5 Helpful Apps for Your Spring Gardening

NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- Unless you're raised on gardening or live in a place with enough space and biodiversity to give you some experience, there's a strong chance your urban, produce-shopping hands will murder the flower boxes or raised beds you've resolved to tend this year.

See, you're just the kind of sucker that giant home centers such as Home Depot ( HD) and Lowe's ( LOW) see coming before you ever roll into the parking lot. They remember your kind from before the recession, when the Census Bureau said home and garden retailers took in $86.3 billion from March through May 2006. That take dropped $67.7 billion during the depths of the economic downturn in 2009, but the $73.9 billion worth of shovels, rakes, soil and saplings bought last spring were a sign of better things to come. It'll mean nothing but profit for them, however, if you just end up with a giant pile of compost and a bunch of bent, rusting garden tools.

Knowing just how daunting those seemingly simple garden chores can get, we'd recommend putting your mobile devices to good use and calling in some help. We browsed this year's app offerings and found a handful that can keep your garden growing and help even the least handy gardener keep things green and clean:

Garden Tracker
Available for: Apple ( AAPL) iPhone, iPad
Price: $1.99

If you're not particularly great at keeping tabs on a garden, this app will let you input you garden's dimensions up to 2,500 square feet, label the plants you've put there from a list of 65 kitchen plants and tell you how many of your plants will fit in each square foot of your garden. It will also tell you how to water your plants, what their ideal soil temperature and planting depth are and which plants should be kept away from others. It can also track when you planted your garden, the last time you watered and fertilized it and when you're likely to harvest. It's a great garden log book that also lets you know which pests to keep an eye out for and how to keep them from coming back.

Landscaper's Companion
Available for: iPhone, iPad and Google ( GOOG) Android
Price: $4.99

Every once in a while, there's going to be that moment when you look around your yard or garden, see a strange plant popping out of the soil and wonder to yourself just how it got there. Is it a perennial you didn't account for? Is it some volunteer laurel you need to uproot? Fortunately, Landscaper's Companion keeps track of more than 1,400 plants in 16 categories, including perennials, shrubs, annuals and houseplants. It'll let you know how much water and sun each needs, what temperatures they can survive and whether they're worth keeping. In case you're still second-guessing after all of that, there are nearly 6,000 photos to help you along.

Garden Plan Pro
Available for: iPad, iPhone or Mac
Price: $9.99

We'll admit, $9.99 is a bit steep for an app, but when you don't know when to plant something or when to harvest it, this app may be the only thing standing between your black thumb and a burn pile of dead plant life. Using data from more than 6,500 weather stations in 20 countries, Garden Plan Pro adapts to your climate, giving recommended planting and harvesting dates for your area. It can recommend an ideal garden layout, issue planting reminders and even offer bits of advice on how to get the most out of your plot. If something like this is all that's keeping your lifeless garden from becoming a great garden, consider the investment.

Rain Harvest
Available for: iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch
Price: Free

If you lived in one of the drier parts of the country during last year's record drought, you don't need much of a reminder of how precious a resource a little rain can be. If you're seriously considering making the most of whatever rain you get during this year's warm season, this free app can tell you just how much rain falls on your roof during a typical storm and how much of it can find its way into cisterns, rain barrels and other vessels that can be used to water your garden later on. Just calculate the number of catch points and start saving up that water for a not-so-rainy day.

The Plant Doctor
Available for: iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch and Google Android
Price: Free

WebMD for plants would sure come in handy for those among us who think the answer to every plant ailment is to water it until it loves you again. The Plant Doctor provides descriptions of 10 of the most common plant diseases, but also collects text and photos and sends them to a professional plant pathologist if the diagnosis is more complex. That pathologist identifies the disease, provides treatment options and will even recommend local plant experts who can help if the situation gets too dire. Your plant doesn't have to die of starvation because you don't know how to give it the appropriate amount of sunlight.

-- Written by Jason Notte in Boston.

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Jason Notte is a reporter for TheStreet. His writing has appeared in The New York Times, The Huffington Post, Esquire.com, Time Out New York, the Boston Herald, the Boston Phoenix, the Metro newspaper and the Colorado Springs Independent. He previously served as the political and global affairs editor for Metro U.S., layout editor for Boston Now, assistant news editor for the Herald News of West Paterson, N.J., editor of Go Out! Magazine in Hoboken, N.J., and copy editor and lifestyle editor at the Jersey Journal in Jersey City, N.J.

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