Let’s talk food. Organic food, to be precise. It’s no great secret that food grown without pesticides, hormones and chemicals is better for us, not to mention better for the environment. The figures speak for themselves. 2017 saw a 6% rise in UK organic food sales, the sixth consecutive annual uplift.
Unfortunately, the figures on the price tickets also speak for themselves. Organic produce can be more than double the price of conventionally produced foods, which can dig a big hole in the weekly shopping budget, and might explain more and more of us rolling up our sleeves and growing our own tasty and organic fruit, vegetables and herbs at home.
Whether you have green fingers or a black thumb, a kitchen windowsill or half a dozen vergees, this month’s crop of gadgets will set you on your way to being the next Monty Don.
Hozelock Cloud Controller
How many times have you seen a garden sprinkler happily gushing away, in the middle of a downpour? It’s a complete waste of water and electricity. There are plenty of sprinkler systems that can be timed to operate automatically throughout the day, but these don’t take into account weather conditions, and unless you’re standing there to turn them off manually, they just carry on regardless.
The Hozelock cloud controller offers a more intelligent watering set-up. The supplied tap unit wirelessly connects to the partner app on your IOS or Android phone through the supplied hub, creating a secure system with no pairing required. The app then allows you to remotely control watering schedules, no matter where you are. At work and the heavens open? Cancel the early evening watering with one tap. On holiday and notice the temperature in Jersey has ramped up to 30 degrees (just your luck!); simply up the water volume by 50% to combat parched peas or shrivelled spinach.
The app also links to a weather service, and offers push notifications alerting you to a change in predicted weather patterns. All you need to think about is what to pick for dinner.
Ollivan Plant Monitor
Take the guess work out of gardening with this small and clever device. The Ollivan plant monitor is a smart little gizmo designed to be popped in the soil beside any plant and monitor the temperature, moisture levels, sunlight exposure and fertiliser levels, and advise whether more or less of each is required. Operated by a single button battery lasting up to a year, a number of sensors collect the required soil and air data and communicate via Bluetooth to an iOS or Android device.
Fire up the accompanying app and select the flora in question from the extensive available list of over 3000 varieties, and then sit back and wait for the information to filter through. The app also allows for cloud storage of photos, so you can monitor growth and compare year on year.
If there’s a downside here it’s that at almost £20 a pop it could get expensive to keep an eye on all of your vegetation at once, so it’s probably best used as a diagnostic tool for ailing shrubs, rather than a permanent fixture across the board.
Probably of more use to serious gardeners than amateur herb growers, none the less the Vegibee Pollinator deserves its place here. With a worrying decline in the bees who do this vital job, our gardens and allotments need all the help they can get.
Suitable for use on all tomato, pepper, bean, aubergine and strawberry plants, this cross between an electric toothbrush and a magic wand imitates the sonic vibration made by the wings of a bee, and fools flowers into releasing pollen on to the integrated collection spoon.
In just seconds enough pollen will have been collected to pollinate half a dozen flowers, and regular use can see vegetable crops increase by 30% per year.
Click & Grow Smart Garden 9
Don’t have a garden or balcony but would still like to grow some healthy greens? The Smart Garden 9 is small enough to sit on a windowsill or kitchen counter, but can produce an impressive amount of edible fayre, including (but not limited to) mini tomatoes, wild strawberries, lettuce, chillies and a whole smorgasbord of herbs.
To say this is space age gardening is not too far from the truth; the supplied ‘smart soil’ is inspired by NASA technology and the garden has built in sensors to monitor oxygen, water and nutrients, along with LED grow lights to encourage quick germination and speedy growth. It doesn’t sound too organic does it? But with no pesticides or harmful chemicals involved, everything produced is completely natural.
The Smart Garden 9 runs on mains electricity and features 9 growing areas, coming complete with smart soil, adjustable grow lamp and enough basil, mini tomato and green lettuce seeds to get you started. Simply fill the water tank, plug in the plant capsules, switch on the power and walk away. No watching or watering is required, this is zero effort cultivation.
The Smart Garden 9 is £199 from www.conranshop.co.uk