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The garden of the future is here today

Love gardening but don't have the time? Joe Lamp'l shares a few new gadgets that will help you sit back, relax and let technology do all the dirty work.

Thankfully (for me anyway), microchips and remote controls are becoming as popular in the garden as they are in the kitchen, den or even the office.  We knew it was only a matter of time and that time is now!

Let’s face it.  There are more demands on our lives than ever before and the consequence is those demands are cutting into our gardening time.  So, what if we could embrace this technology to eliminate some of the maintenance drudgery and make every gardening and landscaping moment pure pleasure?

No…they haven’t invented a robotic weeder yet, but there are plenty of other cutting edge devices that are helping us save time, lighten our load and eliminate many of the mysteries of managing our own little corner of the world.  Let’s take a look at just a few.

Imagine ‘joe gardener’ decides he or she is ready to spruce up their front yard.  This might include rejuvenating the lawn and adding some new plants and flowers.  Off to the garden center they go, not completely certain of what the purchases will include, but confident they’ll figure that out when they get there.  That’s because this ‘joe gardener’ has taken their trusty “Pocket Gardener”.

The Pocket Gardener
Visualize the frustration experienced when you find an interesting or unfamiliar plant at the nursery, only to realize there is little or no information about the plant itself or its cultural requirements.  How tall will it grow?  Does it prefer sun or shade?  Is it an annual or perennial?  Is it pests and disease resistant?  Questions like these and many more don’t need to leave you wondering any longer, thanks to the Pocket Gardener.   

This free download from Ohio State University works with virtually any pocket computer (PDA) or Palm Pilot device.  The software enables anyone to access 181 retrievable, comprehensive profiles, encompassing everything from ground covers to trees.  Furthermore, the data is stored on the University’s computers so you don’t have to worry about using up a lot of extra memory.

This is a rapidly expanding resource from one of the top horticultural websites in the country and an indispensable tool next time you head to the garden center. Check out The Pocket Gardener.

Video enabled handheld devices
From Ipods to cell phones, video enabled handheld devices are now becardeneroming our on-site tutors, especially in the garden.  Imagine that trip to the nursery includes the purchase of some new sod.  Do you know how to properly install it?  You do if you have your video enabled device.

Download one of the many instructional videos available today from numerous websites and watch step by step instructions right as you go.  With more and more how-to videos ready for downloading, now everything from soil preparation and planting to pruning and harvesting are at the ready anytime, anywhere!

Remote controlled watering
That’s right guys, a remote control for the lawn and garden is literally now just a click away.  Take L.R. Nelson Company’s new introduction, the Remote Rain®Even I had my doubts as to the appeal of a remote on/off for attaching to hose spigots, sprinklers, etc…other than of course the manly desire to control yet another remote. 

Now simply click the sprinkler on and off before moving it to another position.  Previously I’d have to walk to the source, turn off the water, reposition the sprinkler, walk back to the source and turn it on again.  And for sprinklers requiring adjustments, this was always a real hassle.

With the Remote Rain device, simply click the water off, tweak the sprinkler and click it back on again.   Applications flooded my brain as I began to imagine controlling all the other the irrigation duties from my hammock as well.  Specific product information for this product can be found here.  The LR Nelson Remote Rain is approximetly $70.00 and available at Home Depot, Ace Hardware, Target and Improvements Catalog.

Radio controlled watering
Thistakesremote controlled watering to a whole new level! The latest technology combines the integration of local weather information along with the amount of water loss from evaporation in the soil and transpiration from plants.  The combined term is ‘evapotranspiration’ and the associated technology is setting a new standard in weather-based control of irrigation.

Evapotranspiration (ET) technology sounds complicated but products like The ET Manager ™ by Rain Bird® takes the guesswork out of how much to water.   This clever, easy to install device works with virtually any existing irrigation controller.  The ET Manager receives current local weather updates hourly via radio signals from monitoring stations.  It then uses this information to activate your system only when needed. 

Since precise landscape water management is essential to a healthy lawn and garden, the ET Manager can be an effective tool. With the application of this technology, water conservation is a true reality. The ET Manager is also programmable for use in areas with watering restrictions.   The only drawback to date is that it is not yet available for use in all parts of the country. Visit Rainbird for more information.

Robotic Lawnmower
You’ve likely seen small battery operated robotic vacuum cleaners for the home.  Now, we can really get back hours each week not spent cutting the grass!  Just as the Roomba revolutionized vacuuming, the LawnBott is revolutionizing mowing.

This programmable robotic lawnmower utilizes a faint signal from a perimeter cable or runs on its own if the mowing area has a border at least 4” high.  It is launched from its docking station and returns ‘home’ after the job is done.  If batteries run low it recharges itself and finishes the job later (just like me).

Even though some weekend warriors may think these mowers are more gimmicky than functional, try these stats on for size.  The Evolution model can mow about ¾ of an acre on a weekly schedule, will run for 3.5 to 4 hours per charge, handle a 27 degree slope and bring itself back to its docking station in time to recharge.  It’s even smart enough to come in out of the rain, thanks to the built-in rain sensor.

At a cost of approximately $2,500, the LawnBott may seem like a luxury.  However, if you’re paying $35-40 per week for a lawn service this mower will pay for itself in 2 about years.  In addition, money is not the only thing you’re saving.  This is a quiet, clean running, eco-friendly workhorse with no CO2 emissions. Check out

Plagued by deer, rodents, or birds of prey?  There’s not a place in the country that doesn’t seem to need some sort of critter control.  Unfortunately many techniques don’t work and poisons are dangerous.  Enter the ScareCrow.  This electronic motion detector can be aimed at any area and set to any level to emit a quick spray of water once tripped.  The sound of the device and subsequent soaking is enough to startle any living creature, including me!

This is a very humane and eco-friendly device proficient at training predators to stay away from your prized vegetables or landscape.  Capable of covering 1200 sq. ft. of garden space and utilizing only 2-3 cups of water at a time, ScareCrow works efficiently day and night off a simple battery and garden hose hook-up.

The ScareCrow is $89 on their website but it can be found at other independent garden centers.

Other technology
As if these items aren’t adequate, there are more than enough gadgets to get your tech-happy heart beating.  Monitor everything that’s going on outside in your garden from your easy chair.

Wireless, remote weather stations are capable of giving you four day weather predictions as well as the current temperature, precipitation, humidity levels, wind speeds, heat index, UV index, weather alerts…you name it; it will tell you and provide an alarm clock.

So I think I’ll take a nap now while my high-tech garden takes care of itself!  And there’s no risk of over-sleeping either.  My remote weather station’s alarm clock has an eight minute snooze feature, just in case the LawnBott is not quite through mowing yet.

Joe Lamp'l is the founder of, a website and company dedicated to providing smart resources to gardeners of all levels. In addition, Joe is the host of two national television shows; GardenSMART on PBS and Fresh from the Garden on the DIY Network, author, Master Gardener and a Certified Landscape Professional.  For more information, visit .