With temperatures warming up, it’s time to get outdoor spaces in shape. Take the guesswork out of some aspects of growing healthy plants and flowers with these tools.

Much of creating a beautiful yard can seem like a guessing game. Am I watering too much or not enough? How do I stop whatever is eating my tulips? Is that a flower or a weed? When should I plant my garden? If these are questions you ask yourself on a regular basis, it may be time for tech to help you out.

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To get started, the online Kitchen Garden Planner helps you get the most harvest out of the square footage you have available. Choose from pre-planned gardens that are specific to a certain crop like asparagus or blueberries. It also has plans for garden genres like kid friendly veggies or everything you need for salsa or stir fry. There are actually three salsa gardens to choose from. The first is for salsa and tomato sauce which includes tomatoes, peppers, onions and herbs. The second is for salsa alone in a 2’ x 4’ area that offers tomatoes, peppers, scallions and herbs. The 2’ x 8’ plan adds garlic and onions with enough bounty to share or preserve. The 26 different plan options tell you what to plant where, how deep and when. Every plan has generous hints for care and then instructions for harvest. The ability to use the website to design your own garden is coming soon. 

If you didn’t use a garden planner, when flowers and plants start sprouting, you may not remember what is growing where. Or maybe you’re just curious about something growing out in nature. PlantNet is a website and free app for iOS and Android that can identify a plant from a picture. Upload up to four photos of a plant, find out what it is and then share your observations with the community. More than 37,000 species are already on the app and scientists analyze every photograph to better understand the evolution of plant biodiversity. Other similar apps to check out include, iNaturalist and LeafSnap.

Soil moisture meters can be a lifesaver when trying to figure out how often to water. Sometimes soil can look dry, but is actually very wet underneath and many people water when it isn’t necessary. There are gadgets for indoor and outdoor use and you’ll want more durable ones for outside. A very basic model like the Xlux Soil Moisture Meter is $12.99 and technically doesn’t measure moisture, but conductance. Water is a better conductor of electricity than air, which is how the meter tells you how dry the soil is. The display is easy to read, takes no batteries and gives an accurate reading immediately. Insert the meter into the soil and the dial will show red for dry, green for moist and blue for wet. There are more sophisticated soil moisture meters that can also measure light and pH if you so desire. Bluetooth options also allow users to sync information and get reminders on phones. But this analog, inexpensive device serves it purpose. This is one time where ‘going smart’ isn’t necessarily the best option for most people. Most of these probes aren’t meant to stay in the soil where they’d eventually rust and degrade. Take it out and clean it off after receiving a reading and move on to the next plant.

If you have a problem with critters eating your vegetables or flowers, or digging up things you’ve planted, it may be time to take action. While gardeners can always use traps or chemicals to get rid of animals, the Havahart Critter Ridder Motion-Activated Animal Repellent & Sprinkler claims to be an effective, humane way to frighten them away. The $52.49 device hooks up to a hose and uses an infrared sensor to detect motion day and night. When a critter comes near, the device shoots bursts of water for about five seconds to scare them away. The device has four sensitivity settings and can detect motion up to 100 feet. Users can also adjust the range of spray up to 35 feet and can opt to use it as a normal sprinkler as well. Havahart says this device is best used for everything from birds, raccoons and cats to deer, dogs and groundhogs.

Unless you were born with a green thumb, it can take a lot of research and trail and error before learning how to make your yard a showstopper. But these gadgets, websites and apps can act as a great start to getting on the right garden path.