Ask, and ye shall receive.
I wrote in a column in The Sun on my favorite garden tools that I was itching to try the EasyBloom Plant Sensor. Stick it in the ground, come back 24 hours later, plug it into a USB port on your computer and you get a list of plants best suited to that location.
But at $60, it seemed too rich for my blood.
Well, that column came to the attention of the EasyBloom people and they sent me one to test.
I need to know what I can put in place of my astilbe, which keep dying and leaving a big bare spot in my shade garden.
But the shade garden isn't shaded yet - the giant linden tree hasn't leafed out - and part of what the sensor records is sunlight.
So I passed the EasyBloom off to my friend Betsy, who is putting in a new bed under a towering pine tree. She has shade issues and acid issues and, probably, drought issues. I figured Betsy would give the EasyBloom a good workout.
Here's her report.
"Pretty impressive. When I plugged in my sensor, it uploaded the information in less than a nanosecond - and my computer is slow. The information is dated, in this case, April 16-17 and it showed the starting time, which was not completely accurate - I put it in an hour earlier than it registered. The end time of 7:15 was about an hour earlier than I took it out.
"There are five choices of things to look at: Top Recommendations, All Recommendations, Plant's View, Edit Information, and Notes.
"On the Plant's View page, there are four graphs: soil moisture, temperature, sunlight, and humidity. Each records data every 2 to 3 1/2 hours and in addition to the graph, which is very readable, there is a brief written summary. The only one that didn't register for me was the soil moisture graph- it said 'indeterminate.'
"The temperature graph showed no sunlight from sunset to sunlight, obviously, and during the day the graph was pretty steady at around medium sunlight. The conclusion: 2-4 hours of direct light = partial shade.
"The temperature graph conclusion was: 'From April 16 to April 17, your average daily temperature was 60°F and your average nightly temperature was 42°F.'
"The humidity graph was pretty steady between moderate and humid and the conclusion was 'optimal.'
"Now for the top recommendations, which were shown with pictures and short explanations of why they do well in my type of garden:
- bush violet (browalia)
- red nerve plant (fittonia)
- common zinnia
- sweet alyssum
- spiny bear's breeches
- cast iron plant (aspidistra)- well nobody can kill those!
- glossy abelia
"You can see that some are annuals and some perennials and some are vegetables. Here is an example of the info that accompanied one of the listings:
"'Although it is an annual, Browallia does well in in shady areas, and is native to the woodlands of northern South America and the West Indies. These flowers make good houseplants.'
Many of the listings show several pictures that you can scroll through -- different landscapes, close-ups, etc. However, some of these top recommendations include descriptions like: grows best in full sun?!
"The list of all recommendations actually lists 2800 +/- and some of those are actuallly listed as being more suitable than some of the top recommendations. But in this list, you can search for specific ideas, based on color, peak bloom times, height, special features(e.g. attracts birds, deer resistant, etc), shape of leaves, etc.
"You can keep good records in this and it gives lots of information. I think that, as with most things, once you have used it a few times, you get familiar with its good and bad points, but it is definitely something that could be useful to a beginning gardener like me."