Yes, the computerized gadgets that are everywhere else in our lives have now entered vegetable and flower gardens. When combined with sensors and smartphone apps, you can have a garden—either indoors or outdoors—in which plants are watered only when needed, that will tell you when your vegetables are ready for picking, or if you’ve been invaded by pests. Here’s a round up of seven technologies that help you tinker more effectively in the terrain.
Indoor hydroponic gardening is no longer a rarefied hobby for environmentalists.
1. The Calla, fueling the rage for indoor hydroponic gardens
We’re seeing lots of products designed to help you grow your own indoor hydroponic garden. Unlike regular gardens, hydroponic systems don’t use soil. Water filled with nutrients is deployed instead.
One such product is Calla, created by 4Senses, a Belgium startup which raised more than $85,000 through 611 investors on Kickstarter. Using hydroponic technology and automated LED lighting, the planter will keep herbs or flowers fresh and healthy, with hardly any maintenance.
Each pot in the planter is its own modular unit — you can plug as many as six into the central structure. Each one can grow herbs or flowers, or simply keep store-bought herbs fresh. The only work required is replacing the water supply. A sensor will tell you when the unit has run out. Other than that, you can leave the plants alone for two weeks or even longer, depending on how many pots you have. You’ll be able to enjoy fresh herbs whenever you want.
Calla is now ready for preorder for 109 euros ($123) and will start shipping in December 2017.
2) A smartphone-controlled box that grows produce indoors
Indoor hydroponic gardening is no longer a rarefied hobby for environmentalists. It’s rapidly something that anyone can do with relatively little cost.
Hungry for a salad? No problem, just open the refrigerator-sized box in your kitchen and pick your own greens fresh. This is Everblumeanother way for you to enjoy the produce of a hydroponic garden. Again, instead of soil, the plants reside in water fortified with nutrients. You control everything about the garden box—from lighting to temperature—by your smartphone.
The Everblume team designed an algorithm that collects data about each plant’s program, and adjusts the temperature, the lighting, C02, and oxygen accordingly. Although still under development , Everblume will eventually be able to grow a wide variety of fruits and vegetables. It is 6 feet in height, 2.5 feet wide, and 3 feet deep.
Setting up your Everblume garden is easy. You simply plug it in, place your desired seeds in a growing tray (which is equipped with sensors), and add water and a calcium-magnesium solution to a reservoir. Use the app to select which type of plant you’re growing, tap “grow,” and the box will set up the best environment. If the box senses that your plants aren’t doing well, it will automatically adjust the conditions.
3. Ampleharvest.org matches home gardeners up with hungry people
It happens to every gardener: an embarrassment of riches. You have too much to eat preserve, or share with friends. So what do you do? You don’t want to waste it. This free app can fix that. It matches your excess fresh produce with local food pantries. Food pantries feed 50 million people a year. They are especially desperate for fresh food.
AmpleHarvest.org helps 42 million home and community gardeners end food waste and hunger by educating and enabling them to donate their excess garden produce to one of 8,021 nearby food pantries across America. A two-year study by AmpleHarvest found that U.S. gardeners annually wasted 11 billion pounds of food—enough to feed 28 million Americans.
4. Black & Decker PCS10 PlantSmart digital plant care sensor
This $50 tool gives you expert advice on what to grow in specific areas of your garden or house. You simply stick it in the soil where you want to plant something. It measures sunlight, temperature, moisture, soil conditions, and more. It works indoors with potted plants or outside with flowers, vegetables, fruits, shrubs, grasses, trees. This saves you from the heartbreak of trial-and-error planting. Now you’ll know for sure if that patch outside your window gets the right amount of sun and water, and has the right kind of soil to support your favorite flowering bush.
5. AquaTimer Wi-Fi-connected garden hose system
Tired of turning your garden hoses on and off at the right times to adequately water your outdoor garden? The $89 AquaTimer does it all from your computer, smartphone, or tablet via your home WiFi system. Schedule, manage, and control your hoses easily. You simply place the AquaTimer on the outdoor faucet. It has the capacity for four hoses, allowing you to independently water four different areas. Then you simply tap on your app, and you can control it from anywhere—even when on vacation out of state!
6. Garden Cam shows you how your garden grows
Watch your flowers bloom and your vegetables flourish—or get an idea of what may be preventing them from doing so. The $230 Brinno GardenWatchCam is a 1.3 megapixel weatherproof time-lapse digital camera can be set to snap photos at intervals from 1 minute to every 24 hours. It captures the photos as JPEG images, and you can adjust the lens from 20 inches (to photograph a close up of a flower blooming) to infinity. The setup includes 2 gigabyte USB drive and a well-designed flexible mounting stake to keep it stable in the earth, although you can also use a tripod. Anything that moves—however slowly—is fair game.
7. ScareCrow motion-activated animal repellent
As any seasoned gardener knows, sometimes critters are the biggest things that stand between a blooming, veggie- or fruit-filled harvest and an utter wasteland. Whether ever-ravenous deer or the neighbor’s too-playful dog, animals can do real harm to your hard work. ScareCrow, which costs between $45 and $65 around $50 depending on which retailer you buy it from, detects animals using heat and motion sensors. If it identifies any, it first plays a burst of sound. If the animals don’t get scared off, it sprays them with a short burst of water. Harmless but effective, this is a humane way to discourage anything on four legs that might have ideas of plundering your garden riches.
New technologies are emerging all the time to help the world grow sufficient quantities of healthy food for its growing population. Now these technologies are trickling down to home and hobbyist gardeners who can use them to be more successful on a smaller scale. Whether you’re taking a first step into hydroponics, or just trying to make your conventional garden more productive, these technologies can help.