Category Archives: Gadgets & Stuff


Bear with me here as I describe a bit of plant-related technology.  A group of highly talented, and very clever artists, designers, and computer whizzes have developed and are marketing a product that monitors the soil condition of a potted plant, and alerts you when it needs watering.  Granted, this concept is not new.  But this product, which enables your parched plant to ring you up on the cell or send you a tweet, no matter where you are – I’m serious – is new to me, so perhaps it’s new to you as well.

Yes, your Baby Tears can cry onto your cell, during your lunch hour, “I’m dying of thirst.”  Your shade loving Mother-in-Law’s Tongue can interrupt an important meeting to berate your forgetfulness.  Your drooping seedlings might even concoct this:  Hello.  This is your tomato seedling calling.  You forgot to water me and my fellow seedlings again.  We can’t take this neglect any more.  As the Top Tomato, I’m representing our newly formed union, Tomatoes Against Underwatering (TAU).  Considering tau is a Greek symbol for life and resurrection, we agreed this is an appropriate name, as your disregard will soon rob us of both.  As TAU leader, I’m informing you that our union is making the following demand:  Water within the hour or you can kiss all thoughts of fresh picked tomatoes good by!

The Botanicalls collaborators seem to be gifted; quite frankly, I love their product name.  But, what the heck are they thinking?  To make this work – if you really want your plants calling/tweeting you, which is debatable – you must buy and assemble a kit.  It has over 30 parts, including a leaf-shaped mother-type board, a transistor, capacitors, switches, LEDs, sockets, and a voltage regulator, and assembly requires a soldering iron, solder, and a small collection of needle-nose pliers.  Once you properly complete this electrical feat, you get to install and test your mini computer, and set up cell/twitter alerts … all for a mere c-note, per kit.  One kit per plant.  But don’t worry, the website has a forum set up in case you have problems or questions.

Still don’t believe it?  Watch the hilarious, Saturday Night Live-esque videos on the Botanicalls website, they are worth a view.

I’d love to hear Louis Black wax comedic on this product.  Imagine, yourself as a high level exec.  Your firm’s profits are the latest to crumble in the economic downturn, but at least you have your comfy apartment to retreat to where you will find calm in the presence of your beloved plants.  Tweet: your dieffenbachia has dehydrated to near annihilation.  It’s a Friday afternoon and heavy traffic will delay its rescue for at least 3 hours.  S**t, might as well just step in front of a bus.

Comedy aside, why would one go to the time and expense required of this product?  Can’t you just notice a plant’s leaves drooping, or stick your finger in the soil, or – now here’s a novel concept – set up a watering schedule … say once a week?



Filed under Gadgets & Stuff, Gardening, General

Gardening Gadget

A product blurb in The Hartford Courant recently caught my skeptic gardener’s eye.  The blurb touted a gadget that will “take some of the guesswork out of gardening.”  For a mere $60 you get an EasyBloom plant sensor to place in the soil, indoors or out, that will measure sunlight, temperature, soil moisture, and humidity.  After 24 hours you plug the sensor into a computer to download results along with a list of plants that will “thrive” in that location.  I checked the company’s website where I had the pleasure of viewing an amateur and useless product video promo.  Still, there appear to be people who think this is a valuable product.  Other customers voice disappointment with the depth of the data and the plant database.


I applaud ingenuity and don’t automatically write off any new gardening gadget, but if I’m going to buy something I want to make sure of its value.  Regarding this product, I wonder why spend $60 to measure sunlight which you can see with your own eyes, and soil moisture, humidity, and temperature which all change daily and are also easily observed for free.  Even if the product’s list of plant recommendations is helpful, the Internet, or better yet your local garden center provides the same information – again for free.  And if you take your $60 to the local garden center you can come home with actual plants that thrive in your area.


But I’m willing to keep an open mind.  Has anyone used EasyBloom?  Are my cynical eyes missing something here?


Filed under Gadgets & Stuff, Gardening

Gardening Mama?

The proof is here – gardening has finally “made it.”


Not because we get to follow the progress of the First Garden and our First Lady actually getting down on her knees to help plant seedlings – go Michelle!  Not due to surveys suggesting a marked increase in home gardening.  Forget the fact that seed suppliers are busier than ever.


We can be sure that gardening is truly a hot topic because of this … Gardening Mama … a VIDEO game soon to be released for Nintendo.  That’s right … a video game purported to be about gardening – about Mama gardening – not Papa, not Kids, not even Grandma and Grandpa.


I don’t expect this game will provide in-depth, real-life information on how to grow tomatoes, and since I’ve not seen the game first hand I cannot judge how accurate or fun it might be.  Somehow, though, I don’t see it racing to the top of video fave lists.  I’m not a video game player, but I’ve raised a few male humans who are, and I suspect they would only laugh at the idea of playing this game.  But boys are not the targeted market, young girl’s are.


The New York Times quotes a producer with the company that makes the game as saying “We were looking for ways to take Mama out of the kitchen.”


So, Gardening Mama is a spin-off of Cooking Mama.


My blood pressure reaches new highs every time I think about these games – how they feed into stereotypes of Mama in the kitchen and, now, Mama in the garden, and don’t equally show men or kids doing the same things.  My kids would tell me ‘relax – these are just video games, they don’t reflect real life role models that are so much more important.’  And to a certain extent, this is correct.  Millions of kids, mine included, grew up playing Doom and other ‘violent’ video games without reverting to similar violent tactics in their every day lives.


But couldn’t the game makers devise Gardening Family or The Adventures of Cooking Family … or even a related series titled Gardening or Cooking Papa or Gardening or Cooking Kids?  Was it necessary to place Mama, but not a host of other family members, first in the kitchen and now in the garden?


Filed under Gadgets & Stuff, Gardening, Uncategorized