Of all the garden toys I'm NOT interested in, I am LEAST interested in the little electronic gizmos that promise to send you a text message when your plant needs watering. Or a tweet. Some of them tweet. I'm sure that for a non-gardener, the idea of a little gadget that allows plants to send texts just sounds cute–but for the rest of us, it's just one more silly toy taking up space in the garden center that could otherwise be occupied by hyacinth bulbs.
This little EasyBloom gadget from Black & Decker is no exception. For $60, you get–well, this thing–which you can stick in your soil, and then, at the appropriate time, pull off the top to reveal the USB drive concealed within, stick it in your computer, and analyze the results. It claims to measure soil moisture, sunlight, temperature, and fertilizer, which it then mashes up with other data about weather and growing conditions in your zip code.
(The fertilizer thing raises questions immediately. On its website Black & Decker says this: "Our sensor measures bulk salts, providing a good indication of the amount of fertilizer in the soil," which suggests that it is measuring the amounts of chemical fertilizer in the soil so as to suggest adding more, but they don't elaborate on that.)
Armed with this information, the EasyBloom website will then suggest a plant you can put there from among a database of a thousand or so plants–the data supplied, of course, by Ball, Burpee, and other such companies.
Oh, and to get the fertilizer readings and a few other things costs $25/year–but basic readings are free.
All of which just sounds so sad and soul-deadening.
Except that I could not help but think how handy a light meter would be in the garden.
Say you just bought a new house and you're kind of in a hurry to get some plants in the ground, maybe because you dug them up and brought them with you from the old house. Wouldn't it be handy, in the midst of your crazy move, to stick a few light sensors in the ground and get some kind of accurate read on where the sunlight really hits?
Or say you're a garden designer. Dropping a few of these in a client's garden? Could be really helpful!
Of course, I'd want a year's worth of light level readings to tell me what happens when the sun drops down below that big tree across the street in winter and so forth.
And yes, I know, you can stand outside and squint up at the sky and use your general knowledge of the movement of celestial bodies to estimate where the light does and does not hit your garden for more than the 6 hours a day or whatever you're aiming for. Yes, I know, we don't need computers for any of that.
But still–if it wasn't so goofy and if it didn't cost $60–I think a light meter that captured this kind of data would be a fun toy to have. Assuming I'd already bought enough hyacinth bulbs for the year.