New Gardening App Unites Alaskans
The thought of incorporating another mobile app into your busy schedule might make your eyes glaze over like the skin atop a cold pudding, but a new one called Grow&Tell, designed by Alaskan Heidi Rader, will surely open them to an exciting new method of sharing details about garden and crop varieties that thrive.
Rader, project director and educator with UAF Cooperative Extension Service and Tanana Chiefs Conference, conceived of and created Grow&Tell for Alaskans but expanded its reach to include the entire nation. The app allows gardeners and farmers to rate vegetable varieties, record vegetable yield data and discover what others in their area are growing successfully based on parameters like location, taste, yield and ease of growth ratings. If enough revenue is generated, she envisions the app also capturing ratings on trees, shrubs, flowers, fruits and berries.
Rader, who won an Invent Alaska award in citizen science for the app, says that in a time of reduced state funding, this is a great way to recruit gardeners as citizen scientists. “Of course the variety trials wouldn’t be as rigorous as ones done at an experiment farm,” she said, but emphasized the benefits of a wider array of sources for a bird’s-eye view of what’s being planted where and how well it fares. Alaska’s two experimental farms—in Fairbanks and Palmer—have historically been the state’s primary sources for rigorous plant trials; information from those areas doesn’t necessarily translate accurately to our vast geographical differences such as a cold, dry Arctic plain and a warm, wet, coastal Southeast, not to mention the volcanic Aleutian islands.
Grow&Tell will, through ads for related events such as upcoming gardening workshops or conferences, also help keep the app free and remind people that the Cooperative Extension Service offers a wealth of knowledge.
Grow&Tell users can learn from others without creating a profile, but those who do set one up gain access to tools for rating varieties and recording planting and harvest data. Along with the benefits of sharing information, the app can also be used as a personal garden journal. Newbies hoping to avoid trial and error themselves can search the ratings for a particular crop and find the highest-rated varieties in a location or state.