Battle of the Garden Gizmos
February 14, 2014
Can the cloud and WiFi garden gizmos turn you into a master gardener? Maybe. But you better buy the right gadget, especially with an indoor garden where you are the master of the universe. This isn’t a seen-one-seen-’em-all kind of scenario.
Koubachi Wi-Fi Plant Sensor
A couple of years ago the Koubachi hit the scene. With this brand you need a different wireless probe for outdoor plants than those grown inside. These measure moisture, temperature, and light intensity.
A bit pricey at $99 each (or 99 Euros… depending where you live), even if they do cover multiple plants per probe. There’s no way their WiFi Plant Sensor would be reliable for monitoring proper moisture level on plants in separate containers. Common sense says count on equipping your indoor kitchen garden with one probe per pot.
Got an Android? The mobile app is only for the iPhone, so you’re kind of out of luck there. Naturally, the web-based app in your home computer is the only way to keep on top of your garden’s needs, unless you invest in a new cell phone too. You can pull the Koubachi interface up on your tablet, but will have problems reading it, because it’s not device intuitive, and will either be too small or too blurry if enlarged. It doesn’t get good reviews from users on Amazon, where on top of those issues air complaints that the database of plants is too limited, there is no tech support or documentation. Even so, Koubachi announced it’s new Pro version with added functionality in September 2013… but the website still says it’s coming soon.
Remembering to water your backyard garden isn’t always easy, so it’s nice to have a gizmo to worry about it for you as you rush near and far through your busy days. PlantLink is more modestly priced at $79.00 for the Base Station and first probe, with added probes at $35.oo each. This WiFi garden monitor system doesn’t have a mobile app. You can log into the website to check your watering schedule, and all time-to-water alerts are sent to your mobile.
But here’s the thing, it isn’t just a lack of water or too much water that stands between the average person and fresh harvests from the indoor garden. Don’t forget, growing indoors means delivering important environmental elements like light energy, properly conditioned air, and every ounce of nutrients your plants need. What about temperature, humidity, CO2 level, and food at the root zone? PlantLink might be best used for the veggie garden in the yard where nature delivers just about everything your plants need except soil moisture.
Parrot takes the cloud-based plant monitor a step further than the competition. Not only does their gizmo help you keep the right light level and day length averages, soil moisture, and both soil and air temperature for what you’ve got growing in your garden, this probe also monitors soil fertility. Far out – no more guessing about the nutrition available to your plants. Something that gets infinitely important when you’re growing in inert potting mix. The Flower Power sensor probe can be used indoors or outside.
No need for a base station to control what’s going on with the Flower Power probes, which by the way retail for about $60 each and can be purchased from a number of online shops or your local Verizon Wireless store. The database has 7,000 plants in it (over 3x the size of Koubachi knowledgebase). Once again, they developed only an iPhone app originally, but the Android app is already in the works, and you can register to get the announcement from Google Play when it’s ready to work with your Droid too. No, the interface does not work on a tablet, even iPad. You can log into the website, but there is no probe to PC connection. One user on Amazon suggests you buy one and use it when you’re having a problem with certain plants.
The consensus from the average plant growing community at large? Great concept, poor software, and accessibility to the all important app is not good.
Cool looking gadgets, yes, but user feedback is all about disappointment overall. Maybe it’s just an early adapter phase and someday they’ll invest more into user experience with better software and interfaces (and less bias on operating systems). Add to that this kind of cost per plant, and you begin to question the wisdom of limiting the size of your indoor garden success on a per-pot basis.
Invest in real indoor garden monitoring equipment instead. The kind one uses in a grow box, grow tent, or sealed grow room. Serious harvests call for better control of your plants’ needs in the indoor environment. You can measure media fertility with progressive garden tools, but that’s a topic for another day.
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