Best smart sprinkler controller and garden sensors

These devices will make anyone's fingers seem green

The best connected garden kit

Keeping on top of your garden can seem like a full time job – so those with busy lifestyles can benefit from a dose of smart garden tech. From connected sprinkler and watering systems to plant sensors and weather stations, there's no shortage of ways to use tech to keep your garden in great condition.

So, whether you're mad keen, a total amateur, live on acres of grassland or in a tower block without so much as a window box, here's a seed to plant in your mind – the best smart garden devices that you can buy now…

Best smart sprinkler systems

Keeping your garden in mint condition can be tough – plants are expensive, and a few days without water and they won't be looking so good. Anyone who has a busy lifestyle or takes a short holiday could benefit from a smart sprinkler system – here's a few options:

Best smart sprinkler controller and garden sensors

Hozelock Cloud Controller

Β£110, hozelock.com | Amazon

Smart watering systems can be pretty complex – requiring you to set up the system and a bunch of connected valves; but Hozelock's Cloud Controller is the closest thing we've found to a plug-and-play system.

The Cloud Connector fits onto your tap and then your hosepipe connects to the bottom – and it's powered by a couple of AA batteries. Hozelock's connectors are pretty universal, so if you're short of connectors, you'll be able to get yourself connected quickly. It requires a hub to be attached to your router, and the two are paired via the smartphone app. That process was pretty painless.

Once connected you can set up a schedule and the app does the rest, essentially opening and closing the valve when required. There's a button on the front which lets you over-ride the timer and get water on demand. That's a bit of a faff as it requires, for some reason, about 4 presses to make water spurt out – and the same again to stop it – while your feet are getting wet.

Despite the presence of the hub, connectivity was still an issue. Ours constantly disconnects and reconnects from the tap controller, and warns me via a push notification, pretty much every day. The schedule still works, which is good, but it's still an irritation (my property isn't even big, we're talking 30ft between router and tap.)

There's also a lack of environmental input. When you open the Hozelock app it actually tells you today's weather, but still doesn't allow for automated override of the schedule should it be raining. You can temporarily pause/amend your schedule easily from within the app, but it doesn't even prompt to say "hey it's raining, do you want to defer 24 hours?" You just have to remember.

the ambient verdict
Hozelock Cloud Controller
Unlike some of the mind-boggling smart sprinkler controllers out there, the Hozelock Cloud Controller is simple, easy-to-use and for most people will be an out-of-the-box solution. Within 10 minutes we had an automated watering system that kept our garden watered perfectly. It misses a few tricks, and could be a lot smarter, and the range of the hub leaves a lot to be desired – but that doesn't stop us recommending an excellent system.
PROS
  • Easy to set up
  • Uses standard fittings
CONS
  • Disconnects a lot from hub
  • No automated weather controls

Smart fingers: The best kit for your connected garden

Rachio 3

From $199.99, rachio.com | Amazon

The new Rachio 3 smart sprinkler controller gives you full control from your smartphone wherever you are, and could cut your water bill by as much as 50% in the process.

The Rachio controller can adjust sprinklers based on soil type and exposure to the sun, turning them on only when your garden really needs them. It can read weather pattens and humidity levels and remains switched off when the rain is doing the work for you.

The big addition to the third-gen system is the new Weather Intelligence Plus tech, which gathers data from satellites, radar and over a quarter of a million personal and national weather stations for hyperlocal precision forecasts. Everything can be controlled through the app, but there's also integrations with Alexa, Google Assistant, SmartThings, Works With Nest and IFTTT.

Smart fingers: The best kit for your connected garden

GreenIQ Smart Garden

Β£190, greeniq.co | Amazon

Households with garden irrigation systems might want to listen up. GreenIQ is the name to look out for, and the company has come up with a Smart Garden hub. It's designed to tap into the weather reports to work out exactly when and how much it needs to water your plants. If it's about to chuck it down, then there's no pointing in wasting your money on unnecessary watering.

You can retro-fit the Smart Garden Hub to any irrigation system with 24VAC valves, and it'll also work hand-in-hand with a few soil sensors and the like. However, it's a barebones system that can seem a little daunting to get off the ground, requiring you to get your hands dirty with the wiring – and the instructions are far from simple.

But if you can get it connected up – things get fun fast. There's a decent set of IFTTT recipes along with Alexa and Nest support as well.


Best plant and weather sensors

If you don't want to go all out on watering systems, you can still smarten up your garden with sensors. These will let you know when your pots are getting dry or it's time to unleash the hosepipe. Check out our favourites:

Smart fingers: The best kit for your connected garden

Edyn smart garden sensor

$99.97, edyn.com | Amazon

There are a few connected soil sensors out there for your smart garden, but Edyn has the richest feature set of them all. Plunge it into your beds and it measures the moisture, pH, temperature, light levels, nutrients and humidity that your plants will be enjoying. It sends all that info back to a mobile app for a full analysis of your back yard's conditions and, therefore, both what the best greenery to grow might be as well as how to look after it on a daily basis.

Edyn's solar powered, so no need to worry about batteries, and it has a bank of over 5,000 plants in its botanical repertoire. The only point to consider is that it will need to be within range of your Wi-Fi router to work.


Best smart sprinkler controller and garden sensors

Xiaomi Plant sensor

Β£23.98 | Amazon

Better known for its budget smartphones, Xiaomi is actually a bit of a smart home powerhouse – and its plant sensor is something of an unsung hero. The sensor sticks into the soil, to report back information such as temperature, light, soil quality and moisture – a pretty complete set of data for green-fingered techies.

All the data is found in Xiaomi's Mi Home app. It connects to your smartphone via Bluetooth, which is probably the biggest downside here, given the range and reliability of that connection isn't the best.

In true Xiaomi style, the company has licensed out its sensor, so you should find it under a host of random brand names – all of them should work with the Mi app, however.

Smart fingers: The best kit for your connected garden

Netatmo Weather Station

Β£139.99, netatmo.com| Amazon

Say hello to the 21st century's take on home meteorology. The Netatmo Weather Station's goal is to tell you everything you could possibly know about your home and garden microclimates. There are units for both indoors and outdoors, which report back to your phone on variables like temperature, pressure, humidity, CO2 levels, noise pollution and even the likes of wind and precipitation fineries if you pick up the right add-ons.

The software then analyses all that data, presents you with pretty graphs and gives you real-time accounts; plus all the environmental trends a gardener could need to figure out what to plant, when to plant it and how to best take care of them all. You can also buy a whole bunch of additional sensors, like a rain or wind gauge, to add even more data.


Other smart garden essentials....

Smart fingers: The best kit for your connected garden

Husqvarna Automower 450X

Β£3,200, husqvarna.com | Amazon

Let's start with the biggie – the price tag. Sure, north of Β£3,000 isn't exactly cheap but the Automower range is the ultimate in smart garden tech luxury. Imagine not having to mow your lawn ever again – anyone with even a small patch of grass will tell you what a ball-ache mowing can be, especially in the summer where bi-weekly trims are often required.

There's nothing back breaking at all about pushing a button on a smartphone or Apple Watch app and letting a robot mower do the hard work. It's not perfect – it occasionally gets stuck around objects like stepping stones and you still might need a strimmer for getting to those hard to reach edges – but the 450X will save you hours and hours walking around pushing a lawnmower.

You'll need to get someone in to install the hidden wire that keeps the Automower on track, and you'll need an outside power point for the charging station but that's about it for the hassle stakes.


Smart fingers: The best kit for your connected garden

Click and Grow

Β£95, clickandgrow.com | Amazon

The Click and Grow Smart Garden 3 is the most affordable way to have your very own garden indoors.

All you have to do is insert the plant capsules, fill up the water tank and plug it in. And that's pretty much it. The company says its developed a 'Smart Soil' that works in tandem with built-in sensors to make sure your plants get the optimal configuration of water, oxygen and nutrients.

You can also track the growth with a companion app and set reminders to refill the water tank – which you don't have to do for a whole month. The LED light stand is also adjustable to match plant growth

There are refillable seed packets you can buy for an extra Β£50 once your current batch is too big. You also get nine packs that will last you a whole year so we're not complaining about spending the extra coin.



TAGGED   smart home

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