Gardening is often enjoyable, but always time consuming. So why not automate the more demanding gardening tasks to claw back some of that free time?
Alas, Spring is almost here. So for those of us with green fingers, we’re faced with a never-ending list of tasks to help us prepare the garden, and keep it blooming throughout the year.
You’ll likely find many of these tasks enjoyable, from planning your garden, to watering your plants as the sun sets. But there will undoubtedly be a few that quickly become a chore. With that in mind, browse this list of ways you can automate the gardening tasks you struggle with the most. Just imagine how much more enjoyable your summer could be, if you were only left with the pleasurable parts of gardening.
We have mentioned a few of these options before, hidden away in articles about Arduino projects and Home Automation projects. Below, you’ll find the best of these brought together, along with a good deal more.
Watering the Lawn
Setting up an automated sprinkler system may not be as difficult as you think, nor as expensive. For $110 you can buy Rain Bird’s easy-to-install automated sprinkler kit, which you can set up in a single afternoon.
The automatic timer (which attaches to your hose faucet) activates the sprinkler system. Once activated, sprinklers rise from your lawn, and once done, sink back again so they don’t interfere with mowing.
If you’d rather build something yourself, there are DIY projects that work in a similar way.
Mowing the Lawn
How would you feel about having your lawn trimmed each day by your very own robot? The Husqvarna Automower 230 ACX, costing an eye-watering $3,500, tackles “up to 6,000m2 of lawn in any weather, with rough terrain and slopes up to 45%”. The robotic mower takes random paths around your lawn, redirecting itself when it meets an obstacle.
The mower can distinguish between shorter and longer blades of grass, with the longer blades being accurately sliced into tiny pieces, which drop back onto the lawn to naturally decompose.
Identifying Sick Plants
It can be difficult to distinguish sick from healthy plants, but one telltale sign is the amount of energy the plant absorbs from visible light.
To help you visually see the difference so you know which plants to tend to, you’ll need a infrared digital camera. Replace the infrared filter with a blue filter (you can pick these up from most photography stores for around $10). You’ve essentially created yourself a “photosynthesis camera” that will tell you which plants are under stress.
Next, head over to infragram.org and upload the photos you take of your garden. The site will process the images free of charge. Those plants soaking up less light are the ones that need your care.
If you would like more features, you could purchase Infragram’s own point-and-shoot camera for $125.
Watering Your Plants
Drip irrigation is a way of watering your plants (not lawns) that saves money and reduces the need for fertilizer. By using a network of sensors, valves, and tubing, water is dripped where it’s needed, when it’s needed.
An affordable way to set up an automated drip irrigation system is by purchasing a Raindrip kit (~$70). Most kits come with an automated faucet timer that controls when water will be fed to your plants. Expansions can be purchased to customize your system.
If you’d rather water your plants with a sprinkler system, use a smart irrigation system like Rachio (from $200). These kinds of systems are designed to keep your plants healthy while also saving water. Rachio can not only be entirely controlled from your smartphone. You can also set automated schedules that edit themselves based on seasonal changes and online weather forecasts.
If you’d like to build your own DIY Arduino version, that’s possible, too.
Keeping Your Plants Healthy
These sensors measure all of your plants’ vitals including soil moisture, sunlight, infrared light, ambient temperature, and more. Once connected to the mobile or web apps, the sensors also have access to species information, weather data, and user preferences. With all this information combined, you’re given detailed care advice for each of your plants. This makes for a powerful piece of plant-care tech that’s especially useful for more valuable, hard-to-care-for plants.
If you’re looking for even more automation features, Parrot Flower Power has some fantastic integrations with IFTTT (read our guide). These include turning on Philips Hue lights when certain conditions are met, and setting an event in your calendar to remind you when to water your plants.
Chasing Away Animals
If you live in an area where animals such as raccoons and deer cause havoc in your garden, you need to make yourself a Garden Gnome Drone (for around $300). If you know how to configure an Arduino, you can find more information about the project here.
What you’ll be building in this DIY project is essentially a guard drone for your garden. When an infrared motion sensor that’s linked to the drone detects movement, the vehicle takes off and flies a pre-configured flight-path around your garden to scare away those beasts of nature, before returning back to its recharging station.
If you decide to take on this project, we’d love to hear how you get on.
Growing in Awkward Spaces
If you’d love to grow your own herbs or veggies, but just don’t have the outdoor space to make that a reality, take a look at the Fizzy Farm hydrophonic systems.
If you have no outdoor space at all, you can purchase an indoor system ($150). If you only have a small yard, you can purchase an outdoor system ($200).
By using a combination of nutrient powder and a powerful oxygen pump to oxygenate the water, plants are able to thrive much more easily. This system helps plants to grow in spaces that would usually be too warm or too cold, while also stabilizing the PH levels of the water.
This means that anyone can now grow small plants to the highest standard, even in the unfriendliest of places.
What Else Would You Like to See Automated?
These products cover a large portion of gardening tasks, but not all of them. We still haven’t heard of a decent home-use automation option for weeding or sowing seeds. I guess we need to get our hands dirty somehow, right?
What other aspects of gardening would you like to see automated? Or would you rather see gardening remain a physical past time that avoids encroaching technology?
Image Credits:Robot with lawn mower by Kjpargeter via Shutterstock