Upgrade Your Brown Thumb to Green

By Larry Rettig (LarryR) on November 22, 2010

I’ve been gardening for 55 years now, I know a thing or two about plant care, and I don’t need a fancy gadget to tell me what to do, thank you very much!

2010-11-20/LarryR/bfcdeehat was my initial reaction to an advertisement for something called PlantSense EasyBloom.  Even its name struck me as a tad odd.  Curiosity prevailed, however, so I set about to investigate this mysterious new garden tool that supposedly turns brown thumbs green.

Here is what I found.

Matthew Glenn, CEO of PlantSense, was sitting in a salon chair for a haircut one day in Los Gatos, California, when he had what he describes as a “light-bulb moment.”  “There were two plants in the [salon] window that looked like they were dying,’ he related.  “My hairdresser said she couldn’t get anything to grow there.”  He thought it odd, since it was a sunny window and any sun-loving plant growing there certainly wasn’t dying from lack of light.  How could he determine what the problem was?

Glenn was familiar with soil sensors that can sniff out a number of soil conditions, but he realized that that was not nearly enough information to grow a plant successfully.  As a gardener who had killed more than his fair share of plants, Glenn knew first-hand the frustration that accompanied a plant’s demise, to say nothing of the time and money spent in vain.

Then came the light-bulb moment.  His background in information technology, together with his creative bent, led him to develop an instrument that every home gardener could stick in the ground—or into a pot—next to a plant and determine not only the conditions of the soil, but a number of other conditions as well, including light intensity, temperature, and humidity.  For outdoor plants, growing zones, climate, and hourly weather were also worked into the equation.

But he didn’t stop there.  He wanted to marry his gadget with computer technology.  To get the project rolling, he partnered with David Wilkins, who became his chief technology officer in the new company, called PlantSense.  Together they assembled an impressively-credentialed team of experts, including the developer of soil-testing sensors that were aboard a flight to Mars as part of NASA’s Phoenix mission.

The end result is what appears to be a truly remarkable instrument called EasyBloom.  It’s 11 inches tall, 3.5 inches wide, and one inch thick. It weighs approximately one pound.  You simply stick it into the soil for 24 hours, take it out, pull it apart to expose a computer connection, and plug it into any available USB port on your computer.  The EasyBloom will upload its readings to a database containing more than 6,000 entries.  Algorithms developed by the EasyBloom team will produce a list of plants that will thrive in each spot you test.  You will learn what amendments, if any, need to be incorporated in the soil.  If a plant is ailing, you will learn precisely what the problem is and how to correct it.  There are step-by-step directions for plant care, pruning, and other gardening tips.  The database is continually updated to keep it current.



The PlantSense EasyBloom is currently the number-one-selling garden tool in the U.S. and sells for approximately $60.  It’s available at popular retailers such as Amazon.com, Burpee, and ThinkGeek.  (It seems to sell out quickly, so at any given time you may not be able to purchase it from one or more of these sites)  Access to the database is free. 

I’ve already put in a special request to my favorite Santa!

Endnote:  The information I’ve provided here was gathered from various sources.  While EasyBloom has, for the most part, gotten rave reviews, I’ll reserve final judgment on the usefulness of the data and other information it provides.  Once I’ve had a chance to give it a test drive in my gardens and on my windowsills, I’ll be back to report the results.  If you already have an EasyBloom, I’d love to hear from you!

About Larry Rettig
"An enthusiastic gardener for over 50 years, my first plant was a potted Ponderosa Lemon tree ordered from a comic book ad at age 15. I still have it, and it’s still bearing lemons! My wife and I garden on 3/4 of an acre, both flowers and vegetables. Our garden, named Cottage-in-the-Meadow Gardens, is private and is listed with the Smithsonian Institution in its Archives of American Gardens. It is also on the National Register of Historic Places. We garden organically and no-till. Our vegetable garden contains a seed bank of vegetables brought to this country from Germany in the mid-1800s by my ancestors. My latest book, Gardening the Amana Way, is available at Amazon.com.

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Comments and discussion:
Subject Thread Starter Last Reply Replies
Interesting concept Zanymuse Nov 26, 2010 10:33 PM 12
I'm Impressed! nap Nov 25, 2010 12:41 AM 1

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