With the promise of spring in the air and the joys of gardening once again calling, experts share insight into technology that’s changing the landscape
Originally featured on Christie’s Luxury Defined Blog.
Your smart home may be able to unlock its own front door, turn on its lights, and let you know if the fridge needs restocking—but what about your garden? It should come as no surprise that a range of innovations are now on hand to help tend to your plants even if you’re miles away. And, given a survey by Axiom Marketing, which found that 86 percent of those who took up gardening during the 2020 lockdown plan to continue, this high-tech leap is very welcome.
One major proponent of embracing tech in gardening is David Hedges-Gower, a world-leading lawn care expert and founder of the United Kingdom’s Lawn Association. He believes that while this incursion of technology may once have been viewed as an invasion of nature, it’s now a much-needed collaboration.
Easily controlled by an app, the Stiga Stig robot mower also nurtures lawn health by leaving a minimum of five hours between mows, giving your grass plenty of time to seal in moisture and stay healthier, greener, and feeling softer underfoot.
As a fan of self-directing robotic mowers, sensors that analyze the soil, and smart sprinklers that know exactly how much water to dispense, Gower also praises hands-free grass care machines. “They show deep respect for how lawns naturally work, and how homeowners wish to enjoy them,” he says. “Designing ways to reduce the workload is easy, but making sure [gadgets] also improve growing conditions is not.”
Robots in the Rose Beds
Gower’s favorite robotic mower is the Stiga Stig, with ePower batteries enhancing its green credentials, while other gardening experts praise the state-of-the-art Husqvarna, equipped with tech such as GPS to detect borders, LEDs to light its way, and an app to facilitate remote operation. Robomow can decide, based on the prevailing humidity, whether it should mow in the rain, while the Yardroid intelligent landscape robot harnesses artificial intelligence to plot its route and kill any weeds it encounters as it cuts the grass. It can even distinguish pests from birds and chase them off the lawn with its water gun.
When it comes to watering, technology is enabling systems to think before they spray and use that intelligence to modify their output. “Automated hose timers have come a long way over the years,” says Kelly Gordon of Oregon-based Daisy Rain Garden Systems, the manufacturer of flowerpots that incorporate an integrated sprinkler.
Daisy Rain Sprinkler Pots can be attached to a standard garden hose to create an instant drip irrigation system, allowing you to add flowers or vegetables to any deck, patio, or driveway.
Gordon is referring not only to connectivity via WiFi or Bluetooth, which allows watering to be activated remotely, but extra features that make systems smart rather than merely automated. “Some, like Orbit’s B-hyve or Netro’s Pixie Smart Hose Faucet Timer, can consult weather data or a moisture probe in the soil in order to make sure they only turn on when conditions need it,” she explains.
“Designing ways to reduce the workload is easy, but making sure gadgets also improve growing conditions is not”—David Hedges-Gower
In Europe, such features are offered on a grand scale by Harvst, which offers complete self-watering greenhouses that can be activated remotely or, says founder Aron Wellband, smart tech that can be used by “to retrofit existing greenhouses and polytunnels.” Wellband’s systems also monitor temperature and light levels and offer zone control to make sure areas with different water requirements get only what they need.
These innovations are also available for your flower beds. The Netro Whisperer Smart Plant Sensor will monitor your individual plant specimens by measuring levels of sunlight, moisture, temperature, and fertilizers, and send a health report to your smart device via Bluetooth.
Harvst’s miniature polycarbonate greenhouses range in size from three to five feet high (90cm–1.5m) and automatically control growing conditions, so that your plants will thrive in any season.
A Helping Hand
All the gadgets in the world, however smart, can never replace the role of bees when it comes to pollination— and so the greatest game-changer of all may be the smart beehives developed by BeeHero.
This start-up, born in Israel and now also working in California and Italy, uses algorithms to track any scenarios—such as humidity, sound, and temperature, the onset of disease, and even the presence or absence of a queen—which can impact hive action. The company is now working with leading beekeepers across the U.S.A. to ensure that they don’t have to disturb a colony with a physical inspection until they get an alert the hive may be in trouble.
But not all smart products require an app or device to make a difference. To Gower, another top gardening advancement is thanks to new products that preserve the soil itself. “Polymer-coated fertilizers once seemed like a great idea, as they enabled a gradual release of nutrients. But they filled the soil with micro-plastic, harming the subterranean microbiology,” he explains.
BeeHero was founded by a team of veteran beekeepers, entrepreneurs, renowned biologists, and data scientists to provide real-time colony health insights and help boost the population of pollinators worldwide. Image: Courtesy BeeHero
Now he embraces ranges such True Garden, which is eco-friendly, organic, and specially developed—along with an online learning course for gardening enthusiasts—to deliver optimum nutrition without doing harm.
Because, as he points out, truly modern gardening solutions should be as friendly to the Earth as they are to our ease of living.
Banner image: The Stiga Stig robot lawnmower