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Gadgets to help your garden grow

July 23, 2009 12:00:00 AM PDT
You may want to put away your rake and traditional potting soil. There are plant sensors, easy composters and more that will help change that brown thumb of yours to a green one.Gardener Lara Graham loves to stop and smell the roses.

"I just have always liked being outside. I like the interplay of the different colors and the different textures," said Graham.

Lara shovels and weeds by hand, but you can now find gadgets that promise to help cultivate your green thumb.

Dan Ackerman with CNET.com says the gadgets do everything from create fresh fertilizer to predict what plants you should grow.

"If you use some of these gardening gadgets, you might be able to get your garden going a little bit faster without all that trial and error," said Ackerman.

One gadget is the EasyBloom plant sensor. Plug it in your soil and let it sit for 24 hours. It checks things like humidity, temperature and moisture.

"There's a USB connector right there. You just plug that right into your computer and it takes you to the EasyBloom Web site where it uploads your data, analyzes it and gives you a report on what the things you should be growing are," said Ackerman.

We gave the EasyBloom to lifestyle and gardening expert Mar Jennings. He says it's like having a direct line to Mother Nature.

"Whether you're a novice gardener or advanced gardener, this is perfect for whoever is interested in getting the best results the first time around," said Jennings.

Another gadget is the First Alert brand weather station. It gives you a digital read out of things like time and temperature, which is perfect for indoor gardens.

"If you have an outdoor garden, you can take this remote sensor, stick it out wherever your garden is and it transmits that temperature over here to this base station," said Ackerman.

You can also give your greens some vitamins and nutrients with the NatureMill composting device. Simply place old food in the top compartment.

"And then over the course of the next two weeks, it's going to add moisture and heat and eventually filter down rich compost that you can use for your garden," said Ackerman.

Jennings calls the compost "black gold."

Finally, there is the Prepara Power Plant Mini for sprouting plants indoors. Pop off the top and sprinkle seeds on this sponge. Then, add some water and place the lid back on.

"What it does is it circulates the water and heat and it comes up into the seeds, re-circulates it, and your plants grow," said Ackerman.

While these gadgets are fairly easy to use, Jennings says it's important to figure out what's best for you. Lara Graham is interested in trying some, but still likes to do things the old fashioned way.

"I kind of wander around and say, 'Oh gosh. You know, look, this one has got a few new blooms. I should maybe give him a little more water,'" said Graham.

The gadgets range in price anywhere from $13 to more than $300.

The following products were featured in this report:

  • EasyBloom Plant Sensor: $59.95 on Amazon.com, $79.95 on hammacher.com.
  • First Alert Brand Weather Station: $39.99 on Amazon.com.
  • NatureMill Automatic Indoor Compost Tumbler: $299 for the Plus Edition, $399 for the PRO Edition at naturemill.com.
  • Prepara Power Plant Mini: $39.95 each at perpara.com.

Mar Jennings's Top Five Gardening Tips

  • "Gardening makes great neighbors." Consider sharing property with your next door neighbor and creating a beautiful environment for the both of you to enjoy.
  • When you're at your gardening center or nursery, don't think you have to buy something that has a bloom on it. If you see a plant without a bloom, go ahead and ask the manager for a discount. Mar has seen anywhere between 25 percent and 45 percent knocked off the price.
  • Instead of putting chemicals on your lawn, think about going green. There are some great alternatives out there, like Stepables.
  • When you see a weed, pick the weed. Don't let it become totally crazy.
  • Keep in mind that your garden is all about you. Enjoying it is important, especially during the summer months. Make sure that you can enjoy it during the day and at night. Compliment it with outdoor lighting that highlights the different areas of your garden.

For more information from Mar Jennings, visit his Web site, www.marjennings.com.

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