Garden meets technology

Vegetable garden with lighting

It started as pure necessity, in order to save time and effort on a daily basis, but has gradually turned into a new hobby: automating everyday chores. And with automation comes access to additional features. But never mind the origin, let me describe the progress instead.

Our garden, I mean, I enjoy taking care of our chickens and working in our (vegetable) garden, but repetitive tasks can become proper chores and eat away precious time. And during hot summer evenings you want to enjoy the water, not lug around with hoses and sprinklers. Not to mention that if you ever forget to water the potted plants outdoors during a heatwave, they’ll never fully recover.

As platform I selected Gardena, as they are the only ones to provide the tools for various aspects, mainly mowing and watering. Their smart pump won me over, as it can be directly controlled via a dedicated app, including setting schedules and linking with soil moisture sensors.

Mowing and watering

  1. Gardena Sileno Life 1250 is a robot mower capable of handling our ~1100m2 of lawn with a rather complex layout.
    • In our case it did require having to dig in ~300 metres of guidewire, which I unfortunately occasionally perforate by accident doing various other garden related tasks. Still definitely beats mowing the lawn yourself, plus the resulting lawn looks really nice.
  2. Gardena Smart Pressure Pump 5000/5E, combined with six 24V automatic irrigation valves placed into two separate valve boxes, feeds multiple systems. I did not opt for the Gardena sprinklers and connection systems, as they are quite pricy and do not suit our garden.
    • The lawn features seven Hunter I20 pop up sprinklers, divided into three groups driven by an equal amount of valves to ensure sufficient water pressure. Each group has a separate 40mm LDPE pipe feeding it.
    • The vegetable garden features two Hunter Pro pop up sprinklers with MP rotator nozzles. These sprinklers pop up 30cm above the field and provide an even spray. For a vegetable garden, one would prefer to water at the roots to prevent disease, but I opted against that for ease of crop rotation. This group is fed by a 25mm LDPE pipe.
    • Another valve can turn on water flow towards approximately 300 metres of drip hose, which covers the beech hedge and all fruit trees and bushes.
    • The last valve can turn on water flow towards the frog pond, for the dry days. This one is supported by a separate system powered by a Ubbink SolarMax 600 Fountain Pump, which does the job solar powered at a slow steady rate.
    • The system also feeds two general plug in water outlets: one in the vegetable garden, and one near the pump.
  3. Gardena Smart Sensors measure soil moisture, light intensity, and temperature.
    • The input can be linked to the schedule of the smart pressure pump: in case the soil moisture level is high, the pump will skip the schedule.
    • There is one monitoring the vegetable garden, one monitoring the beech hedge, and one monitoring the driest section of plants.
  4. Gardena Aquabloom is a solar powered irrigation system. You set the duration of watering, and number of times per day/week, and that’s it.
    • There are three of them: two for flowers around the house, and one for the greenhouse.
    • The Aquablooms do rely on having a water source, which in case of the flowers around the house is not an issue (old well and a rain barrel respectively), however the one at the greenhouse uses a bucket. The bucket I’ve upgraded with a float, connected to the pressure pump system, so the bucket fills up anytime the pump is on for the vegetable garden.
    • The Aquablooms unfortunately do have a tendency to just die without any warning after some time. Their long term quality isn’t great, but Gardena is rather generous with replacing the defective devices.

Vegetable garden and greenhouse

Next to the aforementioned Hunter Pro sprinklers and Aquabloom, there are additional specific automations for the vegetable garden.

  1. Tertill Weeding Robot: two of them take care of weeding in our vegetable garden.
    • They run on solar power, are fully autonomous, and use capacitive touch to differentiate between plant and weed. You can protect small plants with a metal wire barrier.
    • These are really just an experiment, as they come with a recommended garden design and well our garden is far from ideal compared to that recommended design. But it seems to work quite well thus far.
  2. Greenhouse Automatic Window Opener is perhaps my favourite product of all due to its sheer simplicity. It is a wax filled cylinder that expands and contracts based on temperature.
    • If the temperature rises, the window opens. If the temperate drops, the window closes.
    • Only disadvantage is that it needs to be removed during winter, as it will get irreparably damaged below 0 degree Celsius.
  3. Smart Lighting
    • An Osram Smart+ outdoor plug, compatible with Philips Hue, is used to turn on a chain of 80 metres of LED lighting. Next to its romantic allure it also allows working in the vegetable garden in the evenings after work, or when the days get shorter towards winter.

Oh and added bonus of all of the above: you can go away on holiday and everything continues to take care of itself. That’s it for now, but I’m sure the list will expand as time goes on.


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