Nothing could have inspired or prepared me more for designing a robot to assist gardeners than attempting - and struggling - to maintain my own garden.
A couple Springs ago, I wanted to start my first vegetable garden, so I began by reading about plants and gardening. I determined what the best spot in the yard was, dug up the grass, and tilled and tested the soil. I decided which crops to grow and how to arrange them in the garden.
Amid sunshine and high hopes I planted seeds and seedlings. I fertilized, watered, and waited.
Watching the garden from my kitchen window was great fun and things were off to a promising start. Peppers grew, tomatoes blossomed, and cucumber vines began to spread. When I looked closely, I could spot a few weeds popping up here and there. Nothing I couldn’t deal with - maybe next weekend.
Over the next few weeks, the weather was everything I could have hoped for - plenty of sunshine and sufficient, regular rain. My maturing crops looked better and better. The weeds were also enjoying the conditions. They had grown, but were still small enough compared to my crops that weeding didn’t seem urgent.
Then I took a short vacation.
When I got back, my garden was barely recognizable. The spaces between the rows were taken over by the weeds, some of which were taller than my plants. Harvesting proved a challenge because the vegetables were so well hidden among the tangle of overgrowth. Finding them was difficult, and reaching them through the weeds was a struggle.
Once the weeds reached a couple feet, they were next to impossible to entirely uproot, and difficult to even tame by cutting or whacking.
The idea for Tertill came about as a way for gardeners like me, as well as more experienced gardeners to grow a healthy garden without worrying about weeds. Better gardeners might have known to be more attentive to the weeds than I was. But even those more experienced gardeners go away on vacation (and usually in the months that weeds grow the fastest).
The solution that Tertill would eventually provide is to make gardening easier and more productive for the entire spectrum of home gardeners - novice, experienced, procrastinator, bad back, lazy, or vacationing. I knew that the design of a robot that would work with you to control your garden would have to accommodate every style and level of involvement gardeners had with their garden. Tertill could patrol while you were away, clean up what you missed, or, in most cases, handle 100 percent of the weeding.
I learned my lesson. Weeds can never be ignored. When the weather is right for your crops to grow, weeds will grow too - and usually faster. Gardening should be fun. I’m working to develop Tertill so that I can enjoy planting, tending to crops, harvesting them, and enjoying the fruits - and vegetables and flowers - of my labor, without worrying about missing a day of weeding.