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University of Illinois

High tech gifts for the gardener

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
November 19, 2012

Are you searching for the "perfect" gift for a gardener in your family? As Black Friday and Cyber Monday approach, here are some high tech garden gift ideas to consider.

"My favorite new garden resources are on my Smartphone and iPad," says Rhonda Ferree, University of Illinois Extension educator, horticulture. If you have an iPhone or Droid, you probably have access to these garden applications (called apps). Many are less than $5.00 and some are even free.

My droid smartphone serves me well when I'm looking for plants or diagnosing problems. A lighted magnifying lens app helps me look closer at possible insects or disease. The camera is a quick way to document plants I like. I often take pictures of landscape designs or flower combinations that I want to try.

I recently learned how to use my Smartphone to read those new barcodes showing up in magazines and on store products. It is simple to use. Simply open the app, hold the phone over the barcode, and it will automatically go to a website with more information about that product. However, to use this app you must have a data package or wireless internet capability on your phone.

My new iPad has proven extremely useful. The Audubon Wildflower Guide puts pictures and descriptions of common wildflowers in our area into a simple, searchable format that includes great color pictures. I use the Notes app to make shopping or to-do lists. With Evernote I was able to walk around my gardens and write down every plant and take pictures of my various garden rooms. I even recorded the sound of my water garden.

My favorite new iPad app is the Manual of Woody Landscape Plants by Dirr. This app is only available in apple format and costs more than $5.00, but is a must for the serious gardener.

If you are not into smartphones and iPads, there still might be a garden gadget for you. How about a weather station that records time, temperature, humidity, and moisture levels in your yard? Or a solar garden stake to give an added dimension to your garden?

If you miss fresh, homegrown herbs and vegetables during the winter, then a hydroponic growing system might be for you. The system grows plants in water and includes its own automated grow lights. It'll even give you nutrient and water reminders. I've never tried one, but I think I would love one (hint, hint).

Finally, I'd be remiss if I didn't plug our University of Illinois Extension online gardening resources. We have several award winning garden websites. I post and blog current information on my website, Facebook, and Twitter Pages at http://web.extension.illinois.edu/fmpt. We even offer our popular Master Gardener training class online, which begins in January each year.

Happy shopping! Oh, and if you are the gardener, cut out this article and leave it in an obvious spot for your loved one to see and get the hint!

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Source: Rhonda J. Ferree, Extension Educator, Horticulture & State Master Naturalist Coordinator, ferreer@illinois.edu

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