We talk a lot at GearBrain about smart home devices like lights, thermostats, locks and speakers. But as summer arrives and the weather finally improves, it's time to think about making the garden smart too.
Although the smart garden market isn't as large as it is for indoor tech (and not everyone has outdoor space of their own), there are some interesting and intelligent products which aim to save you time and money. These devices range from robotic lawn mowers which work like Roombas for your grass, to Alexa-controlled sprinkler systems, outdoor smart lights, and even a social network exclusively for sharing photos of your garden.
Here are some of the essentials you'll need to make your garden as smart as your home.
If you've already got a Roomba or similar for your carpets and floors, you'll want a robotic mower for the lawn.
- WORX WG794 Landroid - $916
At the lower end of the scale is the WORX WG794 Landroid, which costs $916 and promises to cut lawns up to 0.25 acre in size. The mower can cut grass to any length between 1.6 and 4.0 inches, and it can trim evenly over inclines and declines of up to 20 degrees.
Like a Roomba, the Landroid gently feels its way around your garden to help it navigate complex sections and drive through narrow passages. When the Landroid runs low on battery power — or when it detects rain — it returns to base, charges, then continues once its battery is full and the rain has stopped.
- iRobot Terra - $tbc
Announced at the start of 2019, the Terra is a robotic lawnmower from iRobot, the company which makes Roomba robotic vacuum cleaners and Braava motorized floor mops.
To understand the shape of your garden — and to learn where the lawn ends and flowerbed or fish pond begins — the Terra relies on a set of wireless beacons. These are stuck into the ground around the perimeter of your garden, helping the mower to navigate around your lawn.
iRobot says the Terra is built to work in the rain, and just like the Roombas it will return to its charging station when finished, or in need of more power. However, on that note iRobot is keeping its cards close to its chest — we don't yet know what the Terra's battery life is, or how long it takes to charge, or how much cut grass it can hold before getting full.
iRobot is also yet to mention how much the Terra will cost, or when it will go on sale, other than saying it will arrive in Germany first, along with a beta program in the U.S. at some point in 2019.
- Husquarna Automower 450 - $3,200
The Automower 450 can mow an area of 1.25 acresHusquarna
For those with a larger budget and bigger garden, take at look at the Husquarna Automower 450, a 30-pound, three feet long robot which can mow an area the size of 1.25 acres.
While robotic lawn mowers are mostly fun (and expensive) gadgets, a smart sprinkler system will save you money and help prevent water wastage.
Once installed and set up, this automated water system can reduce your outdoor watering bill by up to 50 percent. The Rachio adapts its schedules based on local weather, so if rain is forecast it will hold off and save you money - and save your yard from being flooded.
Tell the system what type of soil each area of your garden has, how much shade it receives, and which plants are growing there, and it will deliver the right amount of water, at the right time. Tested by GearBrain, the Rachio can be controlled manually through its smartphone app, and of course there is Alexa support for when you want to water with voice commands.
Plant soil moisture sensor
A soil sensor lets you know the moisture levels of your soilEcowitt
The $17 Soil Moisture Sensor by Ecowittslots into a plant pot, then connects to a Wi-Fi gateway (sold separately) and sends its findings to a free smartphone app. The sensor takes around 70 seconds to take a reading, then lets you know how damp or dry the soil of that pot is.
The waterproof sensor can be used with indoor or outdoor plants, and several can be added to the same network to keep an eye on numerous plants at once.
Any keen garden will know the important of keeping an eye on the weather. Temperature, wind and rainfall all have significant effects on your plants and how they grow, so installing your own weather station — which is simpler than it sounds — can be a great idea.
- NetatmoWeather Station - $140
The conveniently named Weather Station by Netatmo keeps tabs on both indoor and outdoor environments at once, and can be added to your existing Netatmo equipment — such as the company's security camera and air quality monitor. The weather station sends real-time updates to your smartphone, such as when it's time to air out your home, or when it's raining in the garden.
Alexa integration means you can ask the Amazon assistant about the current outdoor temperature and more. The outdoor sensor measures temperature (plus a 'feels like' rating), humidity and pressure, and is completely waterproof. The indoor sensor measures temperature, humidity, CO2 and sound levels.
Alternatively, the Ambient Weather WS-2902 with Alexa is a piece of professional-grade equipment which measures wind speed and direction, rainfall, outdoor temperature and humidity, solar radiation and UV light, plus temperature, humidity and pressure. Using this data, the system can also calculate dew point, wind chill and heat index.
This system can be integrated into a range of If This, Then That (IFTTT) applets, triggering other smart home devices into action when the metrics reach predefined figures, and there is Alexa control for asking for a comprehensive weather report.
Smart lights among the simplest but most effective ways of making your home smarter, and now there are options for illuminating your garden, patio and driveway too.
- Philips Hue Outdoor - from $50 to $280
Philips Hue are among the best smart lights for your home, with millions of colors, several different fittings, LED light strips and a host of special features. And, since summer 2018, Hue has extended into the garden with a range of weatherproof outdoor smart lights.
The range is waterproof and includes LED light strips, spotlights for casting light on your flowerbeds, and several different lights that can be mounted to walls and fences. Extension cables will be available from Philips Hue soon.
The new lights work with Alexa and Google Assistant, and the range includes individual bulbs for $30, wall mounted lights for $50, and illuminated bollards for $130. A starter pack, which includes three outdoor lights and the Hue Hub for connecting to your router, costs $280.
Weather-resistant televisions bring entertainment to outside spacesSunBrite
SunBrite sells a range of television designed specifically to be used outside. The company's Veranda range is designed to work outside (so is weather-resistant) but in full shade, while the mid-range Signature screens can be viewed in partial shade, such as on the wall of an outdoor entertainment space. The flagship Pro range is up to three times brighter than a regular television, waterproof, and designed to be seen clearly in full sunlight.
Prices range from $1,500 for the 43-inch Veranda, through $5,745 for the 55-inch Pro model, then all the way up to $10,000 for a 75-inch version of the Pro screen designed for partial sunlight exposure.
For those living in apartments or without access to a garden of their own, there are still ways to bring some smart horticulture into your life.
- Click & Grow - $100
Click & Grow has a wide range of smart indoor planters. This option is designed for holding herbs like basil and is designed to keep plants alive all year round, no matter what the lighting conditions are like.
All you have to do is drop the pre-seeded plant capsule into place, fill the reservoir with water, plug the planter into a wall outlet, and let it grow. The planter will light and water your plants as required, and a special type of soil with so-called 'nano-tech' is said to accelerate growth.
A pricier but larger option is this AeroGarden by Miracle-Gro, which has space for nine planters at once. A touch screen control panel tells you when to add more water and nutrients to the planter, and for the green-fingered among you the default light and water settings can be altered to your preferences.
This is basically the Instagram of gardening4D Media Limited
Finally, how about an app built specifically for gardeners to show off their plants, herbs and lawns? That's where GardenTags come in, which acts like an Instagram for horticulture. The free app includes Instagram-style social networking, while a premium subscription includes video tutorials, a reminders system for garden tasks, and advice on getting the most out of your yard.