Picture a tiny drone that arises from your vegetable garden to shoo away hungry deer. Or maybe a houseplant that, when you’re away, meanders through your rooms like a cat following a sunbeam. Or one that posts a request for water on Twitter. The future is knocking at the door of home gardening. And, if some do-it-yourselfers have their way, there is no aspect of nature that can’t be improved with a rechargeable motor and a sensor or two.
Take, for example, the VegiBee. Bill Whaley, a former department store executive living in St. Louis, said he invented the device after a disappointing tomato yield. Mr. Whaley concluded that the problem was pollination, and quickly set out to improve on the bees, which were clearly remiss. Looking a little like an electric toothbrush, the VegiBee’s wand is held close to a flower on a tomato plant. The tiny vibrations — 44,000 a minute — gently shake the pollen into the plastic spoon that comes with the package. You dip the female part of another flower into the pollen. Vibrate, dip, repeat. It does the trick, Mr. Whaley said. His harvest increased 38 percent and he recently put a rechargeable model on the market for $50. Would the average gardener want to take all that trouble? Maybe. Mr. Whaley said some determined gardeners have been performing a similar manual pollination for years using electric toothbrushes. The VegiBee, though, is better at shaking off the pollen because of its quick vibrations, he claims. Gardeners love to dig in the dirt, but how can it be completely savored, you may ask, without spreadsheets full of sweet data? Garden stores have answered that call with an array of gadgets that test soil for moisture and acidity levels.