Plant Health Spikes

I’m a terrible gardener; in fact, I think I’ve inherited my mother’s black thumb. I think I’m about to kill my second rosemary plant.

Rosemary seems to grow easily in Seattle. In Ballard, and in Capitol Hill, I see rosemary bush after rosemary bush, healthy and full, and in some cases thriving despite neglect. Clearly my own neglect of our rosemary is not so benign. (I suspect that the smaller, younger plants I’ve bought are less robust than full-grown bushes.)

What I really want is a spike I can stick in the soil, and indicate whether the soil is too moist or too dry—and also whether the plant is catching too much sunlight, or not enough. An advanced sensor might be able to determine whether the temperature is appropriate, though that would be more useful for indoor plants. Ideally, the spike could indicate appropriate plant conditions with red/yellow/green LEDs.

Such a spike would be specific to rosemary, or another specified plant, as even a black thumb such as myself knows that the light and water levels required for various plants differ substantially. Either the spikes could come in packs, containing one or more single-species spikes, or as a programmable unit that can be customized for different plants.

Oh, scientists, won’t you turn my black thumb green?

Can Weed Help Solve the Climate Crisis?

Near the end of an article in this Sunday’s New York Times magazine, Can Weeds Help Solve the Climate Crisis?, the following paragraph jumped out at me:

Developing techniques for managing weeds in a time of global climate change will be essential to the world’s agricultural future, and the U.S.D.A. researchers, though they have been starved of essential financing, lead the world in this field. (There is one exception, Ziska admits; his Web searches have revealed that marijuana growers have an amazingly detailed knowledge of how CO2 enrichment affects their crop. But as Ziska points out, they don’t publish in scientific journals.) Possession of this expertise could be a great economic asset to the United States, both for the protection it could provide to our own harvests and as an intellectual export that is sure to be much in demand in other countries.

For me, this conjured a Bruce Sterling-like near-future scenario where uncredentialed pot growers get snapped up by big agribusiness and shadowy government research facilities, a twenty-first-century variation on the MK Ultra theme. Only, this time, it’s for a good cause. We promise.