These Are the Best Free Gardening Apps

These Are the Best Free Gardening Apps

While one point of gardening is to be enjoying the great outdoors, using tech doesn’t take anything away from that. In fact, I’d argue it enables being outside, because you don’t have to be tethered to paperwork or books—all you need is on your phone or tablet. Although I had long embraced using spreadsheets for charting what I was planting in seed trays or Adobe Illustrator for mapping my garden beds, I was slower to embracing gardening apps. I had, somewhat naively, waited for “the one,” the app that would do everything, for while I’d happily pay for. What’s happened instead is that I use a variety of apps in small ways for almost every aspect of gardening, depending on what I need.

The best, free way to identify plants

It never fails to amuse me how many friends send me pictures of plants asking me to ID them, because usually, I have no idea what I’m looking at. In my own garden, I figure out what I’m looking at by using a plant ID app, and I benefit from Plantnet weekly. It has rarely disappointed me in being able to identify plants, even from a less-than-stellar picture, and immediately links to information about the plant. You can use it offline, too, so you don’t need service. 

ADHD-proof succession planting

Succession planting (or planting crops every few weeks so you have crops ready to harvest at various times instead of all at once) is a test of best intentions. Keeping track of when you should seed, when you should harvest, and then actually following through is a test for anyone, but I really struggle with it and need reminders to stay on track.  While Seedtime is advertised as a planting app to help manage your whole garden, and is incredibly popular, I really just use the succession planning aspect. While you could much of the same result using spreadsheets, Google Calendar and your own research, Seedtime does a lot of the legwork for you, plotting out a customized calendar based on the crops you want to grow. There are paid tiers, but you can remain on a free plan and get a lot of the functionality, including one planting calendar. Paid tiers will net you more functions to use Seedtime as a gardening journal (which is a great idea) and the ability to save more data from your gardens, like yields and germination rates. 

Eliminate crowdscaping

Almost every gardener I know grows or buys too many starts and then packs their beds too full. It’s easy to do when the plants are so small—the beds can look sparse at this point. Apps like Planter help you understand how much space each plant really needs, as they all grow to different sizes, and some grow vertically while others grow horizontally. To really get a sense of what you can pack into a particular bed, this is the app I use to help me come back down to earth and get real about spacing. Like Seedtime, Planter tries to be an app that does everything for your garden, so you can also use the growing calendar, but I think Seedtime does that aspect better, while Planter is better for planning your beds. Planter has plans that start about $US1/month, which is great, but you’ll get most of what you need on the free plan. 

Companion planting on the fly

Over time, you can learn what crops benefit from being planted together, and more importantly, which crops can’t be interplanted. While there are great charts to detail this, they’re hard to refer to while out in your garden. Instead, I use the Seed to Spoon app. I can quickly, from the garden, look up a specific vegetable or flower and get data on what to interplant and what to avoid, as well as a bunch of other growing info about a particular plant. There are some other features I like about this app, like the general reminders about what to plant now, or what to plant soon, on the home page, but mostly, I use this app as a reference library for interplanting. Seed to Spoon can be used for free, but you can upgrade for $US47 a year to get access to more features, like an AI garden chatbot. 

Take advantage of free online tools

While not an app, Johnny Seeds has a ton of free tools that you should use. I use the seed quantity calculator to figure out how many seeds or starts of a particular plant I should get based on the space I have. There’s also a seed planting scheduler that does many of the calculations for you based on frost dates. Take time to peruse the tool list for planning, growing and harvesting. Gardenate is a free online tool that will tell you what to grow in your zip code right now, and whether to direct sow or plant starts. 

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