Smart Plant Technology May Be the Cure for Your Lack of a Green Thumb Houseplants and gardens improve our overall health, but it feels impossible for some.

Gardening is so therapeutic there’s an entire organization dedicated to the practice, called the American Horticultural Therapy Association. Growing houseplants or starting a backyard garden can sound unbelievable for some to start, but it’s possible, even in the smallest of spaces.

Aside from working the cannabis harvest, I hadn’t been able to do much farming or gardening until I moved back to Tucson. Now I’ve been gardening in my apartment and on the balcony for several years and have over twenty plants in various stages of growth and with different origin stories.

Some, like my pineapples, were grown from scraps from the grocery store. Every time pineapples were on sale for a dollar, I’d buy a couple, cut them up, dry them, and plant them. It’s a great way to start a garden with only the investment of food you already bought to eat anyway.

Others were either bought or propagated from pre-existing plants. It’s hard growing plants in the desert since most information is meant for people who live in higher humidity areas. We get a lot of sun but no water, and you need to understand how to grow in these conditions.

If you don’t want to know all that, you can always go the automated route. Companies are releasing new products that automate watering and light cycles, even feeding. Like my plants, there are now several generations of products, and each is designed for different purposes and markets.

Let’s break it down.

Houseplant Automation

There are several different ways brands are integrating live plants into our homes, and they all fit different lifestyles.

aerogarden

Tabletop versions use aeroponics and hydroponics to grow small herbs, wheatgrass, and even fruits/vegetables like lettuce and tomatoes. AeroGarden, Veritable, and Smart Garden are all tabletop houseplant devices, and smartphone connectivity isn’t even needed, as the light and mineral cycles are all automated based on a typical grow season.

These devices require nutrients, although seed kits typically come with enough for a single grow. They use growing mediums like coconut coir and light height can be adjusted to ensure maximum coverage. I’ve used all three at one point or another, and they’re very similar.

Using these tabletop smartplant devices, you can harvest your own fresh herbs, spices, and other foods to use in dishes. They’re great for planting in your kitchen, so you can just pick at them while you cook. It’s as close as farm-to-table as you can get. Devices can typically handle 3-9 plants, and pre-made seed kits will often come with complementary plants.

For example, a “salsa” seed kit would have cherry tomatoes, onions, and cilantro, while an “Italian seasoning” seed kit would include oregano, chives, and basil. If you use your own seeds, you should consider how well plants live together and which ones are best grown in these smaller kits.

This wouldn’t, for example, be the best place to keep your succulent collection, which can thrive in low-water areas throughout the house. And if you’re going to grow in soil, Parrot Pot has that covered.

Parrot Pot Smart Pot

That’s right – the drone company also makes an automated pot that can water your plants, and it does a pretty good job overall. I’ve been using it the past few years, and it’s currently on the back patio holding my Asiatic Lilly. Parrot Pots can be used for any stage of plant and set through the app to optimize watering schedules.

Unlike the tabletop models, there’s no light included, so only the watering schedule is automated. There are appliances by companies like Leaf, Niwa, and Danby that put lights, airflow, and water/feeding into a form factor basically resembling a mini fridge or dishwasher. In fact, you can replace your dishwasher with one of these to bring your kitchen to the next level, and some of them have the same connectivity as the Parrot Pot.

And while these appliances keep plants alive indoors, growing plants in your yard is a whole other logistical problem. That’s why other companies focus on that.

Lawn and Garden Automation

The Rachio 3 is a next-gen smarthome device that connects your sprinkler system to Wi-Fi, enabling control with Google Assistant, Amazon Alexa, and Apple HomeKit. It also adds a ton of features to let you monitor and control the water in your sprinkler system.

What’s great about this device is once you set it up, you basically don’t have to think about it anymore. It’s home automation at its finest, giving you a green lawn or plentiful garden without even needing to know how it’s happening. In fact, reviewers consistently praise this device for making it easy to water your front and back lawn.

The Rachio 3 can be fine-tuned for whatever you want to grow, which brings us to the final section to discuss.

Cannabis Grow Kits

And of course if you’re into home gardening, you’re likely interested in growing cannabis, mushrooms, opium, and other illicit plants. There are way better publications to learn about cannabis growing than what I can tell you, but I can tell you that most of the options above (sans the Rachio and possibly Niwa) will fail for cannabis because it requires a LOT of grow space.

Marijuana bud trimming supplies
Perspective of a bud trimmer…

You can, however, use the Rachio in a home grow, and there are plenty of home grow kits you can find online. What you choose depends on how stealthy you need your grow to be and whether you can grow indoors or out.

Smart lights and smart plugs can be used to automate a home grow too,and color-changing lights can help account for the lack of full-spectrum lighting. The key is to get as much light, airflow, and cannabis-specific nutrients as possible using the principles of the above-mentioned devices but adapted for the cannabis plant.

Which smart plant devices and appliances are you using?

Versability

Brian Penny is a former Business Analyst and Operations Manager at Bank of America turned whistleblower, troll, and freelance writer.

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