Awnings, Current Issues, Guest Posts, New Products, Watering

smart technology garden

When smart technology first arrived, many just thought it was something that controlled thermostats and helped save on HVAC costs.

Then it morphed into motion detectors, smart doorbells and security systems. As you know, smart technology applications continue to grow at a rapid pace, and if you want to keep your garden growing also, check out the latest innovations:

Smart irrigation

Whether you live in an apartment in Eugene, Oregon or a penthouse in London’s Notting Hill neighborhood, we know you can get your plants to grow and keep your grass green by simply standing outside with the hose and watering by hand, but by using a smart app, you can control when you water and why you water.

A good smart system that is integrated with your sprinkler configuration can tell you when it is the best time to water. Those in hot climates know that random watering done during the heat of the day is wasteful since there is a lot of evaporation, and a smart app can pin down the correct times to give your plants a good drink. The best innovations can interface with the weather so that you don’t water when it is raining.

smart irrigation

Smart mower

Wouldn’t it be great to just sit on the lawn chair while you grass is being cut? This is now possible with robot lawn mowing systems, and of course, these can be controlled from your mobile device.

Here’s how it works; available for lawns of all shapes and sizes, robot lawn mowers are relatively easy to set up and program. They’re powered by rechargeable batteries, so you don’t have to keep buying fresh batteries. Plus, they’re super quiet, which means you can turn them on at any hour of the day without bothering the neighbors. You’ll use bluetooth or Wi-Fi connectivity, and a mobile app to get them set up and get to work. Remember, if you have a large lawn, you’ll need to purchase a model that can handle larger areas and things that get in the way such as flower beds, trees, and bushes.

smart mower

Smart garden hub

These gizmos, such as GreenIQ, put it all together:

  • Soil temperature
  • Garden lights
  • Smoke alarms
  • Motion detectors
  • Personal weather stations

A smart garden hub will capture this information, interpret it, and allow your app to dictate plant watering cycles.

GreenIQ Smart Garden Hub, specifically, supports various Smart Home Integrations such as Amazon Alexa, Google Home, Nest, and Apple Watch and allows you to complete your Smart Home with a full Smart Garden experience.

The system factors in weather data from public weather stations or private like ones, Netatmo and Davis. It detects pipe leaks and clogs when connected to a flow meter. If you want your GreenIQ to factor in the soil moisture level, add a soil sensor to your system.

The possibilities are endless with smart garden hubs like GreenIQ!

Soil condition

Do you want to know your soil moisture content, fertilizer readings, temperature, light intensity, and what to do about it?

A soil sensor like Spiio can provide all of this information and your app can advise you of any corrective action that may be necessary.

With a good soil sensor and an integrated app, you will no longer have to guess about which fertilizer will adjust your lawn’s pH to the proper level for the type of plants you are growing.

smart soil

Smart awnings

Electric awnings have transformed the garden shade experience into something that can be managed with ease. You can extend your awning at the touch of a button and retract it the moment the conditions become too blustery. But now electric awnings have entered the modern age with the adoption of smart technology – you can set them up to be controlled from you mobile phone.

Camera

This is simple, but totally necessary if you go on vacation. A friend of ours was a great gardener but lived in the hot southwest and was afraid to go on vacation in July because three days without water would be a disaster for his garden.

One year, he had to leave for a wedding and primitively set up a mechanically timed DIY sprinkler system. It was set to go on twice a day. Our friend left for a week and hoped for the best. When he came home, he found out that while his concocted sprinkler system worked, it had also rained every day, and our guy came home to a flooded backyard.

With a simple camera, he could have seen from his mobile device that the sprinkler system needed to be turned off, and he could have asked his neighbor to help. Since he didn’t know what was going on, he had to clean up the mess.

The moral? Even if you don’t want to invest in a smart watering or gardening system, at least set up a smart camera so you can see what your yard looks like when you are gone, and subsequently take action where needed.

garden camera

RadbilSam Radbil is the lead writer for ABODO Apartments, an online real estate marketplace with available apartments from small towns like Eugene, Oregon to big cities like New York City. ABODO’s research and writing has been featured nationally in Curbed, Forbes, Realtor.com, HousingWire and more.

Current Issues, Guest Posts, How To, Solar Lighting, Sustainable Living, Water Features

solar power garden

Using solar energy for a more sustainable and efficient living is no longer far-fetched. More and more people are opting for this alternative source of energy that saves money, energy and the environment. Obviously, the cost-effectiveness of solar energy is one of the biggest perks for the majority of homeowners, and especially those that pay a great deal of attention to gardening. Providing plants with the necessary energy during the colder months, and even watering, requires a lot of energy, which can truly turn into a financial issue. The bigger your garden needs, the bigger the bill. In that respect, investing in solar panels may be the perfect way to keep your garden flourishing and cut expenses.

solar lights

Solar lights

One of the most popular ways to use solar energy to power your garden is to use it for the lighting. Essentially, solar panels can accumulate enough energy during the day so that you can light up and illuminate your garden at night. You can create different effects with low-energy LED lights and even light up your garden pond.

Power up the fountains

Speaking of ponds, you also have the possibility to power your fountains with solar energy. In general, solar energy doesn’t require complex wiring, which makes the installation of various water features quite simple and almost effortless. However, pumps may not work during the night (unless they have a battery back up) so keep that in mind if you want to keep fish in your pond.

solar fountain

Water your plants

This may as well be one of the best uses of solar energy when it comes to gardening. Plants need watering and depending on the size of your garden, this task can become quite tedious and time-consuming. If you opt for an irrigation system, you can save yourself a lot of time, but you can also save yourself from trouble and unnecessary expenses thanks to the solar irrigation system. Of course, you’ll need to keep track of the process for a couple of days until you adjust the settings perfectly, but after you’re all set with how the system works, you’ll be able to focus on other, more entertaining parts of gardening worry-free.

Solar-powered sheds

Do you want to take your gardening to a whole new level? If you want to turn your shed into a gardening heaven, you can still make the most out of solar panels. After all, the bigger your needs for electricity and the more you use solar power, the sooner you’ll notice the benefits and savings that come from using renewable energy. Of course, more serious steps require a more serious approach, so make sure to choose top quality. For instance, if you seek quality you can count on Skylight Energy, one of the leading providers of solar systems. It’s all about your needs, and these days, you can easily find someone to meet them.

Solar glazing

This is something that truly requires a bit more of initial investment, but if you plan to go big on your gardening and need a way to power the whole greenhouse, solar glazing is the perfect way to go about it. Essentially, this technology allows you to harvest the solar power straight from the windows. It’s still quite a new concept on the solar energy market, but the efficiency and functionality of it all is bound to make it one of the most popular trends in the world of renewable energy and gardening.

When it comes to installing solar panels, it’s important to do your research. The starting investment may put you off, but the long-term savings can be absolutely incredible. Of course, there are different options depending on what you need the energy for as well as the amount of energy your garden requires. However, combining solar power and gardening seems like a perfect fit so don’t hesitate to check your options and see whether you can benefit from such a change and help the environment along the way as well.

Robert ClaytonRobert Clayton is a blogger with a degree in engineering based in Sydney. His interests and passions include DIY, green technologies and home improvement. He also loves good food, music, dogs and enjoys spending time by the ocean. He’s a regular contributor for Smooth Decorator, An Australian Home improvement website.

Conservation, Current Issues, Dakota Murphey, Grow Your Own, How To

living off grid

If you hanker after a simple, sustainable life, you will love the idea of living the off-grid dream. Living without household utilities, the internet, fast food and all of the trappings of modern living may seem unimaginable to some, but to others it is a vision of the ideal lifestyle.

Going off-grid is a growing trend. Are you ready to take the leap? Read on to find out more.

What exactly is living off-grid?

The term off-grid actually means disconnected from the main national transmission grid of electricity. For some, off-grid living simply means disconnected from the electrical grid, for others the concept extends to a completely self-sufficient existence without reliance on any public utilities, including gas and water supply.

Why live off-grid?

There are many reasons people choose to live off-grid. Here are some of them:

  • Freedom from utility bills
  • A desire to live more in tune with the environment
  • A desire to be more environmentally responsible
  • Location (remote and beautiful)
  • Self-sufficiency
  • Healthier lifestyle
  • Educating future generations
  • To opt out of consumerism
  • To achieve complete independence

How to live off-grid

If you have pondered the idea of a more sustainable lifestyle, but don’t know where to start, here are 7 steps to get you living the off-grid dream. Just how far off the grid you go is up to you.

1. Land

Off-grid means different things to different people. If you are serious about going off-grid completely, you may be considering the purchase of a piece of land on which to start your smallholding and/or new eco-friendly life. Finding suitable, affordable land is one of the biggest hurdles to people looking to go completely off-grid in the UK.

However, while living completely off-grid in the UK is actually quite difficult, it’s not impossible. There are ways to live legally on cheap land in the UK, but you will have to negotiate local planning restrictions before constructing any dwelling.

forest

2. Power

There are many homeowners in the UK who have taken their first step to off-grid living simply by installing solar panels. Wind and water power are also being used to generate electricity for some homes. One of the biggest commitments required when going off-grid is to cut down and minimise the use of power as a resource.

There are many options on the market for home owners interested in self-sufficient renewable energy sources. Examples are biomass boilers, ground source heat pumps, and solar water heating.

Renewable electricity generated by acceptable installations, including off-grid systems, is currently eligible for payments under the Feed-in Tariffs (FIT) scheme. This is a government programme designed to promote the uptake of renewable and low-carbon electricity generation. However, the government have announced plans to axe the scheme from April next year.

3. Heating

Heat pumps are the most efficient way to heat an off-grid home and are currently considered one of the best off-grid heating options. Ground source heat pumps harvest heat from below the ground. Air source heat pumps absorb heat from the outside air.

Other options are biomass (burning wood and other organic matter) and solar thermal collectors.

4. Water

Truly living off-grid requires you to harness the invaluable resource that is water. Rainwater and borewater are clean sources of water, but may be contaminated and will therefore require sterilisation through a filter system before consumption.

Rainwater can be harvested, but realistically will need an underground tank that collects water from the guttering on your house, as well as a filter system. This can be costly (over £10,000). A borehole will require a geological survey. There are companies in the UK that can arrange the survey and drill the borehole for you. Find out more about the process here.

There is even the option of an off-grid box!

5. Food

You’re not truly off-grid until you grow your own food. Here are several good reasons why you should grow your own grub. For more tips on growing your own food, see here.

basket of food

6. Drainage

A simple soakaway is required to drain shower, washing machine and sink water (known as grey water) away. A soakaway is a hole dug in the ground approximately 1 metre deep. The hole is 80 per cent filled with broken bricks and rubble.

7. Sewage

Sewage wastewater from toilets and dishwashers is known as blackwater. When you live off-grid and you disconnect yourself from the municipal sewage system you’ll need to consider how you manage your wastewater and sewage.
The main options are a septic tank system or a more sophisticated miniaturised sewage treatment plant system. With a septic tank, you will need the tank de-sludged regularly. You may want to consider a composting toilet. See more information about off mains drainage here.

If you are looking for a challenge, a different pace of life and care about the planet, then off-grid living is worth considering. With battery storage and other eco-friendly technologies developing, living off-grid is likely to become easier and more popular in the future.

Dakota Murphey

Dakota Murphey is an independent content writer who regularly contributes to the horticulture industry. She enjoys nothing more than pottering around her gardening in the sunshine. Find out what else Dakota has been up to on Twitter, @Dakota_Murphey.

Current Issues, Flowers, Gary

remembrance poppy

On the eleventh of November 1918, France fell silent as men all over Europe put down rifles and stepped out of trenches – the world began to slowly awake from a five-year nightmare: millions were dead, hundreds of thousands injured and the world map changed forever. One hundred years on, the symbol most synonymous with the chaos of the First World War is not the stone crosses that sit on village greens across the country, but a small red flower.

poppy symbol remembrance

Every year, around the start of November, the poppy begins to appear on the coats and jackets of almost everyone you walk past on the street. These little paper flowers are one of the key markers of the year and have become an integral part of how we remember those who have died in conflict. But why has this symbol become so prevalent?

The plant was a cornerstone of the British Opium Trade and the wars it caused, but at this time it was merely a crop plant and only became associated with conflict during the Napoleonic wars.

The history of our current relationship with the poppy begins on the 3rd of May 1915, during the second battle of Ypres. John McCrae was an officer in the Canadian expeditionary force, and he had just presided over the funeral of a close friend. As he sat on the back of an ambulance he began writing the poem that would become “In Flanders Fields”: one of the best-known pieces in the cannon of wartime poetry. It is this poem that starts the story of the poppy as we know it today.

John McCrae
John McCrae

Much poetry from this time in the war makes reference to the poppy. The small red flower was a welcome burst of colour amongst grey upturned earth and a reminder that a world beyond no man’s land existed. The summer of 1915 saw an explosion of the flowers across the newly fertilized battlefields of France. The irony that all this new life came from their fallen comrades was not lost on the soldiers. To them, the millions of flowers that sprouted that summer were a symbol of hope at a time when attitudes in the trenches were changing. The chivalric dreams of unready teenagers were giving way to the realities of war and it’s horrors. The melancholy poems that poured out of the front at the time track this seachange in attitudes.

McCrae’s poem was published in Canada a few months later and it quickly took hold in the Canadian psyche as a symbol of remembrance. The poppy was such an important aspect of National mourning at the time that in 1918 – three days before the end of the war – Professor Moina Michael vowed to wear a poppy as a private symbol of remembrance, and did so for many years.

Moina Michael

After the war, Moina became a teacher to disabled veterans and soon found that many of them were struggling financially as they were unable to work. In an effort to help, Moina began selling silk poppies to raise funds and the practice was soon adopted by the British Legion Appeal Fund (later The Royal British Legion). 1921 saw the first poppy appeal in the UK, and since then it has been held every year; raising money to help veterans and those affected by war. 2018 marks the centenary of the armistice and the poppy is still one of the most recognisable signs of remembrance for many around the world.

Gary ClarkeGary works in the Primrose product loading team, writing product descriptions and other copy. With seven years as a professional chef under his belt, he can usually be found experimenting in the kitchen or sat reading a book.

See all of Gary’s posts.