Time for our next gardening trend of 2014: Fingertip Gardens. It's all about gardening using high tech with mobile apps and technology.
It seems that every day I hear about a new garden-related app for smart phones and tablets. I post many of these on my gardening app Pinterest bulletin board at http://www.pinterest.com/ilriverhort.
The ones I use most frequently are on plant and animal identification. Instead of toting along a bag full of field guides, it is much more convenient to pull out my small phone while hiking. Four of my favorites are Dirr's Tree and Shrub Finder, Merlin Bird ID, and Audubon Guides, and ID Weeds.
Dirr's Tree and Shrub Finder is basically Dr. Michael Dirr's entire Manual of Woody Landscape Plants in digital form. It includes pictures and descriptions of 1670 species and 7800 cultivars. The plant database is searchable by 72 criteria, including hardiness zones, water and light requirements, growth characteristics, flowers, fruits, and fall colors. It is currently only available in Apple format, however.
Merlin Bird ID by Cornell Lab of Ornithology is compatible with Android and Apple devices. This app asks you a few simple questions and creates a list of birds that best match your description. There are photos, sounds, and ID tips for every bird.
If you like using the Audubon field guides, they are also available in digital format. Compatible with Android and Apple, there are guides for insects, wildflowers, trees, butterflies, and more. They include great pictures and descriptions, as well as animal sounds. They even let you create your own life lists to record your sightings. The only downside of these is that they use a lot of device memory.
ID Weeds is from the University of Missouri and s allows you to search for weeds by their common or latin name, view a list of weeds, or identify weeds based upon a number of different characteristics. Details about each weed are presented, along with photograph(s) of the weed specified. It is a very nice free app.
If you don't own a smart device you can still do fingertip gardening using other types of technology. In fact, most of you probably already do this if you have solar landscape lights, weather stations, or watch YouTube videos about gardening.
I particularly like some of my "high-tech" plant containers. My Aerogarden grows herbs, flowers, or greens all year long in my kitchen in a self-contained hydroponic system, complete with its own lights. It even tells me when to feed and water it.
As we approach the holiday season remember that these would make great gifts for your favorite fingertip gardener!