The lawn and garden industry nets approximately $36 billion a year, and with the trend towards home grown vegetables and organic gardening, this number is only going to increase. Gardens do, however, take time and work, and most households have busy, hectic schedules. The Plant Institute of America claims that "one third of all plants die within their first year of purchase". These new products promise to make the gardener's life easier by cutting down on regular chores like watering, or by identifying common problems. Are they worth it? You be the judge.
Garden Environmental Sensors
These products promise to take the guess work out of gardening. A sensor placed in the ground near your plants proceeds to analyze the soil and growing conditions, and providing results such as the amount of moisture in the soil, sunlight, temperature, humidity and drainage. Hook up the sensor to your computer using a USB port and receive a list of recommendations to enhance your garden and create ideal growing conditions. Many of these products such as EasyBloom, have huge product databases that you can search by various plant characteristics, such as desired bloom, color, season, plant height, and drought tolerance.
With the press of a button, the home gardener can receive the type of growing advice they might expect from their local botanist for the mere cost of $60. A more complex version, the Botanicalls runs for $100 and will send text alerts to your phone whenever your plants are in distress or getting thirsty.
Irrigation & Watering Systems
Watering the garden is probably my biggest challenge. I begin the season with the best of intentions, but by mid summer, if I've missed a few days the hot weather takes its toll on my plants. The weaker strains inevitably die and the others remain in a limp, "just kill me and get it over with", sort of state. My neighbor, however, who I teased for installing a watering system, has gorgeous blooms on thriving plants right through to late fall.
There are a myriad of drip irrigation and watering systems available on the market to automate this task. Some are as simple as planting round clay containers next your plants, attached to larger water-filled vessels. Others involve small lines hooked up to your hose and running to your gardens or hanging plants. Whether manual or automated, the function of these systems are basically the same – they both deliver water to your plants, gradually, via an underground delivery system so as to avoid as little evaporation as possible.
Running from about $50 to 150 a digital timer will start watering exactly when you specify. For about $600 a digital monitor will connect wirelessly with nearby weather stations or garden sensors and measure temperature, solar radiation, wind speeds and humidity. Take it one step further and connect to an alarm that will alert you when it's time to cover your delicate plants or when soil is getting dry.
The Robomower from LawnBott eliminates the need to ever push or ride a mower again. After installing a perimeter wire around your yard (to keep your mower within your property), assemble your Robomower, pour a cool drink and watch it tirelessly mow up to 4,000 square feet of lawn. The unit is not totally maintenance free, as it will occasionally get stuck in ruts or holes, or require some simple programming. They make the climb up steep hills, run for four hours at a time and the solar-electric hybrid version uses the energy of a lightbulb.
If you're sick of pushing a mower and paying for the gas to run it, the Robomower has models ranging from $1,000 to $3,500.
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