Commentary

Spring Gardening Gadgets: When Technology Kills Instinct

The Easy Bloom tells you what plants will thrive. i

After 24 hours, the EasyBloom tells you what plants will thrive where you've put it.  Courtesy Easy Bloom hide caption

itoggle caption Courtesy Easy Bloom
The Easy Bloom tells you what plants will thrive.

After 24 hours, the EasyBloom tells you what plants will thrive where you've put it. 

Courtesy Easy Bloom

I didn't quite get into gardening until I moved to Washington, D.C. The house we bought came with a luscious garden that felt too precious to ignore. So, I pruned and fed and watered. I also asked around to see if anyone could figure out what that plant was with the delicate white flowers that smelled like spring. 

The more I got into it, the more little tools I bought. Last spring, I bought a soil tester that told me my Gardenias were yellowing because my soil wasn't acidic enough. 

Then, as I started planning for this spring, the techie in me got rolling. I looked into the EasyBloom Plant Sensor and the Fertile Earth WaterStiK and the Hydrofarm Germination Station. One of them you stick in the ground, let sit for 24 hours, then plug it into your computer and it brings up plants that will love that space. The Germination Station comes with a heated mat so your seedlings will grow up in the most hospitable of environments. And WaterStik? There's no more looking at the leaves to find out if your plant is parched. No, you just press a button and a light tells you whether to water. 

At some point, I had every intent to buy all these things. Then I thought: At what point is reliance on technology cheating? You know like saying you baked a carrot cake, when you really made it from a box.

Here's the thing: In world that's increasingly virtual, gardening is one of those few things in life whose basics still remain.

Sun. Soil. Water.

It's one of the few things that gives you tangible fruits from manual labor.

It's also one of those things that's driven by experience, because no matter how much you read up on the net, the conditions in your backyard will inevitably be different. 

So the more I thought about those gardening gadgets, the more I was reminded of the lady I buy my flowers from. She's tall with long, white hair and always wears a straw gardening hat. She has to be in her '70s and knows with a certainty I've rarely encountered which plant is best suited for each person and each garden.

Last year, just at the beginning of winter, I saw her at the monastery near my house. She was wearing a sun hat and no jacket. I saw her deadheading roses, twisting the top of thorny, dead flowers with her bare hands. 

I use gloves; I use garden shears; I was impressed. But more than anything, it was that scene that made me walk away from those gardening gadgets. Sometimes, I thought, technology complicates. Sometimes technology takes instinct out of the equation. Sometimes, it's just better to dig in and get dirty. 

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