Gardening For Dummies: SproutRobot Sends You Seeds And Tells You When To Plant Them

It’s no secret that home-grown fruits and vegetables are usually really good, handily beating what you’ll find lining the aisles at your local supermarket. But If you’re like me,  gardening has always seemed like something of a dark art — you put seeds in the ground, add water, do some other stuff, and a few weeks (or months?) later you have some tasty fruits and vegetables. Perhaps I’m in the minority here, but I’m guessing that there are a lot of people who aspire to start growing some of their own food, but just have no idea where to start.

Fortunately, there’s a new startup called SproutRobot that’s looking to clear things up for the masses: you tell it what you want to grow, and it sends you high quality seeds, automatic email updates instructing you when to plant them, and a guide to handling everything else.

To get started, you tell SproutRobot your zip code. From there you’re given two options: you can elect to either sign up for a free email version of the service, which tells you when to plant your seeds but doesn’t actually send you any (in other words you have to go to the store and buy seeds yourself). Or you can sign up for the premium option, which runs from $20/year for three varieties of seeds to $70/year for ten types of seeds.

Eventually you’re asked to choose what you want to grow. Again, this is pretty straightforward. If you want carrots, you click the box next to carrots — there aren’t a dozen kinds of each vegetable to confuse you. There are around thirty types of  fruit and vegetable seeds available, covering everything from beets to winter squash. All seeds are from Seeds of Change and are certified organic.

Once you’ve signed up, SproutRobot will send you bags of seeds at the appropriate time, and will tell you exactly when to plant them based on your local weather patterns. Erik Pukinskis, who heads the one-man company, says that this is based on the last five years of weather data, and that he hopes to include current weather conditions as a factor too. This would allow SproutRobot to shift planting dates if there was, say, an unusually dry month or cold snap.

The site still has a ways to go. It does tell you when to do things like plant your seeds or transplant your broccoli (whatever that means). But when you click on the online directions, the site sometimes kicks you to a different website, like eHow. Sure, these pages appear to have the proper directions, but this information should probably be included on SproutRobot itself. Pukinskis says that printed instructions are included with the seeds themselves in comic-form, and he’d like to eventually have SproutRobot cover every single step of the growing process.

One thing to note: Pukinskis says that the site is still in beta, and it may have a few quirks and slowdowns. He also says that SproutRobot is still perfecting the planting calendar (he noted that some users growing tomatoes were told to plant them a bit too late), though all paid users have their calendars checked by hand to ensure accuracy.