Thursday, September 3, 2015

Product review: PreGro plant sprayer

I was recently approached by a company in Illinois called PreVal to see if I was interested in trying out their new PreGro sprayer. The timing was fortuitous since I’ve been battling mealybugs all summer—like every summer—so I gladly said yes.

PreGro is an intriguing alternative to the plastic spray bottles most of us use. It consists of a glass jar that holds 6 oz. of your own solution and a pressurized atomizer cylinder (the “power unit”) that screws onto the jar. As the box says, using the sprayer is as easy as 1-2-3: fill, attach, spray. A separate grip is available for $7.95 for hazardous chemicals you don’t want to get on your skin.

My sprayer arrived yesterday and I couldn’t wait to give it a whirl. Here are the main components:

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Simple indeed.

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I made up a batch of my anti-mealybug solution: three parts 70% isopropyl (rubbing) alcohol, one part water, and one teaspoon of Dr. Bronner’s Pure-Castile Soap (I happened to have the peppermint-scented variety on hand). The soap helps break down the waxy coating that protects the mealybugs so the alcohol can kill them more efficiently.

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Some of the aeoniums in the backyard are heavily infested so that’s where I practiced. The spray is gentle and precise, and since the the solution is aerosolized so finely, it penetrates the nooks and crannies where mealies like to hide.

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PreVal touts PreGro’s “consistent, precise and uniform spraying capabilities that make it easy to tend to plants and gardens without affecting adjacent areas” and goes on to say that “the user can fill the sprayer with unlimited liquid solutions to combat a problem area and still achieve the consistent, precise and even spray of an aerosol.”

The manufacturer specifically mentions three uses for the PreGro sprayer (extended quote below):

Protecting plants. Use PreGro to eliminate the threat of common pests and diseases, ranging from black spot to blight to cutworms and caterpillars. The PreGro microsite offers do-it-yourself recipes for organic solutions to fix these problems. For instance, you can ward off cutworms and caterpillars with a mixture made from garlic, vegetable oil, liquid dish soap, and water.

Feeding and fertilizing. Consumers can also make use of PreGro to apply DIY liquid fertilizers, such as seaweed solution, rock phosphate, and nettle liquid fertilizing tea, among others. Creating homemade, organic liquid garden fertilizers is a low-cost option for gardeners looking to provide their plants with essential, easy-to-absorb nutrients, according to Burlington Permaculture, a Vermont-based urban agriculture group.

Preserving flowers. The PreGro Sprayer—which comes fully pressurized and secures to a glass jar—can also help consumers create dried flower arrangements, according to the American Rose Society. Use PreGro to apply denatured alcohol and Pro-Seal 2000 to a perfectly formed rose as part of the preservation process.

All of this sounds great, and the PreGro sprayer does indeed work as advertised. It gives you precise control over the area of application and dispenses the solution very economically. According to the package, each power unit can atomize up to 18 oz., enough to cover 120 sq.ft. Apparently, this is up to 10 times more coverage than you get with a typical spray bottle.

Bear in mind you’re not supposed to tilt the PreGro sprayer more than 45°, otherwise the solution comes out at the bottom of the atomizer. There is a clear notice to this effect on the atomizer so it’s not a point of criticism. Conventional spray bottles don’t work at extreme angles either.

I’m really quite pleased with the PreGro sprayer and all its potential applications. In addition, both the spent atomizers and the glass jar can be recycled, and the product is made in the U.S. All of these aspects appeal to environmentally conscious gardeners like me.

But there are downsides I can’t quite reconcile in my head:

  • Capacity: Each atomizer will only spray 18 oz. of solution. It’s too early for me to know how far 18 oz. will go—it could be enough for a week or a month of typical use. But I don’t like the idea of having to stock yet another consumable. Just like a printer, the PreGro sprayer is useless without a cartridge.
  • Price: While I don’t know what the typical retail price point will be, the PreGro web store sells the sprayer sells for $9.95 and the replacement power unit for $7.95. Again, this may not be an issue for most people, but I don’t like to be nickeled-and-dimed to death (don’t get me started on those Keurig coffee machines!).

The biggest concern I have is this: Is the high-tech PreGro sprayer really better than a $5 (or cheaper) spray bottle that is infinitely reusable?

The gadget-loving geek in me is in love with the PreGro sprayer, but the frugal German has his doubts.

Still, there’s no denying this is a sexy product….

Disclosure: PreVal sent me review units free of charge and without any obligation to deliver a specific outcome.

5 comments:

  1. Interesting, but I side with the frugal German!!

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  2. Hmm. I do have mealy bug problems. It might be worth a try.

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  3. Like Becky, my vote goes to the frugal German. You do a clear, logical review.

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  4. Gerhard, your review is quite similar to mine, except much more informative and you didn't empty your first bottle (I emptied six?). Very fine, even spray, but having to buy "power units" is the deal-breaker for me too.

    (This company started in the spray paint market, where precise spray control probably does win out over the negatives)

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    1. Alan, I had missed your review, but I just found it: http://goo.gl/OtOZJo.

      What you received was slightly different. My jars were all glass, and I didn't get the trigger thingie.

      As you said, if you have a lot of spraying to do, this isn't the system for you. But for occasional small-scale applications, especially indoors, it would be quite good.

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