By Broc Sears~
Years ago, I spent my winter evenings searching through gardening magazines and catalogs for heirloom seeds and crafted tilling tools. I am no longer a passionate garden guy, but I still visit websites featuring seeds, tools, and landscaping tips. Through them, I’ve found some neat stuff for the growing and mowing season.
Take, for example, robot mowers. Yes, they exist — and they have evolved. They can mow the area within a buried boundary wire, methodically snip away lawns, park into charging stations when done, and have security systems to discourage thieves. Prices for WORX, Gardena, and John Deere “mowbots” range from $600 to more than $7,000.
Then there’s the Tertill, a solar-powered weeding robot that can differentiate between weeds and plants.
Its wheels churn the topsoil layer, stopping weeds from sprouting. And it cuts down weed sprouts with a built-in string trimmer. Bundles run between $350 and $500.
Want to mesmerize your neighbors? Use a little muscle and a hovering lawnmower. Yes: hovering. No wheels. Bluebird, Flymo, and Sun Joe offer gas and electric units in the $150 to $1,300 range.
Watch your garden grow with time-lapse photography using specialized, customizable cameras. You can focus on one plant or the whole patch. Brinno’s Garden Watch Cam leads the pack, but trail and game cameras also work. Prices range from $150 to $600.
There are dozens of smart sprinkler options to automate and economize watering routines. Some are dial timers while others are Wi-Fi hubs controlled with your smartphone or Alexa. A few have water sensors that run the system and regularly report conditions and watering activities. Basic timers run less than $80 while Wi-Fi stations can cost more than $500.
Plant trackers are standalone, wireless “spikes” inserted into a potted plant or garden soil. They monitor soil moisture, fertilizer, ambient temperature, and light intensity, reporting back to your smart phone in real-time. Parrot Flower Power, OLLIVAN, and Netro models run from $30 to $100.
Browsing the app store isn’t as much fun as a stroll through the garden center, but there are many gardening-related apps to consider. Some are paid; others are free but require paid upgrades for expanded features. Still others have subscription fees. Check out myGarden which is a free app. The Gardner’s Supply website also hosts a free online planner.
Plant identifiers such as SmartPlant, LeafSnap, and FlowerChecker can be helpful when you are knee-deep in plants you don’t recognize. Not sure what that crawly beast is? Picture Insect, Pest Identifier, or iNaturalist will name the beastie.
If you can’t wait until the planting season to get your hands dirty you can always try virtual farming.
Farmville still rules Facebook, agames.com offers over 30+ farming-related games, and there is even farm- and harvest-themed solitaire games in your app store.
I must admit, all these gardening gadgets tempt me to get back to my roots… especially carrots, radishes, and rutabagas.