Taking Your Gardening Dollar

The EasyBloom Report, Part Two

For those of you just tuning in, you can read Part One here.

Let me begin by saying that I consider Black & Decker to be a perfectly fine company that makes loads of useful and cool-looking tools.  Nothing makes me feel more like a badass than firing up some kind of black and orange power tool and ripping away at whatever's in my way.  Doesn't happen very often, but when it does, it gives me a little thrill.

But here's the thing about the EasyBloom–which, by the way, is nowhere to be found on their website, but lives instead on its own separate, pastel-colored, vaguely bloggy-looking site that makes no mention of B&D—it just seems like something that came not from the fire-it-up-and-git-er-done tool maker that we know as Black & Decker, but from some consultant that was brought in to address the fears of the higher-ups who had heard that the world is changing, and that the company must change too, and meet the needs of those young folks with their interwebs and their tweets and what-have-you. 

These kids today!  They're not into gardening!  They're into eGardening!  Give them a USB-enabled device!  A website!  Social networking!  Handy eTips!  Let them upload their EasyBloom data to their Facebook page! Plug it into their iPhone!  That's what they want!

(And actually, according to this press release, B&D did not invent EasyBloom, but licensed it from its inventor.  Whatever.  A need was identified; that need was filled, the whole thing was probably hopelessly misdirected.  That's my point.)

Okay, so I've had one in my garden for a week, and here's my report:

First, the idea is that you put this thing in the ground for a while, it reads some light, moisture, and soil data, combines that with your location to calculate some other things, and produces plant recommendations. So for my location, the top choices included carrots, green ash, phlox, and something called devil's walking stick. Some of which I can buy! Right now!

Easybloom1

Let me tell you, by the way, about the area where I'd stuck the gadget.  It is a side yard, shaded for parts of the day as the sun is blocked by my neighbor's house to the east and then mine to the west.  Once the site of the annual part of my poison garden, it is, at the moment, a staging area where a few potted plants are cooling their jets while I decide what to do with them.

Okay, so the top plant choices for this side yard are a little silly, but then again, it didn't know the size of the area or what it might be suitable for.  I get that.  So here is the complete list of recommended plants–2584 in all!

Easybloom2

I think we can all agree at this point that suggesting 2584 plants to someone is about as useful as suggesting none at all.

And really, some of the plants on offer were completely insane choices for my Pacific Northwest garden (which, by the way, it knows is in the Pacific Northwest because I gave it my zip code) including many Southwest desert plants.

Okay, enough about that.  We all know how this goes: input some marginally useful zip code and climate data into a plant database, get a list of weird recommendations.  Not much of a surprise.

On to the specific readings it took of my garden:

Easybloom4
The soil's dry.  Okay, but we kind of knew that, what with the fact that I hadn't watered and all.  And if you really need to know about soil moisture, you'll buy a moisture meter, which can at least probe down to the root level instead of measuring just under the surface as EasyBloom does.  What else?

Easybloom5
Sunlight data.  Now, laugh all you want, but I actually think a light meter can be a useful thing in a garden. You might think a place gets half a day of sun, but when you really watch it, over time, you find out it's more like deep shade.  This could be useful information,and I could see professional gardeners using it to get a reading of a new site.  So really, a light meter that records and graphs light data could be cool. 

Easybloom6
Okay, next:  temperature data.  I do own a soil thermometer, and from time to time it is amusing to plunge it into the center of a hot compost pile or a chilly winter garden bed and take a reading.  Beyond that?  I don't need Black & Decker to tell me that it's moderately cool in Eureka.

Easybloom7

And finally, we come to my favorite part:  the fertilizer reading.  What do the magic sensors tell me?  Not enough fertilizer!  What to do?  Add some!  Depending on what you're planning to plant, that is.

Wow, that IS easy! Thanks, EasyBloom!

(If anyone at B&D is reading that last part and feeling puzzled:  for this to be useful information, we'd need more detailed nutrient readings, and, if the gadget's job is to provide information, it would need to explain exactly what to add to satisfy the alleged needs of various plants.  Assuming anything really did need to be added.  Does a sensor that reaches only a few inches belowground really measure soil fertility at the root zone? And what, exactly, is it measuring?  We don't know.)

So.  My report:  Light meter? Potentially cool.  Other stuff?  Not so much.  Paying $3 per month for access to the data gathered by the gadget I already paid over $50 for?  No, thanks.

My advice to Black & Decker?  Ignore the consultants who are telling you that your power tools need to be web-enabled, USB driven, socially networked, GPS uplinked toys to be useful.  Instead, continue making strong, well-designed tools.  Build them in the USA.  Make them from metal and other long-lasting materials. Make it possible to repair them and sharpent them. If you want to consider the fact that some of us have smaller hands and smaller stature, great.  Thanks. But apart from that?  Just make stuff that gets the job done.

That is all. 

Posted by on October 13, 2010 at 4:11 am, in the category Taking Your Gardening Dollar.
Comments are off for this post

29 Responses to “The EasyBloom Report, Part Two”

  1. Michele Owens says:

    I hate complicated pseudo-science in the garden, when common sense will do.

    Stick a finger in the soil. It will tell you a lot.

  2. commonweeder says:

    It wouldn’t take much commonsense to see that this gadget is totally worthless.

  3. The devil’s walking stick (Aralia spinosa) is a great plant with interesting features. A landscaper would call it coarse in texture. It has huge triply pinnate leaves with large inflorescences atop the stem. When the leaves are shed in the fall, they leave a bare, thorny stick. But it’s an eastern plant, so I have trouble with their recommending it for you. http://www.dendro.cnre.vt.edu/dendrology/syllabus/factsheet.cfm?ID=10

  4. lifeshighway says:

    I am not into garden gadgetry but I find gardening hard and heart breaking in my area. Therefore I could see these things selling like hot cakes to the poor transplants who move from more fertile areas to our difficult hot and clay covered climate. I see the poor hopeful things every spring buying beautiful plants that I know will not survive the summer.

    It is dorky enough looking to get my attention, though.

  5. shira says:

    A friend/colleague and I agreed that the only use for this tool (and I use that term loosely) is for getting rid of annoying clients who think they know more about gardening than you do!

  6. Lisa, Ontario says:

    I really enjoyed your recommendations to B & D at the end. Please make some actual quality products that can be repaired and sharpened, bravo.

  7. Kaviani says:

    I could possibly appreciate this if it had better nutrient analysis; specifically data beyond NPK. A pH reading would be great for my purposes, too, so I know when to reapply sulfur.

    I have absolutely no need for plant recommendations, though. My yard has its own ideas on how things should go.

    The monthly charge should be nonexistent as well given the price.

  8. The light meter is cool, I’d like one for house plants especially, but as for the rest? And especially that brilliantly useful fertility measurement! Wow. I wonder what it is actually recording? Maybe EC?

  9. Town Mouse says:

    This does feel like a gadget a husband might buy his wife for Christmas (please, no!) but not something even remotely useful in my garden. Great report!

  10. Tibs says:

    your last paragraph says it all.

  11. Dee says:

    Yeah! I’m going back outside to cut down a post with my Black and Decker Sawz All! Get one!

  12. trey says:

    My first reaction was like Michele’s, “stick your finger in the soil…” After a moment or two I realized that this type of thing is going to be big! Maybe not this particular device, but this technology is going to change horticulture. We sell a large number of $11.99 moisture meters/light meters/pH meters. They are very useful for people who just cannot trust their finger to tell them when water is needed.

    This technology is already being used to control water systems in commercial settings. I don’t like the plant recommendation aspect of the tool. Many of the plants recommended just won’t perform well here in nor Cal. It needs to be more localized.

    I could see how the local garden center could utilize something like this. We get people in all the time who try to describe their growing conditions and have a hard time doing so. I would rather see a chip that could be brought into the nursery and a reading taken here. The nursery could then make recommendation based on the information on the chip.

    Take it a step further and the nursery can keep track of your conditions via the internet. “Hi Mrs. Jones, it looks like your soil fertility has diminished and by adding this we can counteract that.” “Mr Smith, it appears that the area you said was full sun is actually dappled shade according to our readings…”

    Those of us that have been in horticulture forever often forget how mysterious all this stuff is. Soil fertility? Moisture needs? Dappled shade? Needless to say what I don’t like about this tool is it’s only available at Home Depot and Amazon.com

    Keep it local. Plant recommendations need to be localized. The technology is cool, it just needs to have a localized edge to it. Someone to talk to about what the readings mean.

  13. Hahahahahhahahahaaaa! Thanks for the laugh!

  14. shira says:

    It’s hard to tell from your screen shot – but does this give you any kind of reading re: fertilizer. Is it even possible for a sensor to get an NPK reading – or is it just measuring salts?

  15. Laura Bell says:

    Thanks, Amy. I hope B&D reads & takes to heart your recommendations. And I agree – a light meter that records & displays light patterns over time would be immensely useful. If I’d had one years ago, I might not have burned that poor camellia beyond recognition because the spot I’d chosen it for was “full sun” & not even close to “dappled”. And my daughter’s crape myrtle would be taller than she is (ten years after planting) because I would’ve had a clue that though it gets full sun in the morning, the rest of the day it’s in shade.

    But the remaining functions – meh. Rarely is my problem figuring out what the possible plant options are. More likely, the issue is “I want this plant. Where can I squeeze it in ?”

  16. Nice post. Just in from B&D: “You too can be a master gardener if you’ll only buy one of these “magical” gadgets!”

  17. anne says:

    Here (http://www.virtualvillage.com/3-in-1-moisture-ph-light-meter-soil-garden-tester-001490-014.html?utm_source=googlebase&utm_medium=shcomp) is a combination water/ph/light meter that costs $3.99. It doesn’t have a cute little daisy decorating it, and doesn’t hook up to your computer or suggest plants….but it seems functional for a lot less!

  18. carpetbag_garden says:

    I think Town Mouse is on it–this is something people will give to gardeners as gifts. It doesn’t matter if the gardener never uses it, B&D has already made it’s $49 from the sale.

  19. Laura Munoz says:

    I wouldn’t use it. In fact, I’m not sure it would even go down deep enough into my caliche to take a reading.

    I guess what would worry me most about using the Easy Bloom is that Black & Decker would sell my information to some other company, and I’d start receiving solicitations when the Easy Bloom readings weren’t optimal. Example: E-mail from Miracle Gro: “Your Easy Bloom readings show your soil is unfertile. Try Miracle Gro Soil Booster for all of your soil needs!!!!! Available at your local Home Depot. Only $10.99 with this $1.00 off coupon!”

    And I agree, if B & D would make quality tools of durable materials that last, I’d buy one in a heart beat. I went through TWO B & D weed-eaters (returned one) before switching to a brand that was tougher (cost more $$$) and was easy for a woman to use.

  20. Congratulations. You have gotten lots of spare time to write, observe and share.

    That is why I propagate my own plants, monitor for pests, have plant indicators for irrigation clues and so on ..

  21. carpetbag_garden says:

    It’s all about planned obsolescence. B&D isn’t going to make any money if people buy their tools only once because they last forever. They need tools that wear out or break every other year so that you keep giving them your $$.

  22. Frank Hyman says:

    Yep another tool, like landscape fabric and compost ‘starter’–the victory of marketing over utility.

  23. KennyS says:

    I’ve seen devil’s walking stick sending up new shoots through asphalt. Not roots displacing the asphalt but stems piercing it.

  24. Genevieve says:

    You know, I think Trey’s onto something. Make it less cheesy looking and enable it to send an email with the information to the local garden center.

    The garden centers could buy these, lend them out with a deposit, and when the customer brings it back in they could have ready a list of plants for staff to show people with the general climactic needs indicated by the test.

    It’d be more marketing than anything, but seriously – when I worked at a nursery you wouldn’t have believed the number of people who came in, couldn’t tell me what direction their front door was facing or whether it was generally shady or sunny, and expected that ever-elusive evergreen, ever-blooming plant that would perform well in horrible soil with no care and no pruning ever. I mean, I can suggest some bulletproof plants but at least give me the light available!

    This kind of thing would really help a lot of people out, and would sell a lot of plants for nurseries since the customer would feel confident the plants would be right(ish) for the spot.

  25. Paula says:

    It is nice to get an honest thought about a new product. So often, all you get is puffed up information. You have probably saved people alot of money. I am glad that I read your site because you have saved me alot of time and trouble.

  26. Kevin Hollis says:

    I have Aralia spinosa around my pond, it is all volunteer, B&D didn’t tell me to buy it, mother nature put it( and a cornus) there and I continue to appreciate her expert advice, what a fabulous native for Indiana gardeners to enjoy, from a respectful distance.

  27. Ben says:

    To each his own I guess. I have one and found it very useful. I’m also a really inexperienced gardener and had lawn care as a priority below my son, my job and our new house that needed a ton of remodel work. Just the reminder to water my roses was useful, and the monitoring of when to fertilize them was really great. Id love to be more naturally in touch with what our plants need, but as someone who had never been responsible for a garden before this year is was great.

  28. Gunny says:

    I like sticking to the basics. I try not to buy things that think for me. I find it easier this way. I hope that it will help others if, it really works in the first place.

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