Agriculture. Gardens and natural areas give her endless opportunity for learning and wonder. Naturally (pun intended) her garden style leans towards the casual, and her cultural methods towards organic. She likes to try new plants, and have "some of everything" in her indoor and outdoor gardens. Thanks go to her parents for passing along their love of gardening and nature, and her husband and kids for being patient when she gets lost in the garden. Follow her on Google.

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Discussion about this article:
SubjectTopic StarterRepliesViewsLast Post
Handle with care sallyg 0 2 May 24, 2012 7:32 AM
Garden Apps for Smartphones MaureenL1 1 8 Feb 13, 2012 1:14 PM
Garden Apps for Smartphones-addtl info MaureenL1 0 5 Feb 12, 2012 5:54 PM
great article, iphone useful garden tool vossner 11 57 Feb 6, 2012 12:42 PM
Would love a review of Garden Apps amymsoh 1 14 Feb 6, 2012 5:35 AM
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