Top 5 gardening gadgets for Spring 2014

As the icy fingers of winter begin to relax their grip and the daffodils poke their heads up only to get battered down by the gales, it’s inevitable that we begin to turn our thoughts towards the garden. Depending on your attitude to gardening this might be an occasion for joy or for dread. Fortunately whether you’re a green fingered wizard or a do-as-little-as-possible-to-keep-it-tidy type, there are a whole host of new gadgets around to help make things easier and encourage you to release your inner Titchmarsh.

Koubachi Wi-Fi Plant Sensor

koubachi

If you’re a gardening novice, or you’ve moved to a new house and are not sure what kind of plants you’ll be able to grow, it’s all too easy to make the wrong choices or not give plants the attention they need to thrive. Fortunately technology has the answer in the form of the Koubachi Wi-Fi Plant Sensor.

Simply place the unit outside next to your plants and it will collect information on sunlight, temperature and moisture levels. After it’s had some time to do its job you can analyse the data on your PC or with a smartphone app to determine the exact needs of your plant. It can even send an alert to your phone when your plants need attention.

It will work equally well in the garden or a window box and there’s an indoor version if you’re struggling to keep your houseplants healthy. Your data is stored securely in the cloud so you can move the sensor around and build up a profile of different locations in your garden. Sold through Amazon, the Apple Store and elsewhere, the Koubachi isn’t cheap at £99.95 for the outdoor version, but it could save you a fortune in replacement plants.

Flymo 1200R

flymo-1200r

Mowing the lawn is one of the chores that many gardeners least look forward to. That’s probably the reason why robot mowing technology is already well established and there are a variety of options on the market.

Mower specialist Flymo is the new kid in the automated garden with its first robotic mower the 1200R. It can handle a lawn area of up to 400 square metres and work on inclines of up to 25%. Programming is quick and simple, you just set cutting days and times on the machine’s display panel and set it off, it automatically returns to its charging station when its batteries get low. Quiet operation means you can set it to mow at night without any fear of disturbing the neighbourhood.

It avoids obstacles using a combination of a boundary wire and collision sensors, it also automatically shuts down when lifted to ensure safe operation. Shop around online and you can pick up a 1200R for £849.99, a small price to pay for a lawn that’s always neat and the opportunity to spend your gardening time lounging in a deckchair.

Black & Decker 3-in-1 Strimmer

blackdecker-3in1

It’s usually the case with gardening that one tool is never enough for the job. You cut the lawn with your mower but then you need to switch to a strimmer to finish off the edges. Black & Decker has come up with a clever solution in the form of a strimmer that not only trims and edges but clips into a base to turn it into a lawnmower.

Ideally suited to smaller gardens, the 3-in-1 doesn’t take up much storage space either as you can simply hang it on a wall when not in use. The machine is available in corded and rechargeable versions, the latter being powered by an 18V lithium battery. The mower deck allows you to adjust the cutting height and in edging mode there’s a guide wheel to keep you on track.

The cordless version costs £189 but if you already have a Black & Decker strimmer you can buy the wheeled mower deck separately – check the website for compatibility.

Hozelock Wonderweeder

wonderweeder

Dealing with weeds is a constant battle for any gardener. Either you pull or dig them out by hand, which risks leaving behind a part of the root to regrow, or you use weedkiller. But conventional sprays risk drift onto other plants and buying pre-mixed sprays is also an expensive option.

The Wonderweeder offers a better way of delivering a lethal dose of herbicide. It’s refillable so you can mix your own deadly cocktail from a concentrated solution, using the dosing cap built into the handle to get it suitably poisonous, and it has a translucent tank so you can see when you’re running out. There’s a protective shield over the spray nozzle allowing you to spot weed without harming surrounding plants and the spray is adjustable too. A big advantage of the Wonderweeder is you can use it standing up so you can tackle your weed problem without putting any strain on your back.

Available at Homebase and other stores the Wonderweeder costs just £17.99.

Garden Plan Pro

garden-plan-pro

If you’re the type of gardener that likes to grow your own produce rather than simply putting on a display of blooms or having a tidy lawn, then you’ll love Garden Plan Pro. It’s an iPod app that not only lets you create a plan for your perfect garden, but by using data from thousands of weather stations around the world it can also recommend the best plants for your location. In addition it can tell you the best times to sow and harvest your fruit and veg to get the best crop.

The app can alert you by email when it’s time to get your wellies out and start planting and it will advise on spacing and crop rotation to help you make the most of your plot. You can also access bonus content on topics like controlling pests.

The app costs £6.99 and it’s compatible with the GrowVeg.com desktop garden planning program so you can transfer plans to and from your iPad.

Colapz, the UK’s first folding garden watering can

colapz-folding-watering-can

Like shears and lawnmowers, watering cans are an irrefutably necessary gardener’s tool. Despite the somewhat hoary ubiquitous popularity of watering cans, it has to be said that unless you’ve got an ample-sized shed, these big and bulky items take up way too much room. Watering cans are also one of those long-standing items that have seemed to resist the advances of modern technology – after all, how can you make something a basic and uncomplicated as a watering can more sophisticated?

Nottingham-based product design and manufacturing consultants Sorcit claim to have come up with the answer to sophisticate such a ‘down-to-earth’ device in the form of a fold-up watering can.  Ingeniously named Colapz, the UK’s first folding watering can is justifiably poised to become this year’s “must have” outdoor item.

Funky to look at and easy to collapse, the biggest asset of this innovative gardening gadget is that it won’t take up so much room in our grossly over-occupied garden sheds. Being just 24cm in diameter, 10cm in depth and folding to a flat circular shape, this lightweight watering can will store away discreetly, meaning that tripping over it every time we enter the shed or garage is no longer a concern. Despite its compact potentialities, the Colpaz can hold nine litres of water meaning that gardeners can save valuable time and energy by not having to keep refilling an insufficiently-sized watering can.

What’s more, being made from 100% recyclable materials, this durable gardening tool adheres to modern manufacturers’ responsibilities be create products that are favourable to the environment.

Other features of the Colapz that prove that watering cans are at last becoming more sophisticated is its integral splashguard, its moulded feet to protect the base, and a level indicator which will help gardeners when mixing in fertilizers and other additives.

Asides many of us owning a dejectedly small  shed, more and more occupiers of flats, apartments and studios in cities and towns are getting on the gardening trail by having roof or balcony gardens or even allotments. In being able to crush down to a flat circular shape, the Colapz would make a great tool for gardeners with seriously limited space.

Available in several funky colours, including Blood Red, Candy Pink and Lime Green and costing a refreshingly modest £19.99, we have to admit, the Colapz would make a great Christmas present for any discerning gardener.

Check out our hands-on video of the Colapz:

Pre-order a Colapz ahead of the festive rush at http://www.colapz.com/.

Koubachi Plant Sensor: Tells you what your plants are thinking

It’s that time of year when thoughts turn to gardening – the most famous flower show in the year at Chelsea has just ended and the Royal Horticultural Society’s programme of flower shows is in full swing.

But do you ever wonder why that generic houseplant on the windowsill always looks so sickly, or why you can’t get your plant to produce just one flower?

Koubachi-in-Room

Maybe the Koubachi Plant Sensor could come to the rescue – it promises to let you know what your plant really needs, thanks to a Wi-Fi Plant Sensor, that is placed in the soil around the plant, and an iPhone app.

Sounds a tad over the top to us, but it did win the 2012 Red Dot Design award, so surely must have some merit.

Let’s find out some more…

The built-in Wi-Fi module within the plant sensor enables data to be sent to the Koubachi Cloud, where it is analysed based on scientific care models developed in cooperation with leading biologists. Then, the detailed instructions on how to care for your plant will be sent to you via the Koubachi iPhone App or Web App. One Koubachi Wi-Fi sensor can be used to monitor and set up alerts for all your household plants.

Koubachi-Box

The sensor can monitor all your plants needs including:

1) Watering: the moisture sensor ensures effective plant watering and prevents over-watering.

2) Temperature: The temperature sensor monitors ambient surroundings ensuring that your plants are placed in ideal temperature environments and will let you now if it is too cold or hot.

3) Light intensity: The light intensity sensor ensures that you know whether your plants are in the right place to promote healthy growth.

4) Fertilising: Based on the individual plant care model for your plant species, Koubachi gives timed fertiliser notifications.

5) Misting: Some plants only thrive if misted regularly – Koubachi knows whether your plant needs misting and will tell you.

And where does the name come from? Back in the time when the founders were looking for a name, they made an analogy to the once-famous Tamagotchi – as they thought it quickly explains the concept in a nutshell. They learned that -chi is the diminutive in Japan. They looked up what plant means in Japanese – apparently Kouba – and then created Koubachi.

Can we look forward to any other gadgets from the same designers? Aparently so, they told us: “We believe in our vision of an internet of things. We are already working on subsequent product ideas drawing on our platform. An idea could be an interactive “room climate sensor” (with humidity, noise sensor etc.) which is quite close to the current product. Other ideas are an interactive “wine cellar sensor”, a “terrarium sensor” or a sensor to help you take care of your pool.”

The Koubachi apps can also be used without a sensor. They are free but the Wi-Fi Plant Sensor costs £99 from http://store.koubachi.com, which includes a lifelong free subscription to the Koubachi system, including regular updates of the apps and the plant library.

More at www.Koubachi.com

Robomow RM510: Never push a lawnmower again

Cutting the grass was the ultimate excuse for me to get out of doing housework or the washing up. Of course in winter I had to resort to alternative scenarios but each summer it was always my escape route. Now all those carefully laid plans are in tatters thanks to Robomow. Designing a lawnmower that does everything itself. How could they even think of such a thing?

Robomow

Following a simple one time set up where you peg a wire (which is supplied) around the edges of your lawn, the Robomow RM510 will duly set off from its base docking station at the appropriate time you’ve programmed it to and cut your lawn in perfect lines. And it doesn’t just cut, it disposes of the cut grass too by mulching it back under the now pristine turf So no waste grass to worry about because its recycled and your lawn gets fertilised at the same time. When its work is done it returns to its docking station obediently to get recharged ready for its next mowing session.

The built in rain sensor will make sure your Robomow doesn’t venture out when the grass is wet and there’s an additional remote control you can add to navigate it around any particularly narrow strips of grass. Just think, you could be the envy of your neighbours who’ll be desperate to get their hands on it, fortunately the RM510 has a user controlled anti-theft guard and alarm system built in so there’s no chance of it going walkies unless you’ve programmed it to do so. While we’re on the subject of security there’s a tilt detection cut out and a child lock system built in and the unit detects trees, rocks and other obstacles.

In other words, you and I have no choice but do those waiting dishes from now on.

Robomow RM510 £1071.32 available from www.mowermagic.co.uk.

Christmas gifts for the green-fingered

It may be frosty out there (and those further north may already have their snow shovels out) but keen gardeners will always be happy to receive something for the outdoors, whatever the weather.

So here’s a few gift ideas for the garden…

RainPerfect

The RainPerfect solar-powered water pump

We know it’s hard to think about solar-powered anything when the skies are grey, but thinking ahead to the summer, this solar-powered water pump from Rule Innovation could be a godsend.

We’re all keen on recycling nowadays, and anyone who collects rainwater in a water butt will know how tough it can be to get it out of the water butt and onto the garden. Filling up endless watering cans can be a bit of a pain. That’s where the pump comes in.

RainPerfect-InSitu

It is powered by a 3.5 watt solar panel and generates sufficient pressure to power a water hose or garden sprinklers in order to recycle the water harvested in water butts.

It’s a win-win situation – recycling rainwater and saving on energy costs! The perfect green gadget

Price: £106

From: www.amazon.co.uk

Rain Garden Kits

Still on the subject of water, Rain Garden Kits collect the rainwater from your roof and puts it to good use. Company owner Chris Killingbeck says: “The soft rain water is simply ideal for growing orchids, rhododendrons, azaleas and camellias, and kids will love creating their own wild wetland centre brimming with nature.”

Rain gardens are nothing new. In the Mediterranean, sun-kissed gardeners have been building sinks to store rain water for hundreds of years. These offer an affordable and easy-to-build way of brightening up any garden in an environmentally-friendly fashion. Customers don’t even need to have a huge garden since the mini soakaway kit is perfect for growing wetland plants in a small, city garden.

Chris explains: “Installing a water butt is a great way to start, but once it is full the water reverts to the sewers. A rain garden takes the overflow from the water butt to fill or top-up a pond and even a soakaway unit in which you can grow vegetables or marsh plants. Plants for ponds and soakaways are included in our kits.”

Price: From just under £100 for a Herb Wheel kit.

From: www.raingardenkits.co.uk

Electric-Propagator

Premium Variable Control Electric Propagator

If you’re not a gardener, this may sound a very unthrilling sort of present, but believe us when we say that for anyone who is serious about their growing, this new Propagator from Stewart would be a great thing to find in a stocking on Christmas morning!

The 52cm propagator will help them to grow winter vegetables, so will be greatly appreciated at a time of year when there’s not much to be getting on with in the garden.

Heated propagators are also essential if you want to grow some of the more exotic kinds of plants such as proteas from Australia and South Africa.

Stewart, one of the biggest names in the propagators market, has also recently launched a range of Premium Thermostatic Control Electric Propagators, available in 38cm and 52cm sizes.

Price: £84.99

From: www.stewartlimited.co.uk

Fairy Berries

Great for this time of year (but equally enchanting for summer parties) are the Fairy Berries from Firebox.

These delightful little orbs light up and genetly glow, creating the illusion of flickering lights (a bit like little fireflies dotted all about your garden).

Because there are no wires involved, they can be placed wherever you like –  they’ll even float on a pond to turn it into a magical water feature if you so wish.

We’ve tried them out and absolutely love the effect they create – the only thing is that you only get 10 in a box, so if you want to create a garden-wide effect it’s going to cost you! But fantastic for use indoors and out.

You get 20 hours use from each ball (it is possible to turn them off by removing one of the batteries). Should you wish to hang them up, so they appear to be floating in mid-air, attach them to a tree or internal fitting using fishing line fixed to the small recessed hook.

Price: £19.99

From: www.firebox.com

Grand Designs Live: Garden Gadgets

Gardening may be about getting back to basics, back to nature and being at one with the earth – but the good news for all you gadget lovers is that you can still enjoy a technological treat even if you’re out in the great outdoors. This week’s Grand Designs Live show features a number of products designed to make gardening easier.

Click-and-Grow

For anyone who enjoys plants, but can’t cope with the whole business of looking after them, the answer comes in the shape of the Click & Grow. This flowerpot takes care of the whole plant growing process – if a plant is growing in the Click & Grow, it won’t need watering or fertilising (great if you go away a lot). The flowerpot features sensors, a microprocessor and special software, which take care of all the plant’s needs.

Inside each Click 7 Grow flowerpot sits a plant cartridge, which has everything you need – including seeds, nutrients and software. Rather like a printer cartridge, you slot it into the flowerpot and it takes care of everything you need to grow a plant.

If you want to be a bit more involved, but don’t know whether you’re over- or under-watering or have put your plants in the right place, you need the EasyBloom Plant Sensor. The sensor can tell you if the plant needs more or less water, or whether it needs to be moved to a different area with alternative light conditions, or different soil conditions.

Grand-Designs-Live-Gardens-Automower

If mowing the lawn is one job you hate, you can get an automated mower to do it for you. The Solar Hybrid Automower from Husqvarna uses both solar and battery power. This robotic mower does the job for you – once you have set up the guide wires – so you can get on with something more enjoyable, like sitting on the patio with a long cool drink. It can even send you a text message if its operation gets interrupted for some reason. And it’s so clever that it will even find its own way back to a charging station when it gets low on juice. It’s also a greener option than a petrol mower as it is emission-free. Mind you, you’ll really have to hate mowing lawns to splash out more than two grand on this gadget.

And to keep your drinks cool so that you can enjoy them al fresco, how about the External Refrigerator, which fits to an outside wall? During the night, or in cold weather, the external temperatures are used to keep the contents cool, while in the daytime and warmer weather, energy is provided through its solar panels.

For more on the Grand Designs Live show and the products featured, head to www.granddesignslive.com