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How Programmable Planters Work

        Tech | Other Gadgets

Get expert advice on how to maintain and take care of indoor plants on Discovery Channel's "Gimme Shelter."

You mean well when you buy house plants. You want the greenery to liven up a room, or you want something to care for without having too much responsibility. And then, well ... they end up dead. Whoops! You forget to water your plant after work, or you go on a trip, or you don't give it enough sun, and it withers up.

If you're not a pro gardener with a green thumb, able to keep each and every plant alive and thriving, you've probably thought about ways to keep plants alive longer. What's the cure for a cursed black thumb? Maybe a little bit of technology. Enter the computerized planter: a little box with some electronic brains can take the guesswork (and plant killing) out of home gardening.

The farming world has long had programmable planting monitors that guide massive row planters to control seed laying and fertilizing. Now you can get a programmable planter at home, too, but it won't work quite like its industrial counterpart. The programmable planter idea has been merged with the world of aeroponics to create a soil-free, smart growing box that keeps plants alive without daily supervision. It's a neat concept. You don't water the plant. You don't fertilize it, either. In fact, there's not even any soil in the planter!

That should come as no surprise if you know about aeroponics -- we'll go into more detail on that in just a bit -- but these planters place plants in a unique cartridge that keeps them fertilized while the growing box itself provides hydration. They're built on an idea that computer-minded gardeners have had for years: Why bother to remember it's time to water a plant when we can program something to do it for us?

Over the next few pages, we'll take a look at how the computerized planter works and see what kinds of plants it can grow with its automated aeroponics system. We'll also check out some homemade alternatives that look a bit more like traditional planters -- soil included -- but with a computer programming twist.