SproutRobot / AlexRobot

A friend recently told me about a new website that promises to help gardeners schedule when to plant plants based on zip codes/zones. Just like Ouch Pouch toe pads and Cubism, someone has gone and invented my invention before I had a chance to do it myself. Part of my overall plans in starting this blog, including but not limited to world domination, has been usurped by a website cleverly named SproutRobot.com.

Visit the website, put in your zip code, and the robot will populate a planting schedule based on your zone. Now, you can do this yourself by buying seeds, reading the packet’s directions and then organizing the seeds in order of their planting dates. But if that is two too many steps for you, Sprout Robot may be your answer. Once you create an account, you can check the vegetables that you are planning on growing and the robot will customize your planting schedule for you.

With every website (or really anything) that promises to solve all of your problems, there are always drawbacks. Some problems to start:

  1. I am pretty certain that the Robot promised to email me when I was supposed to start my tomatoes and bell peppers but I don’t have an email. (Come on, Robot! Automatic reminders that I don’t have to put in my calendar? Don’t fail me there!)
  2. The Robot doesn’t know about every single herb that I want to plant so I’ll still have to supplement my Robot generated schedule with my own herb planting schedule.

Besides the little issues listed above, I think it’s a helpful site and hopefully will only get better as time goes on. According to the site it is time to plant my tomatoes and bell peppers indoors! We’ll see how Jordan and I do with planting seeds–it can’t be that hard, right?

Plant Zones Moving North, Charlotte NC Just Barely Remains in Zone 7b

One of my first steps before planning my garden is to determine my city’s plant/gardening zone so I know what plants and vegetables are mostly likely to survive on my deck. Unfortunately, the Department of Agriculture website and zone map doesn’t take into account my likely irresponsibility, whining, and fear of bugs–this is strictly a map of temperatures.

The big news is that the gardening map was redrawn for the first time since 1990 and on the new map many areas are now in warmer zones reflecting warmer average lows and earlier springs. Charlotte, NC is still in zone 7b (low 5-10°F) but it is right on the border of zone 8a (10-15°F) and this winter the Queen City has been masquerading as a 10a (30-35°F). Not that I’m complaining about the warm winter, but just choose a zone and stay in it already.

An aside: All this talk of winter makes me remember summer. I really don’t know how I will survive gardening in the middle of the summer. I might die. I really might.

The other interesting part of this map is that it actually factors in global climate change (obviously), pollution sources and plant stressors like acid rain, and all the advances in plant technology, of which I am ill-informed.

You can find your gardening zone and the gardening zones of your friends by visiting this link:
http://planthardiness.ars.usda.gov/PHZMWeb/

I suggest spending some time learning about the various zones and then using your obscure knowledge to greet your long-distance friends and family with, “Wow, yeah, the weather’s been brutal in zone 6a this winter, you must really be wishing you live in zone 10b right about now.” Or, “You know, it’s been pretty mild in zone 7b until our zone decided to act like a 4b. Yuck.”