Whether you’re an experienced gardener or a total newbie looking for a productive and satisfying backyard hobby, we know a secret weapon to help you develop a green thumb – technology! Yes, things like apps or YouTube videos or smart devices can help you polish your skills – or at least figure out what that weird looking bug is on your back patio.

Gardening is a great way to spend time outdoors, learn or develop a new skill, and spend time with children. It’s also a great way to supplement your family’s nutrition with organic, fresh produce, cut down on shopping trips, and save money while having fun. Today’s gardener knows that in addition to things like fertilizers, soil, and seeds, modern tools such as smart drip lines, apps and social media can help your garden thrive.

As we enjoy summer here in Galt and the surround Central Valley, here are a few fun ways to use technology as you play in the dirt:

Garden Answers App: One of the most popular apps for both Android and Apple users, Garden Answers lets you identify plants or flowers by simply taking a photo, identify disease or pest problems, and get expert advice on practically everything to do with gardening. (www.gardenanswers.com)

iNaturalist: This website and app (Apply and Android), iNaturalist contains information that’s incredibly useful for anyone interested in nature, on any level. Created jointly by the California Academy of Sciences and National Geographic, this free resource lets you take a photo and instantly ID plants, birds, and animals with assistance from other nature lovers. It’s a great tool to get kids interested in what goes on outside, too. (www.inaturalist.org)

Garden Journal: Like a pocket-size digital planner for your garden, Garden Journal helps you plan and track garden progress for those times when you can’t remember when you fertilized or last watered each plant. You can take photos, enter notes, record watering and feed schedules, diagnose problems, and even record how much you harvest each season to track your success. (gardenplanner.territorialseed.com/journal.aspx)

AeroGarden: If you don’t have the space or inclination to have a garden outdoors, technology has given us a way to bring the garden inside with tools like the AeroGarden. These handy devices allow you to grown lettuces, vegetables and herbs inside in an all-in-one container that includes auto reminders for water, plant food, LED grow lights, digital displays and more. (www.aerogarden.com/blog)

YouTube Gardening Channels: Take a break from digging in the dirt and sip a cup of relaxing tea while watching any of the many YouTube gardening experts and their informative videos. Here are a couple good ones to get you started: Garden Answer, California Gardening. There are videos for every kind of gardening and interest, so be sure to search around and you’re likely to find exactly what you need to inspire and entertain.