The mixed results out in my upper vegetable garden and in the new planters on three sides of my house are proof that I got just a little too cocky in 2008 as I raced to landscape my house following a remodel/addition project that took forever and a month.
When it comes to landscaping, my choices in plants and flowers are down right plebian; I like simple colors that highlight the lines of my house but which don’t interfere with the views outside the picture window in my living room or office
Unfortunately for me, not all of the plants I buried in the planters along the foundation of my house have thrived. In fact by September I noticed that I had three “dead” spaces in my planters that seemed to suck the life out of whatever flower I planted.
Although I blog primarily about my two vegetable gardens, I’m no stranger to flowers. In fact two of the things I’m most proud of here are the 27 hybrid tea roses in a dedicated space in front of my office, and the 90-plus cymbidium orchids in their individual pots along my house’s foundation in the back yard. The roses and orchids grow very well, and I think I have that part of my gardening skills down pat.
It’s those damn dead spots in the planters and my intermittent success with the common potato that makes me crazy.
I’ve spent hours on the Internet, researching flowering plants that thrive in my little part of Escondido and made countless trips to my local nursery trying to find flowers that will grow here.
My use of a computer as a horticulture aid has thus far been limited to finding and reading material relevant to my personal interests and the development of a simple spreadsheet to record basic information on my garden and the performance or success of various cultivars.
Until very recently there has been almost no inexpensive computer accessories designed for gardeners. But that’s changed with the introduction of a USB-based device called easyBloom. I’ve used the easyBloom probe and software for the last three weeks; testing 18 spots in my various gardens and planters and come away with simple recommendations generated by it that will help me grow better vegetables and more productive flower beds. EasyBloom also pinpointed what was wrong in the three dead spots in my flower beds—insufficient sunlight and irregular watering.
EasyBloom is one of the best tools for gardeners I’ve ever seen. It consists of a USB-based device that measures sunlight, water and other parameters and a bifurcated spade-shaped probe that attaches to the device that takes similar readings when it’s connected to the USB device and plunged into the soil.
What makes EasyBloom invaluable is its website-based plant database. You fill in your zip code and it downloads recommendations for your specific USDA zone. Then you select what species of plants and flowers you want to grow, and it matches the information collected over a 24-hour monitoring period against the information that’s been downloaded. I particularly liked the fact that I could use EasyBloom to make suggestions by criteria such as variety (cultivars) or size.
EasyBloom’s user interface is designed for gardeners, not computer scientists. One of the few shortcomings I encountered was a lack of soil chemistry readings. The more I learn about vegetable gardening, the more I realize how important it is to build balanced soils that support specific ph ranges and which have adequate quantities of nitrogen, potassium, phosphorous as well as trace minerals. I’ve found this USB-based gardening accessory to be an excellent compliment to the inexpensive disposable soil chemistry analysis kits I buy two or three times a year at my local Home Depot.
EasyBloom is the first computer gardening peripheral I’ve seen that is a “must have”. I recommend it and think it would make a great Christmas gift for the vegetable or flower gardener in your life. It costs $59.95 from www.Easybloom.com, and it can be reused often throughout the year, for indoor and outdoor plants.
I now have a much better understanding of my flower beds and what and where I should plant specific flowers.
As for my vegetable garden, following EasyBloom’s recommendations I’m going to plant heirloom tomatoes where I thought I would plant potatoes and, this tool also found what I think is just the right location for nextyear's cantaloupes crop --which is at the opposite corner of where I rmally plant vines that produce melons. Now if only EasyBloom came with an option that killed the damn marauding voles that continue to ravage my vegetable beds. I give easyBloom two big green thumbs up.—Jim “Farmer” Forbes 11/26/2008.