P. Allen Smith's iPhone AppUPDATE: I just realized this app will be a free download. You can get it at the P. Allen Smith website and Bonnie Plants starting Wednesday (tomorrow).

I just got a sneak peak at a new iPhone app from the partnership of P. Allen Smith and Bonnie Plants and it kinda surprised me. Suffice it to say that there are many gardening apps available now and some of them really suck. To the point of containing errors and incomplete data from whatever source was being used for content. But Smith’s app isn’t that. It’s actually a nice little app that didn’t bite off more than it could chew; providing average everyday gardeners with a solid base of everyday plants AND some surprises that I didn’t expect to see.

A Well-Rounded Garden

Smith’s app contains growing information for 50 herbs and vegetables, 50 recipes using them, various garden projects and the ability to sort by season. While the app doesn’t contain thousands of plants, it makes up for it with a nice blend of tried and true plants, unique selections, recipes and garden projects—all linked together by Smith’s personality, at least somewhat. Even though the app isn’t written first person and doesn’t use Smith’s vernacular, it will still feel friendly and comforting to fans. It also contains lots of tidbits and how-tos that will appeal to those seeking more challenges. And each plant entry also has links to related recipes and projects.

The photography—while obviously from various sources—is all good quality. You can see what’s going on in almost every photo and can identify the plants that were previously unfamiliar to you.

This app is not meant to compete with the more in-depth horticultural apps like Botany Buddy but it is perfect for the everyday gardener looking for a usable blend of everyday herbs/veggies with a few more unique selections.

Surprise! Surprise! Surprise!

I was elated to find some not completely common vegetables and herbs mixed in with the everyday items. And ditto with the projects. Among my favorite more unique inclusions are:

Stevia Photo

  1. Stevia—Although it’s listed as Sweetleaf and you’d have to be curious enough to click on that to see that it’s Stevia, I was happy to see it represented. What with the FDA’s ‘issues’ with the plant until Cargill/Pepsico decided they liked it too.
  2. While there aren’t a lot of herbs, several choices are also unique: Flat-leaf Parsley instead of curly and Onion Chives instead of common chives.
  3. Rhubarb, Lemon Cucumber, Kale and Okra were also included among the romaine, spinach and pumpkins.
  4. My favorite projects included are Straw Bale Planters and Trash Can Compost Bin. Sure there are more attractive projects included but these two are decidedly outsiders and I’m glad Smith chose to include them.
  5. Arugula Pesto! Yep, an unusual take on pesto is included in the recipe file along with staples such as Dill Potato Salad and Pumpkin Bread. Other unusual recipes include Rhubarb Sherbet and Strawberry Pizza.

Sample Screenshots

I don’t think I’m giving too much away by showing just a few screenshots from the app. This will give you an idea of the depth of content and range of plants included:

Interface Design and Branding

This is the only area that needs improvement. I’ve seen the results of Smith’s work on his shows and am compelled to say that the design quality of this app is not up to par with the quality of his landscape design. You may ask, how can you compare graphic and landscape design when they’re two different mediums and my reply would be, “Martha gets it, why doesn’t everyone?”

I’d bet all my purple okra seedlings that what happened was Bonnie Plants footed the bill for developing this app, didn’t hire a graphic designer (allowing the programmer to design), and Smith had little oversight beyond the basic content of the plant and project sections. The app seems to rely heavily on cheap clip art making it look amateurish and of lesser value. I mean really, I’ve never seen crappy wooden planks like those on the menu used in Smith’s gardens. YES, I realize they’re ‘cartoons’, I’m not a total doofus. It’s just that the illustration style doesn’t fit Smith’s style nor Bonnie Plants.

And BTW, they need to use a different screen layout for the recipes so the ingredients are above the instructions. The recipes currently use the same template as the project section. (Note to designer: You need more leading between the headlines and the first paragraphs. The descenders from the headlines are crashing into the ascenders of the first paragraph in recipes and Latin names in plants. Basic design school stuff, should be second nature.)

Maybe version 2.0 will be improved?

Nice Version 1.0 App for Everyday Gardeners

This little app is a nice foundation that Bonnie Plants and Smith can grow from but I would encourage Bonnie Plants to:

  • Let Smith have more creative control.
  • Hire a designer or get a better one than you have.
  • Come to terms with how you’re co-branding with Smith. He adds value to your products, use him.
  • Add more content soon, this version will last maybe one season.
  • And for god’s sake, kill the committee that came up with the “Grow & Go Together” headline, it’s lame.

Everyday gardeners: this will be a handy little resource so don’t let its flaws keep you from downloading. There is a nice mix of common and uncommon throughout so there’s always something new to consider for your garden.