This weekend, I’ll be putting in an herb garden in my backyard. Yes, I know that last week, I admitted that I don’t really like to garden. However, I do grow a few herbs in pots because I love to have them fresh at my fingertips, and growing my own herbs saves me a lot of money.

Why would I start growing an herb garden in the middle of summer? I’m testing out a new product called Herbmat by Earth Starter that I think is a brilliant idea. Why would I tell you about the product before I’ve tested it? I’ve read enough about the results it has achieved that I can see this product works, and the people behind Herbmat and its companion Nourishmat have a Kickstarter campaign that I want to bring to your attention. The funds from the campaign will add some really cool options to the mats that will make these products — which take the guesswork out of gardening — even easier to use.

Nourishmat is the result of years of development by Phil Weiner and John Gorby, co-founders of the company Earth Starter. Their mission is to turn earth’s consumers into producers by making growing food in small spaces as easy and foolproof as possible.

The first product they’ve created with that goal in mind is the Nourishmat, a garden blanket tool. Think paint-by-numbers for gardening. You get a mat that marries the idea of square-foot gardening and companion planting that’s printed with instructions and shows you exactly where to plant the seed balls, which are included. Each mat comes with instructions on exactly when to plant the seed balls (not everything gets planted the same time of year).

This video will explain it in more depth.

I spoke with co-founder Phil Weiner, and he told me a little more about the product and the direction Earth Starter hopes to take the Nourishmat products. I was curious about the seed balls, and he explained how clever they are.

The seed balls are filled with non-GMO seeds and contain clay for moisture, earthworm castings for nutrients, and chili powder to keep away pests while the seeds are germinating and beginning to grow. They're working on developing seedballs with heirloom and organic seeds, too. One benefit of the seed balls is that the soil does not need to be tilled before they’re planting, helping to bring another level of ease of use to the mat. 

The Nourishmat is 4’x6’ and comes with built-in irrigation or without it. It’s estimated that new gardeners can grow 25-30 pounds of food from the 19 different types of plants provided the first time they try the product. More experienced gardeners will be able to grow more as they learn how to keep a succession of crops going all season long. The mat itself is a weed barrier and helps to keep moisture in, making the process of gardening even easier.

The Herbmat is 2’x6’ and also has a built-in irrigation option. It contains seeds for eight commonly used herbs – basil, chive, dill, mint, parsley, sage, savory and thyme. I think that’s a great mix although I might not plant the mint because of how it can tend to take over. (Hey Earth Starter – how about offering an oregano seedball?)

The mats are great for first time gardeners, kids, people with very small spaces, and people like me who have tried gardening and found it more trouble than they were willing to put it into it.

It’s also a great product for schools. It’s already being beta tested in schools in Maryland and Virginia, and the creators are working on a user-friendly curriculum for students, too.

The Kickstarter campaign will help to raise funds for things like that curriculum and other innovations that will make the mats even more easy to use. There is an app in the works that will send push notifications, texts or emails to remind gardeners that it’s time to harvest a particular vegetable or plant a particular seed ball. The instructions will be based on the gardens geo-location. The app will be free to anyone who buys the product. I love that idea. Talk about taking the guesswork out of when garden work needs to be done.

Another product they’re working on is a white blanket that can be placed over the crops to keep rabbits, squirrels and other backyard animals from making a buffet out of the garden. The blanket will allow the sun and its nutrients to come through while keeping the product out of the reach of animals.

Weiner says that he understands the Nourishmat is “a different way to grown, not the only way to grow,” but he’s excited about how this different way to grow can help so many people, particularly those in urban areas who will be able to easily grow their own food with it.

Nourishmat’s Kickstarter campaign has 15 days left to reach its $70,000 goal. They’re about halfway there right now. As with all Kickstarter campaigns, the goal must be fully funded, or the campaign receives no funds.

I wanted to tell you about this product now so you can consider contributing to this innovative product that can make gardening easy for those in urban areas, get kids excited about how easy gardening can be, and even simply make gardening less of a hassle for someone like me. Oh, and one last detail. The mat itself should last five years, and seed balls can be reorderd to replant year after year.

I’ll be sure to update you in a couple of weeks with the results of my Herbmat – perhaps in a pictorial of how everything grows.

Robin Shreeves ( @rshreeves ) focuses on food from a family perspective from her home base in New Jersey.

Earth Starter's Nourishmat takes the guesswork out of backyard gardening
A garden blanket that uses the ideas behind companion planting and square-foot gardening makes growing your own food as easy as painting by numbers.