Humans have been gardening for more than 4,000 years. The roots of our plant-based hobby reach all the way back to Egyptian and Roman civilizations, when people began to grow organized vegetation suitable to their unique climates and regions.
Gardens existed for a variety of reasons, from growing herbal remedies to providing soothing environments for contemplation. In Elizabethan England, they developed into the sprawling decorative lawns often featured next to palaces or grand mansions. During World War II, Americans planted “victory gardens” to help combat food shortages. No matter what shape, size or purpose, gardens have always been a popular practice.
As our horticultural knowledge and planting techniques have developed, so has the technology we use to help gardens thrive. It might sound complicated, but don’t worry—you don’t have to be a seasoned botanist to grow a strong, healthy garden. Keep reading to discover 10 technological tools you can use to keep your home garden fresh, green, glowing and growing.
Ever passed a neighbor’s house and seen their sprinklers running full-blast just after a heavy rain? Or spraying half the sidewalk instead of the grass?
Sprinklers—watering lawns since 1871—are an excellent tool for keeping greenery hydrated, but they’re often prone to overuse.
To keep your grass watered without giving it too much (or too little) to drink, try using an irrigation controller. Theses devices use weather data to determine when your plants need watering, and when the clouds will take care of the task instead.
Plus, some systems are controllable via app, so you can ensure that your plants are taken care of no matter where you are. Some irrigation controllers learn to adapt to your schedule and preferred watering settings, so you can enjoy a lush, hydrated lawn without ever touching the hose. Other systems can connect with a variety of smart gardening tools, such as soil moisture sensors, to make certain your plants are receiving 360° care.
The latest irrigation controllers are even compatible with Amazon Alexa, so you can save time and water and let your home’s smart devices handle the chores.
Plenty of households already use intelligent vacuum cleaners to tackle floor cleanup, so why not use the same robotic intelligence to handle yard cleanup? Introducing the intelligent lawn mower!
This little robot cuts the grass so you don’t have to. One of the device’s best features is its battery powered system, which is gentler on the environment than a typical gas-powered mower. It’s also much quieter than a normal mower, which means you can let it run at night without disturbing the neighbors.
Intelligent mowers have similar safety mechanisms to their vacuuming cousins—if they sense something in their path or bump into an object, they’ll simply turn and start in a new direction. The blades also stop spinning if the device is lifted off the ground. If rainy weather or a low battery interrupts its task, the mower will return to its charging base to refuel and wait for its next run.
While the devices haven’t yet reached the same prevalence as intelligent vacuums (today they aren’t developed enough to mow in organized lines like a human), they’re still a great step forward in the realm of smart gardening tools.
Farmers spend lots of time collecting data from their land to ensure crop growth is at its peak. However, collecting plant and soil samples, sending them off for testing and waiting for results can be a tedious and time-consuming process.
Luckily, new technology is helping the agricultural industry track and manage crop production through the use of sensors, but you don’t have to be a farmer to try them out.
From small houseplants to large gardens, plant and/or garden sensors can help you care for all your greenery. Most sensors only need to be inserted into the soil surrounding your plants to give you data on their water, sunlight and nutritional needs. Advanced models can even read pH levels for intensive soil monitoring. Some can even calibrate to match a plant’s individual needs, so you won’t have to worry about drowning your succulent or parching your umbrella palm.
For outdoor gardens, stay environmentally friendly with a solar-powered sensor. For indoor gardens or individual plants, try something small and sleek that can stay hidden behind the foliage. Use your sensor’s corresponding app for continuous plant/garden diagnostics and real-time alerts to help you care for your vegetation.
Curious to see how your garden is progressing? Use a garden camera! This device uses time-lapse capabilities to capture your garden’s growth one image at a time. Garden cameras can be programmed to snap a photo at various intervals—from once per minute to once per day—so the photo speed suits the environment’s changes (you wouldn’t want a photo per minute of a sprouting seedling).
Use a garden camera to log the success of your fall harvest, the budding of your new flowers or the height of your growing saplings. You can also use a
garden camera to capture other backyard wonders, like a butterfly leaving its cocoon, bird eggs beginning to hatch, a spider building a web or even you building your garden!
Just place your garden camera where you want to capture your time-lapse, then wait and let nature work its magic. After the flowers have bloomed or the eggs have hatched, bring the camera inside and upload the images to your computer to enjoy the whole process at once.
What’s one of the oldest and most important tools in the gardening world? Bees. Bees are vital to plant growth around the world, but due to threats like pesticides and habitat loss, their population is at a rapid decline.
In order for many plants to produce fruits and seeds, bees and other natural pollinators are needed to spread pollen as they fly from one flower to another. If you notice that your area has fewer bees than usual, or if you’re trying to boost pollination in a greenhouse or indoor garden, give pollination wands a try.
These tools allow gardeners to collect and distribute pollen amongst plants in the absence of natural pollinators—a process called hand-pollination.
Hand-pollination can be completed with home objects like Q-tips or brushes, but advanced pollination wands can imitate the high frequency vibrations made by bees’ wings—some even boast an increase in garden yield by more than 30 percent annually.
Unfortunately, hand-pollination is no match for the immense amount of work supplied by bees. No matter what new gardening tech you try, be sure to add some pollinator-friendly plants to your yard to help boost the bee population back to its natural glory.
Hydroponic systems—also known as methods of growing plants without the use of soil—aren’t a new concept.
Historians associate hydroponics with the Hanging Gardens of Babylon, as well as similar gardening systems used by ancient Aztec and Chinese civilizations. However, formal research on hydroponics didn’t ramp up for thousands of years, and it was only introduced as a method for commercial agriculture in the last century.
While traditional gardening requires plants to draw nutrients out of soil, hydroponic systems direct nutrient-rich water at the plants’ roots to promote growth. Hydroponic systems allow gardens to flourish in dry climates, and can be especially useful in urban settings as they only require a fraction of the space necessary for traditional crop growth. And, believe it or not, they also require significantly less water than traditional gardening methods.
For those who want to give hydroponics a try, there are many small in-home systems available for easy plant cultivation. If you love to cook, they’re also a great way to grow fresh herbs year round!
Smartphones and other smart devices make it easier than ever to learn about gardening. Thanks to many great new gardening apps, you can access a world of information from the palm of your hand.
If you want to build your first garden but don’t know where to start, try using a garden planning app. Garden Plan Pro allows users to design their dream garden by offering seed spacing tips, planting and harvesting reminders and crop rotation advice.
You can also use a growing advice app such as Homegrown to track your garden’s progress, view weather forecasts and browse info on hundreds of vegetables and herbs to inspire your next harvest. This app also includes several growing guides to help you give your plants the optimal sunlight, water and care.
If you want to connect with the gardening community, use a social media app like GrowIt! to share images of your plants, get information on local vegetation and create garden center shopping lists. If you spot a plant you’d like to add to your garden but don’t know what it is called, you can upload an image to the app and get help from other green thumbs.
History suggests that the practice of composting has been around for more than 12,000 years, tracing back to small Scottish farms on the British Isles. But it didn’t stop there—from the Akkadians in Mesopotamia to the ancient civilizations of the Amazonian rainforests to the Native Americans in North America, the recycling of organic materials has been popular among a wide variety of cultures. Even George Washington was a composter!
While homemade compost piles are an excellent way to recycle organic waste and boost your eco-friendliness, there’s lots of great tech available to help you optimize the process.
Compost tumblers, for example, are designed to be rotated, which helps your composted materials mix more efficiently. Many upgraded compost bins have advanced design features—they can hold multiple compost batches, absorb more heat and repel more pests.
To save yourself a trip to your compost bin after every meal, you can also purchase a compost collector. Use the collector to stockpile food waste—without stockpiling the stench—in the kitchen and carry outside when it’s full.
Farmers use them, NASA uses them and you can use them, too! Grow lights are a popular technological gardening innovation that can help keep your plants alive in dimmer environments. These unique lighting systems provide artificial light sources for plants to help them photosynthesize when they can’t access a strong source of sunlight. If your greenhouse is looking dark underneath cloudy winter skies or your houseplant is wilting in a room without a sunny window seat, give these supplemental lights a try.
Be sure to do some research before you choose a product, as grow lights come in varying forms. While high-intensity discharge (HID) lights might be bright enough to serve as the sole source of light for some plants, they can also be a little pricier than your average bulb. Fluorescent grow lights are a little more budget-friendly, but they’re best used as supplemental light, not a sole source. No matter what bulb you choose, you can enjoy a healthy, lush plant any time of year thanks to the innovation of grow lights!
It’s easy to forget to water your plants. Especially if you have a busy schedule or travel often, the simple task can slip your mind. It’s also hard to determine when your plant looks thirsty.
If you’ve given up on growing a garden or keeping houseplants because of the hassle to water them, try investing in a self-watering container or insert.
Self-watering containers have built-in water reservoirs which allow plants to stretch their roots down and drink as needed. They also help minimize water losses that are often caused by evaporation and seepage. Some self-watering planters even come with small meters to show you when water levels are low, so you don’t have to guess whether your plant needs a drink.
If you don’t want to invest in a new planter, you can also use a small watering insert to keep your plants hydrated. Inserts range from small terracotta stakes to large glass ornaments, but they all function the same way—just fill the insert with water and stick it into the soil. When the insert is low on water, just refill it and place it back into the soil. This keeps a steady stream of water flowing towards your plants’ roots without over-watering them, and takes one more chore off your to-do list.