These days, people depend on the internet as their connection to the world. You can get minute-by-minute news updates, check up on old friends, mindlessly scroll through social media feeds, or watch cute animal videos. But the freedom of the web comes at a cost — heavier in some states than others.
What’s the opposite of a green thumb?
Whatever it is, I have that. My house and yard are full of succulents not because they’re trendy, but because anything else I try to plant dies within a month. When I turn to Google to figure out why my zucchini plant randomly turned white and fell over (did I over water it? Under water it? Plant it on the wrong side of my house? Look at it the wrong way too many times?), I fall into a rabbit hole of forum posts with a million different answers, get overwhelmed, and go back to buying my zucchini from the store like a chump.
Avalow, a company presenting in the TechCrunch Disrupt SF Startup Battlefield today, wants to help would-be gardeners like myself with a solution that’s 50% hardware and 50% online coaching.
Unlike most of the hardware that hits the stage at Disrupt, you don’t plug Avalon’s hardware into anything. There’s no Bluetooth, WiFi, batteries, or robotic arms involved.
Instead, they’ve built a self-watering, sub-irrigation-based, raised planter bed. You fill a water reservoir about once a week, and your plants pull up water through the soil by way of capillary action. By letting the plants pull up just the water they need, the company says their planter requires about 30x less water than top-down gardening might.
Their planter costs $400, which might seem a bit wild to anyone who’s used to growing things at the cost of digging a hole in the ground. For comparison, a basic, all-wood raised planter box of similar dimensions (without the self-watering reservoir) would cost you $50-$150 from a big box store. Avalow’s bed is built to last — the company says it should hold up for at least 25 years, though some parts like the self-watering system’s wicks should be replaced every 5 years or so. It’s also insulated to keep your plant’s roots safe through weather hot and cold.
The company’s founders tell me they’ve shipped about 400 units so far during its pre-launch pilot program.
But there’s a bit more to Avalow than a fancy planter. That feeling of disappointment that comes when you go out to check your plants and find that, after 5 weeks of careful watering and care, your little plant friend has suddenly dropped dead? They want to help you avoid it — and if something does go wrong, help you figure out exactly what happened.
To do this, Avalow is also selling a gardening coaching service. At around $120 per season (or roughly $33 per month if bought annually), their experts will help you figure out what you should grow (based on where you are, the local climates, and your personal goals), when to harvest, etc. When your plant does something funky — be it mystery spots on the leaves, sudden plant death, or anything in between — you can chat with your gardening coach for advice, sending them pictures that might help them figure out what’s going on. They’ll send you the soil and seedlings to get started, plus whatever soil amendments they recommend to make things grow best from season to season. It’s like having a really, really smart gardener friend on speed dial, except they don’t get annoyed when you call them about your zucchini for the seventh time.
Avalow partners with expert gardeners and hires them as coaches. Their coaching team currently includes plant biologists from UC Berkeley, orchard managers, and master certified gardeners. With decades of experience, they’re able to adapt their advice across regions and climates.
As someone who finds himself thinking “I should totally grow some vegetables!” once a year only to end up disappointed and hungry… I totally get this. Having your plant die randomly six weeks into the process sucks and is super demotivating. Having someone who can say “Oh! That’s not your fault, you just need more [whatever] in the soil!” would be real nice. I don’t know that I’d sign up for it season after season, but I can definitely see myself using it to get things going (/growing.)
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Remember when it was fun to check the rain gauge?
That happy little morning jaunt out to a spot under open skies to see if the showers the night before delivered enough precipitation to relieve you of your watering duties for a day or two. If it was only a couple of tenths, it was better than nothing. If you managed a whole inch or more, it was like Christmas in July.
Somewhere between early May and late September — that blink-and-you-miss-it window of opportunity that passed for summer this year — it stopped being a pleasure and turned to pain. It became a chore, the gardening equivalent of getting on the scale after a week of vacation. You cringed before you even looked, because you knew it wasn’t going to be good.
What was once a gleeful “Another inch of rain!” became a defeating “Another inch of rain?! Are you kidding me?!” (sometimes with additional, more inappropriate words inserted).
When you garden, you constantly remind yourself that every year is different. What flourished one season, fails the next. What was in bloom early last year, is weeks behind this year. It’s what we tell ourselves when gardening leaves us scratching our heads, which is most of the time, no matter how long you’ve been at it.
It just so happens this year is really different, as in Green Bay’s wettest on record. It became official sometime on Tuesday, minus any celebrating, when we racked up 39.23 inches. That tally has since climbed, but at this point, who’s counting?
All I have to do is look at my backyard with its multiple water features that keep reappearing to know how wet it has been.
I’m thinking about embracing the largest pond, the one visiting ducks wade into like it’s a satellite location of Bay Beach Wildlife Sanctuary. Maybe install a fountain in the middle of it and dancing colored lights.
The lawn has its own soundtrack and it goes like this: squish, squish, squish.
There’s a 50-50 chance there’s a moat around the garden shed should you need to fetch something that isn’t the lawn mower.
Let’s talk about mowing for a minute.
I don’t feel so much like I gardened this year as I mowed. So much mowing. It was a rigorous schedule of twice-a-weeks for the first half of the summer and not even so much as a breather during the dog days when the grass normally goes dormant.
A summer when you mow at your leisure this one was not. It was a hard-fought battle of trying to squeeze it in before the next round of rain hit, and it often meant leaving the soggiest nether regions as natural wetlands. The neighbor and I congratulated each other about mid-June when we could finally mow our entire backyards for the first time without it looking like someone had been mud bogging.
I’ll take green and soggy over brown and crunchy any day, but I feel like the only two things I’ve done more than mow this year are empty the dehumidifier and cross my fingers that the sump pump keeps chugging. Oh, and weed. Have you ever seen so many blasted weeds and maple seedlings in your life?
It’s been one all-night rave after another for the slugs this year, sliming around on the hostas and globbing on to every wet pot and spot they can find. Any hopes that last winter’s polar vortex was somehow making itself useful by zapping this year’s Japanese beetle population proved to be wishful thinking. At last check, the mosquitoes were still partying like it was July.
There have been some perks to all the precipitation. My dozen or so clematis varieties never bloomed more profusely. Never heard a peep out of the bigleaf hydrangeas, which are usually the first to whine for a drink.
The gladiolus bulbs that didn’t get in the ground until three weeks later than normal due to wet conditions turned out to be my best crop. The Meyer lemon tree on the patio was so happy it decided to set fruit, and butterflies were especially abundant in September … when it wasn’t raining.
A long list of gardening to-do projects looks to be a casualty of such a short season, or at least that’s a convenient excuse. It feels like we got shortchanged on a proper spring and now fall, too. A matching set of waterlogged bookends, if you will, but there’s something to be said for consistency — and for reminding us that as much as we like to think we can fight the weather, Mother Nature remains undefeated.
So instead we count our blessings — it’s a hobby, not a livelihood — and look for the silver linings still out there in the gardens. Looking … Looking …
Planting spring bulbs yet this fall should require minimal muscle for digging, compared with dry years when you need a jackhammer to break ground by this point in the season, so there’s that.
As for any more whining about the wet, it’s probably best to save it for a rainy day. There’s sure to be one right around the corner.
Read or Share this story: https://www.greenbaypressgazette.com/story/life/home-garden/2019/10/04/gardening-during-year-record-setting-rainfall-wasnt-always-pretty/3851777002/
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Here’s the classic Fire Escape shelf that you can hang proudly on your wall. It’s really an attractive shelf that reminds you of big city apartment buildings. Yes it can be a bit pricey for a simple item, but the shelf is really sturdy and unique, it’s aesthetically pleasing and would get you compliments from your guests and friends. This shelf is made from hand-welded epoxy-coated steel, it can hold small things such as mini plants, candles, artwork, and small photo frame that you would want to display.
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Your home should be a safe haven where you feel comfortable and protected. However, if you are a victim of a burglary, you will feel unsafe and violated that a stranger has set foot in your home and rummaged through your things.
The investigative team at KGW reached out to inmates serving time for burglary in the Oregon Department of Corrections and asked various questions about each burglary. From that information, we’ve created a helpful list of do’s and don’ts that will deter would-be burglars.
Do: Ensure Your Home Is Completely Locked Up, Including Windows
Many burglars enter homes via unlocked doors or windows. Occasionally, they will kick in a door to gain entry, but most avoid breaking glass at the risk of cutting themselves.
Don’t: Hide Valuables in Obvious Places
If you tend to hide your important items in your master bedroom, burglars know this trick and will head straight for that room. They also know to look in less obvious places, so you should try to be crafty about where you store these things.
According to one inmate, they search the most random places, including: “Everywhere! From the stove and freezer to the fish tank and toilet tank, bookshelves and in boxes of cereal.”
Do: Consider a Home Security System or Signs
Having a home security system is indeed an effective deterrent because burglars are wary of setting off the alarm or potentially being caught on camera. Sometimes a sign in the yard can be enough to keep burglars at bay.
Don’t: Forget About Outdoor Lighting or Landscaping
Some inmates mentioned that “large trees, bushes, or shrubs around the home…” provided an excellent cover for burglars to break in without being seen. Don’t let your yard become overgrown, and do make sure you have good lighting so that people can be seen if they try to slink around your home.
Do: Call in the Dog Squad
Consider adding a large, loud dog to your family. These types of dogs are better at keeping intruders away because most burglars are prepared to work around smaller dogs.
An inmate mentioned that “dogs are a deal-breaker for me. Big breeds, home protectors, are the best to keep people out.”
Don’t: Ignore Your Neighbors
Getting to know your neighbors helps you be more aware of who is in the neighborhood and makes intruders stand out as being out of place if they are casing the area. Additionally, letting your neighbors known when you are going to be out of town means they can also keep an eye on your home while you’re gone. They can even gather your mail or water your plants and you can return the favor when they go on vacation.
Do: Consider Leaving Lights or a Radio or TV On While You’re Out
If it appears that someone is home, most burglars said they would “absolutely not” attempt to break in. You could also buy a programmable light switch timer that allows you to schedule when to turn your lights on so that you don’t have to remember every time you leave.
Don’t: Skimp on Additional Security Measures
Many burglars suggest “protecting your windows and doors” to prevent easy access through traditional entrances. This could include adding shatterproof glass, investing in window locks or sensors, or adding motion lights near the entrances. It may feel like you’ll never need the additional security, but you’ll be glad you have it if there are burglary attempts in the neighborhood.
Keep Your Home Safe
No one wants to be a victim of a home invasion, so follow these simple do’s and don’ts, as told by burglars themselves, to help guard your property as best as you can.
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