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Gimme, Gimme!

Cool things Metro Parent editors love and you gotta have
Jun 15, 2010
02:38 PM

EasyBloom Makes Child's Play of Gardening

This gardening gadget harnesses horticultural expertise, weather-tracking technology and more to help figure out what to plant in your family's yard – or home

EasyBloom Makes Child's Play of Gardening

With a locally grown movement in bloom, more families are thinking about starting – or expanding – a garden, whether in the yard or a windowsill container. The idea of growing a veggie plot may capture your fancy – or your kids may insist on getting every "pretty" flower they spot at the local nursery. But what are the odds this stuff will survive to harvest (or full flower) on home turf?

It's a problem that a savvy little contraption called EasyBloom Plant Sensor aims to solve. This tool's touted as "the first web-based gardening tool that recommends the best plants for any location," based on sunlight, moisture, temps and humidity – all while taking weather into account. That's thanks to creator PlantSense Inc.'s high-tech hookups, including gurus like the National Gardening Association and AccuWeather.com.

Sounds like a good concept – especially if, as its manufacturer notes, we Americans spend $60 billion on new plants each year, only to watch "a good percentage" whither and die. At about $60 ($49.95 at Amazon.com), this device is a bit of an investment. But if it can go green and save green, we're not opposed to the idea.

How it works

Let's have a look. The sensor sports a simple, durable design: Its slim white "body" pulls apart at the middle, concealing a USB drive (more on that in a sec). Green plastic prongs at the base slip easily into soil. To boot, it comes with three differed-colored "petal" topper options, giving it a fun '60s floral feel. There's also a little stand to help store it upright.

Next, the setup. PlantSense claims it's "easy enough for a child to use" – and I'm happy (and relieved) to report it's true. A quick, free registration and software download at EasyBloom.com gets you started. Once you're in, a "Dashboard" pops up, you plug in that USB and pick one of three tasks: Recommend Mode (suggestions for a specific spot), Monitor Mode (offering tabs – or S.O.S. alerts – for an existing plant) and Water Mode (which gives instant feedback on whether your plant needs a drink). You even get a chance to name your locale or plant, which keeps stats neatly organized.

Time to hit the dirt! Position EasyBloom in the pot or plot in question, indoors or out. Press the "Start/Stop" button, walk away and come back later (24 hours, to be exact). From that point, it's just a matter of synching the device back up with the site and getting your specs.

Testing it out

Now comes the fun part: The neat-o charts and oodles of recommendations from "plant's eye view."

Our family gave it a few tests (bonus: You can set up as many accounts as you'd like to a single unit, making it more cost-effective). My father-in-law scoped out new fiddle-leaf fig he set up in the master bedroom. He ran into a couple glitches with the big leaves blocking the sensor, but he figured out the sunny spot he'd chosen was a good fit. He's eager to try it in Monitor and Water modes; a little light flashes yellow when they need a douse.

My husband and I took EasyBloom outside, in two beds we'd just cleared out. Despite a nearby shed and neighborhood's tree, a back-corner patch checked-in at full sunlight – perfect for the salsa garden we're planning. At the very least, that boosted our confidence to commit to some vegetables. (Incidentally, it also handily weathered a downpour.)

But I can't lie: My favorite part was browsing the droves of "suggestions" (the database is 6,000 plants strong and growing – plenty for casual home gardeners). From perennials to annuals, herbs and flowers to trees and shrubs, there are hundreds of eye-popping choices. Just click on any to find specs on height, width, care, pests and more. We clicked "hearts" by plenty of cool-looking flowers, adding them to our "My Plants" list. I just wish regional details were included in the descriptions.

Still, whether your family's thumbs are green or brown, we think EasyBloom can give your budding garden a boost. We dig it!
 

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