Nourishmat is a four-by-six-foot tarp with holes cut out, labeled so that gardeners know where to deposit seeds for their carrots or radishes.

But unlike gardening with regular seeds, the clay-crusted seedballs that come with Nourishmat allow gardeners to simply push the balls into the ground instead of digging and planting.

A built-in irrigation tube with a hookup to a hose makes it easy to keep plants moist.

Phil Weiner, the CEO of Earth Starter, the startup behind the mat, says: "The layout of the plants revolves around companion planting. For example, the bugs that like marigolds are the same bugs that love to eat the bugs that love to eat tomatoes."

Weiner says that research from Earth Starter’s 22-state beta test have made sure the crop guide is relevant for growers around the country year-round.

The mat will sell for around $65 without irrigation and $80 with irrigation--a price point that could put the product in range of schoolyard gardening projects.

2013-07-22

A Tarp That Makes It Simple To Become A Gardener

The Nourishmat is a simple tarp that could make it incredibly easy for anyone to garden. And it’s cheap enough that school gardens are already getting involved.

Growing your own food could be as simple as painting by numbers. A new kit on Kickstarter hopes to make gardening incredibly easy by stripping away many of the challenges that make growing veggies intimidating, like designing a garden space, weeding, and figuring out which seeds to buy.

Nourishmat is a four-by-six-foot tarp with holes cut out, labeled so that gardeners know where to deposit seeds for their carrots or radishes. But unlike gardening with regular seeds, the clay-crusted seedballs that come with Nourishmat allow gardeners to simply push the balls into the ground instead of digging and planting. A built-in irrigation tube with a hookup to a hose makes it easy to keep plants moist.

"The Nourishmat was designed to be multi-sensory and intuitive," explains Phil Weiner, the CEO of Earth Starter, the startup behind the mat. "The layout of the plants revolves around companion planting. For example, the bugs that like marigolds are the same bugs that love to eat the bugs that love to eat tomatoes." Planting the two in proximity helps keep the tomatoes pest-free. Weiner says that research from Earth Starter’s 22-state beta test have made sure the crop guide is relevant for growers around the country year-round.

With an infusion of Kickstarter funds, Weiner expects that "by 2014, users will be able to go online, select their zip code—we will tell them what grows best in that location—choose a size and based on seedball inventory we will use a companion planting method to automatically position and space the plants." The mat will sell for around $65 without irrigation and $80 with irrigation—a price point that could put the product in range of schoolyard gardening projects.

"Right now we are working with the San Francisco Unified School District and the Mayor’s office in SF to work on using our curriculum and the Nourishmat as an educational tool. It reduces the intimidation factor because all of the tools are already laid out," says Weiner. "It’s all about cultivating gardeners, not gardens."

Add New Comment

9 Comments

  • Corinne Harpster ND

    I am really excited for your organic/heirloom varieties too. I think this is a great idea for folks who want to grow food but don't know how to.
     

  • bluedahlias

    This is an awesome idea - time is a scarce commodity for most of us nowadays which is one of the main reasons that food habits have gotten so unhealthy.  I don't have the time or knowledge to even attempt to grow a veggie garden without this type of "all-in-one" solution and the improved chance of success it promises.

  • name policy

    I am sorry for sashaying through and dropping an imprecise opinion, then splitting.

    I am a retired social worker, I was formally trained to do community development back when such notions were still in vogue. My automatic internal response when I read the piece was what a great idea this would be for folks who have less access to fresh veggies. Not so much now (although this _is_ an issue now) but certainly down the line when it does become more difficult for those whose circumstances discourage the consumption of the sorts of foods they need most.

    I see IKEA boxes and bags elsewhere in these 'CO' modules that may house the poor and/or hungry in the decades to come. There are rarely ideas on how to feed the peeps who are attempting to survive. This little garden would help.

    I should have sketched out my immediate response a little more clearly. I think this is a wonderful idea.

  • andy

    This is freakin brilliant. As a homeowner with a mess of a backyard, I've been too lazy to do much with it, since I feel like gardening takes too much time and planning.

    But, this. This is genius.

  • Alkrismer

    Still too much like teaching students art by using a paint by number scheme. Kids who are exposed to such an approach of the nourish mat will think all gardening is that you put a mat down with pre determined spaces for the veggies. How does that stimulate inquiry or critical thinking skills? As for teachers being intimidated, a sign of good teaching is to understand and engage in what you are teaching students. If i did not understand what I needed to teach I took classes and used that info to create lesson plans and projects. Too many modern teaching strategies is that teachers rely too much on 'canned' lesson plans and not enough on creativity. How do you expect students to be creative and be problem solvers if the problems are already solved. Teachers still have to understand soil types, fertilizing, watering, and any other skills involved in gardening. How do you teach observation skills, collecting data. determining when the crops need to be harvested. You collectively have the students research and maybe the teacher will learn along with the students. Maybe this is all covered in the manual. The garden program in which I am involved is done all from scratch. The students prepare the ground, determine the number of plants and what to grow through their own research. There is no magic mat that students use to plant their school gardens.

  • Alkrismer

    I am involved with a school gardening program. Where does it teach students the process of deciding what varieties of tomatoes, or what varieties of carrots to grow? There is no teaching of critical thinking skills. Where does it teach  students on how to transplant, soil preparation, weeding; weed ID, and a host of other skills especially in line with state standards.. Much like teaching culinary arts program and having pre-packaged frozen dinners to serve. Just another lazy way to teach in my opinion. Just push the seed in and it will grow. You might as well invent software to pick the fruit and veggies as well.

  • nourishmat

    Hi Alkriser, when we work with schools the product comes with a 52 page educational curriculum that teaches all of the above and online tools/resources for the teacher to use. Sorry this was not in the article. But we are using concepts from industrial agriculture and decades of research from our university extension program. We are also partnering with EcoScraps to work on Soil Prep. Also included in the instructions that are included with the mat. Also, all teachers do not know how to do all that you just mentioned. It is a great way to reduce the barrier to entry and it multi-sensory. Master gardeners know a lot, and that can be overwhelming. Thanks for the feedback.

  • nourishmat

    Hi is there a reason is should be cheaper? We are still a startup and the product comes with a built-in irrigation system as well as weed barrier, printed instructions on the mat and 82 pre-planted seedballs that do not need grow lights or have to be started indoors. If you were to go out and buy 19 seed pack alone you would be spending over 50+ just for the seeds and you would receive more than you could even plant. Setting up irrigation can be a daunting task and the Nourishmat layout included companion planting. The product is also reusable to it pays itself off on the first year. All you have to do is order more seedballs. A great tool for teaching and new gardeners. Not the only way to garden but a great way for people who lack growing knowledge, time and are constrained by space.