Green thumbs up


Mary Mary quite contrary, how does your garden grow? With silver bells and cockle shells, and pretty maids all in a row.

Today's answer to that old nursery rhyme question would probably include highly technical electronics and tools that are environmentally friendly.

Modern-day Marys have found an assortment of gadgets and products that simplify the gardening process and help make growing plants and vegetables virtually fool proof.

Among the innovative products recently released on the market is the EasyBloom by PlantSense.

"It's a really easy way to see what plants will grown in any location and what's wrong with your plants," said CEO Matthew Glenn. "It's a way to get a really good looking garden without a lot of trial and error."

The simple-to-use EasyBloom is a sensor that reads conditions of a location or plant during a 24-hour period. It can be used indoors or outdoors and is reusable.

After taking readings, the EasyBloom plugs into a computer via the USB port and offers suggestions to improve a plant's health or what will grow in that specific location. The suggestions are based on mathematical algorithms.

"There's a lot of big science to it, but it's packaged into something anybody can use."

Glenn said he got the idea for the EasyBloom one day while he was getting his hair cut. He saw two plants dying in the bay window, where they should have been flourishing and the stylist told him that it didn't matter what they placed there, the plant always died. He figured there should be something that would tell them what would grow in that location.

Admitting that he has killed his fair share of plants, Glenn said he couldn't find any type of product to help him. So, he began interviewing the botanists at the University of California, Davis, who used sensors and algorithms to optimize conditions in greenhouses.

"I know this sounds crazy, but most people who have gardens don't want to spend all their time gardening. They don't want to spend all their time out there digging up stuff that died," Glenn said.

By determining what will grow in each location, gardeners will save time and money.

Through the company's Web site, the Plant Doctor has step-by-step plant care, pruning, fertilization and gardening tips for more than 5,000 types of plants. The plant library also has the ability to keep track of your plant and garden conditions.

EasyBloom retails for $69.99.

Another no-hassle helper is the EarthBox. The boxy container efficiently and automatically controls the amount of water a plant receives. Just fill up the water reservoir every couple of days and the EarthBox does the rest.

Studies have shown that using the watering system doubles the yield of vegetables.

Each EarthBox Watering System contains all the necessary components to establish a constant water source for two boxes. The kit includes one regulator, two sensors with fill tubes, connectors, tubing and full set-up instructions.

The watering system sells for $49.95 and can be purchased at Plant World Nursery or directly from www.EarthBox.com.

Once the plants are flourishing, there will come a time when they will need to be trimmed. Environmentally conscious gardeners can now turn to the Eco-Trimmer by Lehr, which runs on propane.

Propane is an environmentally friendly fuel and more efficient than gasoline, said Bernardo Herzer, CEO of Lehr.

"About 17 million gallons of gasoline get spilled every season in people's lawns," he said, adding that each leaked gallon of gas will destroy 9 million gallons of aquifer water.

The gasoline-oil mixture that powers internal combustion engines traditionally found on small hand-held garden tools also releases ozone-depleating emissions.

Herzer said Lehr's lawn tools are not only better for the environment, they are easier to use and more reliable, as well. They utilize a fueling system that incorporates small propane canisters that can be purchased at most hardware, home improvement and sporting goods stores.

The canisters eliminate the need to prime the engine before starting it as well as mixing gas with oil and storing gasoline. They run cleaner and prevent the carburetor from getting gummed up.

Herzer said he learned about working with propane-powered engines while serving as captain of a research vessel in the North Sea. He developed the technology for small generators to run on clean-burning propane, eliminating the hazardous emissions produced by gas-powered generators.

"Most consumers say they don't really breath that stuff, but if they smell it, they are breathing it. What they are smelling are carcinogens," Herzer said.

The Eco-Trimmer was developed as an attachment-ready unit, meaning that attachments sold for other trimmers can be used with the Eco-Trimmer's power head, Herzer said.

Lehr products can be purchased at The Home Depot, Sears and other hardware retailers.

 

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