Gardening in the digital age—is it 2.0, 3.0, or maybe 3.5? It depends. If you count all the websites, blogs, and social media about gardening, then I suppose there has been considerable progress. If we’re talking about digital garden planning and implementation, that’s different.
Garden-related computer software and mobile apps interest me—up to a point. I have to give Amy credit for having the patience to try out the EasyBloom plant sensor; I gave mine away to a tech writer who’s just starting a garden and makes his living writing about gadgets, devices, apps, websites, and the like. He’s excited about trying it.
QR (quick response) codes on plant tags have a lot of people excited in the nursery and garden center industries. All Proven Winner plants will have QR codes in 2011, and they are only one of the big brands who are using them. QR code usefulness depends on a lot of things—first, where will the code take you? If it’s a place where there’s useful information, fine. If it’s an empty sales pitch or cutesy video, not quite as great. Context is also important; in a big garden center, these codes can lead you to a knowledge base not available in person. In a smaller, hands-on place, there might be better help available in person. I’ll be aiming my device at these tags for fun, mainly—but for a plant newbie more at home with a touchpad than a trowel, the QR codes might help make sense of it all.
At first, I was really excited about the idea of having dozens of gardening apps on my iPhone. But here’s another area where the idea of it is more exciting than actually using one. After having dropped my iphone on the flagstones several times, replaced one screen, and learned to live with the current small crack in the bottom until I move up to the 5g, I am becoming less enthusiastic about using the thing outside. It looks like I might have to encase it in something like one of those rubber balls you use if you want to throw yourself over the Falls.
But even if I did want to use an app—carefully—the how-to and what-to ones aren’t any more helpful, really, than a good book would be. And—clearly—books hold up better to the hazards of outdoor life than iphones do.
I do anxiously await a truly interactive and fully functional plant ID app. We still lack guides that will identify from your photo, but the florafolio and Audubon wildflower apps (Audubon soon to be available), and the Dirr Tree and Shrub finder are the next best thing. And for finding gardens, anyone with time to kill in the Big Apple needs to try the Gardenspace NYC app, a portable tour of all the city’s green spaces.
It's to be hoped that the digital world holds more revelatory tools for gardeners (and plant lovers) in the future.