How tech and AI can help keep your garden blooming

Gadgets, gizmos and smart tech can all help, say experts.

Smart technology can help you care for your houseplants
A smart device displaying houseplant advice (Mike Buck/PA) Smart technology can help you care for your houseplants (Amazon Alexa)

Wouldn’t it be lovely if you could just press a button and your tedious gardening chores were done automatically for you?

Well, tech has come a long way in the past few years, with the emergence of robotic lawnmowers, state-of-the-art irrigation, informative apps and smart weather stations, as well as AI-enabled tools to give you garden knowledge at your fingertips and help with design.

Last year the RHS launched RHS ChatBotanist which uses the RHS’s extensive gardening knowledge to provide users with an abundance of gardening advice at their fingertips.

A bespoke AI-enabled tool, its advice is based on the output of RHS botanists and horticulturists over the past five years to answer users’ questions via an AI-enabled chat on your smartphone.

With indoor plants, there have also been technological advances, from grow lamps to Alexa reminding you to water.

So, what smart technology may take the toil out of gardening and houseplant maintenance?

Automatic watering

Cloud Controller and hub automatic irrigation system
Cloud Controller and hub automatic irrigation system

“Among the state-of-the-art options, smart irrigation controllers stand out. They are designed to optimise water usage by leveraging data from various sources, including weather forecasts, soil moisture sensors and rain sensors,” says Sean Lade, director of Easy Garden Irrigation.

They can be managed remotely via smartphone apps, allowing users to adjust their watering schedule on the go and when they are on holiday. Some have soil moisture and rainfall sensors which provide real-time data that can adjust watering schedules automatically, so you don’t overwater or underwater, he adds.

However, they are not totally foolproof, he says, as weather forecasts can be wrong and lead to mismatches between a garden’s predicted and actual watering needs.

“Moreover, the initial setup costs and complexity of these advanced systems are considerably higher than older irrigation solutions. There is also a learning curve involved in configuring and managing the smart features effectively.

“If you’re already familiar with using smart home systems, you should be more than capable of setting things up for your irrigation system.”

Smart systems

Some tech enables you control many aspects of gardening from one platform, such as the Gardena Smart System , which lets you control your irrigation system, garden pumps, robotic lawnmowers and garden lighting from one app.

It can also be connected to the rest of your smart home and works with Amazon Alexa, Apple Home and Google Home.

It will even allow you to connect a wireless smart sensor to measure soil moisture to feed back to the smart system, to ensure that your irrigation system doesn’t overwater your garden and that your lawn mower won’t try to mow your lawn after a heavy downpour.

Lade explains: “All told, a Gardena Smart Irrigation Controller and Smart Sensor can cost £300-plus, whilst the older equivalent from Gardena would only cost roughly £100.

“It’s a considerable increase, and if you aren’t going to be checking in on the smartphone app all that often, I would argue the extra cost is not worth it, as you can typically rely on the old-fashioned controllers to automate your watering system.”

Robotic lawnmowers

Such lawnmowers come with a range of high-tech features. Some memorise and will return to their battery charging point when they are running low, while with others you won’t need to install sensors as innovative intelligence means they can read environments. But the higher the tech, the more costly the mower.

Some WORX robotic mowers, for example, have a neural network which recognises the grass needs to be mowed, the obstacles to be avoided and the boundaries not to be crossed. But they will come at a price. Husqvarna’s new NERA models let the user create virtual boundaries with the ease of a mobile phone, while you can set up others to respond to voice recognition.

Techy tool solutions

Fiddly jobs like replacing line in a grass trimmer have become easier with new technology
Fiddly jobs like replacing line in a grass trimmer have become easier with new technology

Battery-operated tools have come a long way and gardeners can now enjoy integrated systems where one battery will serve a whole range of tools, saving space and money. Some brands have even teamed up to form Power For All Alliance, developing cross-brand compatible battery systems, with partners including Bosch, Gardena, Flymo and Husqvarna.

Other tech can ease fiddly jobs, like feeding new line into grass trimmers. Ego’s grass trimmer, for instance, features technology which enable users to replace the line at the push of a button and feed in the correct amount.

Houseplant help

Botanist James Wong has teamed with Amazon on houseplant help
Botanist James Wong has teamed with Amazon on houseplant help (Amazon Alexa)

Houseplant enthusiasts can learn about how to tend their indoor plants thanks to smart tech.

Botanist and self-confessed technophobe James Wong, who has 500 indoor plants in his flat, has teamed up with Amazon Alexa to offer his plant knowledge.

He has helped develop a new plant care routine which includes reminders to check on and water house plants, smart home connectivity to provide optimum light, and temperature settings to keep plants alive and well, plus plant-friendly music playlists to encourage growth.

“One of the key things is lighting. Your first question should be, ‘How much light does my plant need?’

“I use grow lamps which used to be really expensive and use a lot of electricity and were really ugly. But now with LED lamps they are really affordable, easy to run and can be hidden away.

“The tricky thing is that you spend so much time turning them on and off, or they have different light requirements for a different number of hours a day. Loads work on a smart timer and that’s where Alexa comes in.”