Imagine a smart garden... An area where sprinklers, lights, motions sensors, and even lawnmowers can be controlled by the touch of a button. No more battling spider webs to run on the water. Smart home technology extends far beyond a simple light dimmer switch
or a single thermostat indoors. If you want a connected home that goes beyond the four walls inside, maybe you’re wondering what exactly you can do to smarten up your garden. Well, if you’re thinking that outdoor smart home tech is limited to smart sprinklers, you couldn’t be more mistaken. We’ll take you on a whistle-stop tour today of 9 ways to automate your garden so it looks immaculate, stays protected and encourages you to spend more time relaxing and less time conducting routine maintenance.
What Do You Want From a Smart Garden?
Taking the time to think about your goals is important with any buying decision. When you’re looking to build out a more complex system like a smart garden involving multiple devices and appliances, planning and focus become even more critical. Most smart devices intended for the garden perform one of two roles: • Give nature a helping hand and encourage your garden to thrive • Help you to gather key metrics about your outside space Sometimes – like with plant sensors – the function is mainly sense-driven but the notifications can also help you collect information. The vast bulk of smart outdoor devices are app-based while communication is cloud-based. We’ve extended today’s exploration beyond gardening-specific devices since we firmly believe your yard should be an extension of your connected home where entertainment is key. Ask yourself a few questions first… • Is saving time your prime motivator for your smart garden? • Are you prepared to invest a little to make your smart garden parties go down with a pop and to enhance the time you spend relaxing outside? • Do you want to conserve water for the sake of lowering your bills while also doing your bit for the environment? • What type of signal do you need for the devices you have in mind? WiFi and Bluetooth work well but come with limitations outside. Z-Wave and Zigbee call for hubs. Think carefully about communication protocols before randomly buying devices
9 Ways To Automate Your Garden
It’s hard to present a detailed guide to smart devices for the garden without dropping in a few specific product names. Today, though, we won’t be doubling down in detail or sending you off to check them out so consider this a starting point to work from and a chance to view the bigger picture of automating the garden of your smart home. If you’re stuck for ideas, read on…
1) Smart Sprinklers
Lush, green grass sets off any garden. From time to time, watering the lawn manually can feel therapeutic. If you’re not the biggest fan of standing for hours with hosepipe in hand, though, it doesn’t need to be that way. If you’ve got a sprinkler system in place, that can help take some of the sting out this ongoing task. Some of these are manually operated which still calls for your input while even those with electronic timers are very limited in scope. Smart sprinkler controllers – and we’ll be looking at these in more depth over the holiday period – give you the advantage of a timed sprinkler system along with much more robust functionality. You can also sidestep the tiny display and confusion of buttons and take charge in-app from your preferred device. Even if you’re not at home, you can still make sure your beloved garden stays properly maintained without needing a gardener. Properly certified WaterSense sprinkler controllers have the ability to save you up to 8000 gallons of water over the course of the year. As well as making significant savings when your bills land, you can also help reduce the consumption that’s leading to expected water shortages in fully 40 US states over the coming decade. Smart sprinkler controllers use weather reports and, sometimes, data mined from your garden, to deliver no more or less water than the grass needs at any given time. So, smart sprinkler controllers can save you time and money and they’re eco-friendly into the bargain. The inbuilt advantage is interoperability with other devices like smoke alarms and cameras so they make a superb starting point in any smart garden.
2) Weather Stations
Weather stations, often called weather sensors, help you to learn more about your garden. While these can be interesting, your choice of products is narrower since they’re a fairly niche item. Thing is, we like to bring you more than just the obvious, so if you’ve got green fingers and think of your plants as part of the extended family, think seriously about a weather station. By monitoring temperature, rainfall, and wind, you can enjoy valuable feedback that helps you ensure your plants grow both out in the garden and indoors, too, if you have an apartment but still like some greenery around you. If you’re hooked into Netatmo’s ecosystem – maybe you have an air quality monitor or a security camera – you can easily add their Weather Station. You’ll receive alerts on your smartphone when it’s raining or if it’s time to air out your home. You’ll also get Alexa integration and data extending beyond temperature to include humidity and pressure. Osprey offers an even harder-hitting weather station that can also measure UV radiation, wind chill, and heat index alongside all the usual basic weather metrics. The added beauty with the Osprey AcuRite is using IFTTT applets so other smart home devices are triggered when certain conditions prevail. Simply ask Alexa, and you’ll get a remarkably detailed and accurate weather report, too.
3) Smart Soil Sensors
While water is central to the proper growth of any plant, without the right soil, you’re fighting a losing battle. How do you know, though, whether moisture and fertilizer levels are just right? What about light intensity and temperature? Well, these things are far beyond the realm of guesswork, but smart sensors can analyze data across all these metrics in-app and ping alerts to your cell phone when plants need watering or feeding. You’ll also stay in the loop if temperature or light issues are stunting their growth. We certainly wouldn’t say smart soil sensors are necessary but need is not always the primary driver for people looking for an automated experience at home. If you want an extra edge and more chance of taking first prize at the local flower show, why leave things to chance?
4) Robotic Lawn Mowers
Undoubtedly one of the most time-consuming and tedious of all gardening duties, mowing the lawn is nevertheless vital. What if you just don’t have the time or the inclination, though? And how about if your yard is not really large enough for a ride-on mower? Well, robotic lawn mowers offer you the same hands-off experience as a robotic vacuum and, while some of your friends might think you’re lazy, you’ll have the last laugh when you’re lounged by your pool instead of sweating away with a heavy, manual lawn mower. Most decent robotic lawn mowers are pretty expensive. We’d never urge you toward any purchase that overcommits you, but we would suggest you factor in the value of your own time when you’re thinking about whether one of these robots makes economic sense. Unlike cash, time is a non-renewable resource and it’s impossible to put a price on it. Running on electricity rather than gas, you’ll do your neighbors a favor while also doing your part for the environment by eliminating those belching fumes that blight fueled mowers. The Lawnbott by Robomo, for example, can deal comfortably with lawns up to 25,000 square feet with no need for you to lift a finger. You use physical wires to demarcate boundaries and you can schedule the mower to suit the needs of your lawn. And don’t worry about an unexpected downpour… onboard rain sensors will send it scuttling back to the base if the heavens open.
5) Outdoor Lighting
Just like indoors, smart lighting out in the garden is probably one of the easiest and cheapest ways to get started down the automation route. Whether you want to light up your driveway, the path or the patio, you’re spoiled for choice with outdoor lighting from all the usual smart home suspects. Philips Hue offers fully waterproofed outdoor lighting starting from inexpensive single bulbs and stepping up through wall-mounted lights. You can also get a starter kit giving you the Hue hub you need to connect multiple lights along with a trio of weatherproofed lights to get the party started. You can expand your smart lighting to include strip lighting to further enhance your landscaping and water features. Color-changing path lighting, often solar-powered, is a fantastic way to give guests the warmest of welcomes. Lighting outside goes far beyond simple convenience and decoration, though… Ramp up your security with floodlight cams or spotlight cams so any unwelcome intruder is sharply illuminated and caught on camera at the same time. The presence of an obvious security system deters the majority of opportunist thieves. After all, these casual burglars are looking for the route of least resistance. If you don’t provide it, they’ll head on down the road in search of a less secure property. The inbuilt extra with motion-activated floodlights in the garden is that you can kiss goodbye to fumbling in the dark as you come home late at night. You can cover all bases with smart outdoor lighting, making your life easier, making your home look better and keeping everything secure, indoors and out.
6) Robotic Pool Cleaner
If you’re lucky enough to have a swimming pool in your main residence or holiday home, you’ll be only too aware how much hassle pools can be to maintain. Not everyone likes the idea of service staff even if it falls within budget so investing in a robotic pool cleaner is a great way to reduce manual input while increasing the quality of clean-up. We’re planning a deeper dive into these murky waters since a great deal of robots simply don’t deliver fully. Rather than making a few swift suggestions, we’ll outline these nifty automated devices in more depth in the next few weeks. What we will say is that if you don’t yet have a robotic cleaner for your prized pool, this is absolutely not a decision to rush into. There’s no one-size-fits-all solution and a great deal depends on the type of pool you have as well as budget. Get it right, though, and you can kick back with a cocktail gazing at crystal clear water instead of grabbing a rake and painstakingly clearing out leaves.
7) Outdoor Entertainment
How much time you spend in the garden is obviously climate-dependent. If you do enjoy relaxing in the garden, you can take advantage of a number of weatherproofed devices. If you like to have friends over to watch the game and you’d like to do so in the yard when the sun is shining, you can pick up outdoor TVs or projectors to make that dream a reality. For anyone who likes to entertain outside, weatherproofed Bluetooth speakers are a great way to inject that part atmosphere without needing to rely on the sound coming from your indoor audio system. You can automate cooking with smart grills and smart smokers so you can focus on spending time with your guests rather than fussing over the food with alerts zipped to your smart phone when you need to return to chef duties and serve up those snacks.
8) Solar Parasol
Many smart devices in the garden offer convenience while also acting as striking conversation pieces. Solar parasols fall firmly under this umbrella, pun intended. Cranking a regular parasol up and down can be taxing and tiresome. With these automated versions, a push of a button is all it takes for instant shelter from those beating rays. Onboard solar panels serve to charge the control mechanism and the parasol will also light up in the evening. It’s these sci-fi touches that elevate a pedestrian smart home product to one that injects a dose of fun into your life alongside that all-important convenience.
9) Garden WiFi Booster
There are an increasing number of booster devices to give added juice to WiFi networks for heavy users who find even their fiber optic connection too slow at times. If you work from home and have several teenagers who spend their time streaming, downloading ands video chatting, you’ll be only too familiar with the frustration of web pages that struggle to load and that constant buffering. Try stepping out into the garden and things get worse. Sure, you can use a standard-issue WiFi booster and see if that gives you adequate coverage in the garden. A far better idea, though, is to seek out something like Devolo’s boosting tool that uses your home wiring and, when plugged in outside, serves up the same strength of signal as you’d get from your router. An effective WiFi signal helps with all aspects of automation so make sure you’ve got the coverage you need where you need it.
There really is no right or wrong way to automate your garden. As with all aspects of your connected home, you should focus on your specific needs rather than seeking a boilerplate solution. We hope the above smart devices and appliances have given you some food for thought and showed you the extent to which you can smarten up your outside space without spending a fortune. Check out our home automation blog
for a detailed look at all the best products for your connected home. We update this on a daily basis and we’ve got plenty of pure informational content to help you, too. Get in touch with us on social media or drop us a message here if you have any smart garden products we haven’t included above!