Garden help in palm of your hand

By Marianne C. Ophardt, Special to the Tri-City Herald May 25, 2012 

KENNEWICK -- Gardeners embrace plants, nature and working in the soil.

It doesn't seem like the technical world of smartphones and computers would have much to offer gardeners.

However, smartphone apps, online seminars and QR codes can put gardening information at the touch of a mouse or in the palm of our hand.

Here are a just a few practical examples:

Watering webinar Tuesday

Coming up is a webinar about scheduling lawn and garden watering. I'm frequently asked how often and how long irrigation systems should be turned on. Frequency of watering depends on the type of soil, the amount of water a system puts out over a given time and the weather.

Dr. Troy Peters, Washington State University Extension irrigation specialist, is presenting a webinar about "Scheduling Lawn and Garden Watering on Your Smart Phone or Web Browser" at 7 p.m. Tuesday. Peters will share how to use a new irrigation scheduling tool that runs well on a smartphone or your computer's web browser.

Gardeners can attend this class without changing out of their gardening duds or leaving home. There is one catch, though: the system can only handle 100 participants, so don't be late.

To attend, go to, log in guest by 7 p.m. You'll need a broadband connection and a flash-enabled browser. To ensure that you can access the webinar, test your connection at

Online weather data

This new irrigation tool uses data from AgWeatherNet, WSU's network of almost 140 weather stations across the state.

Anyone with a computer has free access at You'll see a relief map of Washington with little flags representing each of the weather stations. Click on the station you want, and you'll get the temperature, relative humidity, wind speed and direction, total precipitation, soil temperature, and solar radiation.

Even without a handy app, this data is a great tool for gardeners needing to make decisions related to the weather.

QR codes in the garden

You've probably seen the steadily increasing presence of QR codes in magazines, newspaper ads and even on plant tags. These are black and white square boxes that look like blank crossword puzzles. To use these codes, you need a smartphone with a QR code reader app. When scaning the code, it will take you to a specific web page.

We're putting QR codes to work for you in the Master Gardener Demonstration Garden. Each theme garden has been labeled with a QR code attached to the garden's entry sign. After scanning the code with a smartphone, you'll be taken to a web page with an audio recording of a narrated tour of that garden. Sit down on the nearest bench and listen.

Why not visit the Demonstration Garden today and give it a try? The Master Gardener Demonstration Garden is part of Grange Park behind the Kennewick Library at 1620 S. Union St. in Kennewick.

* Marianne C. Ophardt is a horticulturist for Washington State University Benton County Extension.

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