If you have a green thumb, then you probably don’t think it’s all that difficult to plant and tend a vegetable garden. That said, there are many people who would like to grow their own veggies, but are intimidated by things like watering, weeding, choosing the correct plants, along with getting the spacing and planting-depth of the seeds right. It’s for these aspiring gardeners that San Francisco-based company Earth Starter has created the Nourishmat.

The mat itself is a 4 x 6-foot (1.2 x 1.8 m) reusable tarp with a built-in drip irrigation system, that gets its water from the user’s garden hose – a cheaper version without the irrigation is also available. That tarp is staked to the ground, then acts like a stencil or paint-by-numbers for gardens. The user inserts the indicated seeds into the underlying soil, through clearly-labelled and properly-spaced holes.

Along with helping to keep the water from evaporating, the mat also keeps sunlight from reaching the soil where no seeds are planted, discouraging the growth of weeds.

Instead of regular seeds, the Nourishmat kit includes what are known as seedballs. These consist of seeds encased in a mixture of compost, worm castings, clay and chili powder. While the first three ingredients provide nourishment and retain moisture for the sprouting seeds, the chili helps deter pests.

Additionally, the seedballs can simply be pushed into the soil with the fingers, so no digging is required in order to plant them. A total of 82 seedballs for 19 different plant species are included in each kit, and refills can be ordered for subsequent seasons. Users also receive a schedule, letting them know when to plant which vegetables.

Earth Starter is now raising production funds for the Nourishmat, on Kickstarter. A pledge of US$99 will get you a full irrigation-equipped kit, while the smaller Herbmat (which is like the Nourishmat, but lets you grow herbs) can be had for $65. More information is available in the pitch video below.

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