SMART Gardens Head Outdoors
January 30, 2016
It’s hard to keep on top of maintaining consistent moisture in flower beds and veggie gardens, even for seasoned gardeners. Life can get hectic. Things happen and schedules melt down. It’s one thing to be late for an appointment, but it could cause death in a garden that is too long without water. Now we’ve got smart gardens for the outdoors too.
I think the first time I heard about the Edyn smart garden sensor there was nothing but a website. Kind of hard to remember details after a couple of years. If recall is in good shape, I wanted to include this in my Battle of the Garden Gizmos post, but there was a reason why it’s missing. At the time, I found the whole idea pretty exciting, because knowing what plants will do best in a certain spot, when to water, how much water to apply, and understanding the need for fertilizing as plants need it (and in non-toxic amounts) are the biggest challenges every beginning gardener experiences. Many of them give up, assuming they just have a brown thumb. This gadget could change everything.
The crowdfunding campaign launched and was a hit, and… nothing seemed to happen. I gave up tracking it after a year, and now I learn it’s been for sale at Home Depot since July?!! Apparently, HD wants to be on the cutting edge, because they had stock in early July – the pledging early adopters scheduled delivery was only weeks earlier in April. As one might suspect, the bugs were still being worked out of the Edyn app, BUT perhaps it takes a wider range of users and locations of operation than the crowdfunder group made possible. Techy stuff is tricky. Debugging it is complicated. The more people that use it, the more apt you are to discover there are wrinkles to iron out. And this is a product that monitors a massive amount of things with tons of variables that are prone to rapid change.
What Is Edyn?
It’s an awesome concept. A solar powered, Wi-Fi enabled sensor that measures real time garden conditions: soil moisture, available soil nutrients, and environmental conditions. And it sends you SMS alerts when any of these things are out of whack – for each of the different plants you’ve selected to keep track of in the growing space. Essentially, it offers a level of control over outdoor gardens and landscaping that until it’s release was only possible in a greenhouse or grow room. Way cool, and very complex with:
- so many climates whose weather can change quickly and erratically
- numerous unique soil compositions, and
- a database of growing info covering thousands of different species of cultivated plants on demand.
Yes, technology and knowledge today could make this possible. There are individual tools that commercial growers have at their disposal to monitor all these things – but they cost a lot more than this gadget. And many aren’t capable of sending you alerts until you get to the extremely pricey greenhouse and grow room automation level, which is totally different from your garden plot or landscape plantings. Yet, here’s an intelligent sensor that costs $100 bucks that offers home gardeners planting and care guidance, and sends them messages when things need their attention.
It Gets Smarter
The complete Edyn smart garden system includes a valve that turns the water on and off for you, which really raises the excitement factor. This capability interests every gardener, from noob to old hat. We may have had automatic sprinklers for decades, but they’re just expensive water-wasters on timers that don’t have the sense to skip a day when it rains… Let alone a week when precipitation seems to be endless. A smart sprinkler that only turns on the water when soil moisture drops? Hallelujah! It saves water, and energy, and plants will do so much better, because too much water causes diseases – and even death.
Unfortunately, the smart water valve is still not available. Crowdfunding early adopters were supposed to receive theirs in January, and it appears they’re behind schedule based on recent Kickstarter chatter. Some might see this as a problem, but its likely not, and probably an unforeseen delay – like a material holdup, machine issues, or something that needed adjusting to ensure better results than the early birds had. It will be along, these guys have a highly successful product launch. They’re stocked at Home Depot – not selling edible banana seeds on eBay.
Is It Right for You?
Well it’s certainly worth considering, but it does have some limitations. Nothing fits every situation. One sensor monitors 250 square feet, so if your garden is larger, or you’ve got multiple areas you want to keep track of conditions for – you need multiple sensors, and an appropriate amount of valves when they become available. The Wi-Fi range is 300 feet, which is great for many residential properties, but not for rural homeowners with acreage. Not that you can’t make it work. There are ways of extending your Wi-Fi signal – check out weatherproof repeaters for outdoor installation.
If you read the feedback on Kickstarter comments, you might think it’s not a safe investment. But reviews on the HomeDepot.com product page tell a different story. Remember that ‘early adopters’ are bug-finders who get the product at a big savings to help the maker improve the way things work. Some of them have left their reviews on Home Depot’s site, and they report that it has steadily gotten better since mid-summer. The app is updated monthly, and the stock sensors are an improvement over earlier ones. Beware of trolls when reading those reviews though. The most recent one starts right out by making it apparent he hasn’t used one with the statement that he’s had one for over a year. Set the comments to Newest if you don’t want to wade through old news 😉
One More Thing
Not only does Kickstarter work when you’ve got an idea that solves a problem for, or catches the fancy of, a large group of people, it isn’t just for dreamers. Here’s a product that went from crowdfunding fulfillment to being stocked in a major home improvement center across the United States in no time. That’s cool. And its environmental control for outdoor gardens… totally awesome. Don’t expect it to be in other stores. HD doesn’t share.
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