Green fingers and a lot of elbow grease, that’s what you need to be a good gardener. At least, you used to. Because gardening has come into the 21st century, with a load of smart tech tools to help you along. And now the weather is getting better and days are warming up, it's the perfect time to get your garden in shape.
Want a reminder to water your plants? A robot lawnmower to cut the grass for you? Smart lights and a weatherproof speaker to keep you entertained while you work? We’ve got all these and more in our ultimate guide to gardening technology.
Get expert advice
Not so long ago, if you wanted advice from expert gardeners you had to write into a specialist magazine or TV show. But not any more. All sorts of apps are available offering expert guidance on all aspects of gardening from what will grow well where you live, to how to care for and cultivate your plants.
They cater for all levels too. Beginners would do well to check out My Garden as it’s full of handy suggestions and hints. More advanced? Agrobase will help you identify weeds, diseases and pests and gives you tips on how to combat them to keep your garden safe.
Don’t feel left out just because you don’t have acres of land to play with. Apps like Container Gardener will give you hundreds of ideas for creating gardens in small spaces, from compact beds right down to potted plants and window boxes.
Don’t forget to water
Does your plant need watering? Getting to know how much care your plants need can take some trial and error, and you may lose some along the way. Thankfully you can take the guesswork out of it with a smart moisture meter.
These have all manner of sensors like temperature, sunlight, nutrient and - crucially - moisture, so you can see how your plants are doing. The best ones wirelessly link to your phone over Bluetooth so you can see all the info on an app. You’ll even get a notification when it’s time to break out the watering can.
This Xiaomi model has a professional soil probe to EC5 standard, while the app has a database of over 5,000 plants and flowers to browse.
Stay one step ahead of the weather
Ah, the notorious British weather. Sunny one minute, raining buckets the next. You never really know what you’re gong to get, unless you invest in a weather station.
These measure factors like temperature, humidity, wind speed, wind direction, rainfall and more, so you can predict rain or shine without having to rely totally on the weather forecast. That way you’ll know whether it’s a good day to mow the lawn, or if it’ll rain so you don’t need to water the plants.
The Youshiko YC9360 has a frost alarm, so you’ll know if it’s getting too cold. And this aomclock model has a wireless range of 100m in open areas with no obstructions – more than enough for most gardens.
Water the plants from afar
You’ve spent months cultivating the perfect garden, only to see it all go to pot as soon as you go away on holiday. But it doesn’t have to be this way.
Smart watering systems can water your garden while you’re busy putting your feet up on the beach. They link to an app on your phone, so you can control them remotely or – if they can intelligently work out whether the garden needs watering – just monitor what they’re up to.
As well as helping your garden grow, they’ll save you water, as moisture detectors mean they only switch themselves on if needed.
Gardena is a total smart system for your garden, and takes into account factors like your soil type, the kinds of plants you’re growing and their specific locations. The Elgato Eve Aqua, meanwhile, is compatible with Apple HomeKit, and so syncs into your smart home system effortlessly.
Save your back while mowing the lawn
Cutting the grass is an arduous affair, but now we're in the 21st century, why can’t robots do it for us?
The good news is they can. A robot lawnmower works just like a robot vacuum cleaner, whizzing around mowing your grass while you sit in the sunshine sipping a gin and tonic. But like robot vacuum cleaners, they’re not perfect – you will still need to take care of the finer points yourself with a standard lawnmower or trimmer. Nevertheless they’re still great labour-savers, not to mention much easier on your back.
If money is no object, the Husqvarna Automaker 450x is for you. It’s built for big gardens, is able to handle areas of up to an acre, can go up a 23-degree gradient hill and runs for four hours when charged. It even has headlights, if you want to see it working in the dark.
The Gardena Smart Sileno City is smaller, cheaper and a little less capable. It’s also much quieter than most bigger models.
Keep yourself entertained
A bit of music or the radio helps gardening go so much smoother. And you don’t need to miss out just because you’re outside.
Bluetooth speakers can play music wirelessly from your phone, be it streamed from the internet or stored on the mobile device itself. Our advice? Invest in a waterproof model like the Ultimate Ears Wonderboom, just in case the heavens open.
Or you could go for a smart speaker. These have personal assistants built in to control your smart home appliances, set reminders, search the internet, make calls and send text messages hands-free, and more. Your wi-fi will have to stretch to your garden to make use of them. The Amazon Echo is one of the best.
Enjoy your garden well into the evening
Once all the hard work is done, it’s time to kick back and enjoy your garden. But you shouldn’t have to go inside just because it’s dark, especially on warm summer nights. Buy some smart lights and you can keep the party going long after darkness has fallen.
With a set-up like the Philips Hue, you can change the colour, helping set the mood, whether it’s for after-hours gardening or dinner and drinks al fresco. Let’s hope it’s the latter.