For those of you just tuning in, you can read Part One here.
Let me begin by saying that I consider Black & Decker to be a perfectly fine company that makes loads of useful and cool-looking tools. Nothing makes me feel more like a badass than firing up some kind of black and orange power tool and ripping away at whatever's in my way. Doesn't happen very often, but when it does, it gives me a little thrill.
But here's the thing about the EasyBloom–which, by the way, is nowhere to be found on their website, but lives instead on its own separate, pastel-colored, vaguely bloggy-looking site that makes no mention of B&D—it just seems like something that came not from the fire-it-up-and-git-er-done tool maker that we know as Black & Decker, but from some consultant that was brought in to address the fears of the higher-ups who had heard that the world is changing, and that the company must change too, and meet the needs of those young folks with their interwebs and their tweets and what-have-you.
These kids today! They're not into gardening! They're into eGardening! Give them a USB-enabled device! A website! Social networking! Handy eTips! Let them upload their EasyBloom data to their Facebook page! Plug it into their iPhone! That's what they want!
(And actually, according to this press release, B&D did not invent EasyBloom, but licensed it from its inventor. Whatever. A need was identified; that need was filled, the whole thing was probably hopelessly misdirected. That's my point.)
Okay, so I've had one in my garden for a week, and here's my report:
First, the idea is that you put this thing in the ground for a while, it reads some light, moisture, and soil data, combines that with your location to calculate some other things, and produces plant recommendations. So for my location, the top choices included carrots, green ash, phlox, and something called devil's walking stick. Some of which I can buy! Right now!
Let me tell you, by the way, about the area where I'd stuck the gadget. It is a side yard, shaded for parts of the day as the sun is blocked by my neighbor's house to the east and then mine to the west. Once the site of the annual part of my poison garden, it is, at the moment, a staging area where a few potted plants are cooling their jets while I decide what to do with them.
Okay, so the top plant choices for this side yard are a little silly, but then again, it didn't know the size of the area or what it might be suitable for. I get that. So here is the complete list of recommended plants–2584 in all!
I think we can all agree at this point that suggesting 2584 plants to someone is about as useful as suggesting none at all.
And really, some of the plants on offer were completely insane choices for my Pacific Northwest garden (which, by the way, it knows is in the Pacific Northwest because I gave it my zip code) including many Southwest desert plants.
Okay, enough about that. We all know how this goes: input some marginally useful zip code and climate data into a plant database, get a list of weird recommendations. Not much of a surprise.
On to the specific readings it took of my garden:
The soil's dry. Okay, but we kind of knew that, what with the fact that I hadn't watered and all. And if you really need to know about soil moisture, you'll buy a moisture meter, which can at least probe down to the root level instead of measuring just under the surface as EasyBloom does. What else?
Sunlight data. Now, laugh all you want, but I actually think a light meter can be a useful thing in a garden. You might think a place gets half a day of sun, but when you really watch it, over time, you find out it's more like deep shade. This could be useful information,and I could see professional gardeners using it to get a reading of a new site. So really, a light meter that records and graphs light data could be cool.
Okay, next: temperature data. I do own a soil thermometer, and from time to time it is amusing to plunge it into the center of a hot compost pile or a chilly winter garden bed and take a reading. Beyond that? I don't need Black & Decker to tell me that it's moderately cool in Eureka.
And finally, we come to my favorite part: the fertilizer reading. What do the magic sensors tell me? Not enough fertilizer! What to do? Add some! Depending on what you're planning to plant, that is.
Wow, that IS easy! Thanks, EasyBloom!
(If anyone at B&D is reading that last part and feeling puzzled: for this to be useful information, we'd need more detailed nutrient readings, and, if the gadget's job is to provide information, it would need to explain exactly what to add to satisfy the alleged needs of various plants. Assuming anything really did need to be added. Does a sensor that reaches only a few inches belowground really measure soil fertility at the root zone? And what, exactly, is it measuring? We don't know.)
So. My report: Light meter? Potentially cool. Other stuff? Not so much. Paying $3 per month for access to the data gathered by the gadget I already paid over $50 for? No, thanks.
My advice to Black & Decker? Ignore the consultants who are telling you that your power tools need to be web-enabled, USB driven, socially networked, GPS uplinked toys to be useful. Instead, continue making strong, well-designed tools. Build them in the USA. Make them from metal and other long-lasting materials. Make it possible to repair them and sharpent them. If you want to consider the fact that some of us have smaller hands and smaller stature, great. Thanks. But apart from that? Just make stuff that gets the job done.
That is all.