Were gardening gadgets under your tree?

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By Cheryl Steenerson

Well, it’s here, the end of the year. There were moments when it seemed like it would never get here. Then time would speed up and we couldn’t believe it was December.
Life is time. Some days it’s a slow stroll, others it’s a sprint. But it’s always a marathon filled with memories along the way.
Remember picking that first tomato? Oh, then there was the first ear of sweet corn that tasted like candy in your mouth. That first big pot of green beans and new potatoes just got better with each passing day. Savor those moments. Keep them in you mind over the next few months.
It’s officially winter now and the good news is that daylight is getting longer with each passing day. That means we’re getting closer to gardening time every morning we wake up. The sun will come up a little earlier. Its rays will get a little brighter and our smiles will get a little bigger.
I’m hoping you all had a few smiles over the Christmas holidays. I sure did. If Santa brought you a little green that fits better in your wallet than in a pot, I’ve got a few ideas for spending it.
Technology plays a huge roll in our lives now, for better or worse. Though I’m a tree-hugging naturalist, I don’t shun the new stuff. Well, not all of it. Technology has its Ying and Yang, but its careful use in the garden can make a big improvement in your harvest.
Did you know that Black and Decker makes a simple sensor that you can stick into your soil, take a reading and then plug it into your computer to get a read out of the sunlight, temperature, soil nutrients and moisture? It’s called PlantSmart. You’ll never have to wait on a soil test again.
Those of you with a phone that does everything but flush the toilet will be happy to hear about several new apps available for less than $3 from iTunes. The Eden Garden Designer lets you take pictures and virtually add plants to design your own new garden beds.
The Bugs and Insects app brings up an entire data base, complete with color pictures, to help you learn the good bugs from the bad.  There’s even a Herbs+ app that gives you both the culinary and medicinal uses of herbs. How cool is that?
I finally have my very own digital camera and I can’t wait for the rain to quit so that I can go outside and take pictures of the farm. I can even shoot video and load it all onto my TV or computer. This winter, in the warmth of the house, I’m going to spend time looking at them and planning all the changes I want to make this spring, summer and fall.
I have a lot of mowing to do in the summer and some spots are easier than others to mow. I basically live on a hill and driving the mower up and down can get a little hairy at times. I thought I’d reduce a little mowing and add a lot of color by planting a perennial giant peace sign in one of the pain in the backside areas. I like to work smarter, not harder.
In the meantime, I’m cutting back my roses and asparagus fronds and spreading my wood stove ashes on the yard and garden beds. Staying physical over the winter isn’t tough to do here on the farm. Do as much as you can to stay in shape over the winter.
You’ll be happier and healthier and hopefully, we’ll all be around to say Happy New Year again, next year.
Now, break out that new calendar and the Sharpie. You don’t want to miss the countdown to spring in 80 days. Happy growing.

Cheryl Steenerson is a gardening columnist for The Anderson News.