Living with Technology: Garden tech continues to blossom
Updated 8:44 am, Wednesday, June 10, 2015
Home automation continues to advance unabated. And devices that go outside require a different sort of capabilities. Specifically, they need to handle “the elements,” which usually means sun, water, both hot and cold temperatures and more roughness than indoor items.
Some of our neighbors have “invisible” fences that they use to keep their dogs within a perimeter of their home. This works quite nicely and once the dogs are trained, the dogs don’t have to wear the collar that informs them when they’re reaching the buried wire that forms the invisible fence.
Other outdoor tech includes motion detectors that turn on lights when people walk by. We’ve found around our home that our exterior lights turn on nicely when deer come in our yard, making it easier for them to see the really good flowers and plants in our garden. This means they can eat far more of our plants than they otherwise would.
Of course, swimming pools have had technology for years, keeping pools properly filtered and chlorinated, although the efficiency of pumps and filters has improved dramatically over the years.
Solar panels are another great outdoor tech tool. While we don’t generally receive as much sun as places in California, Arizona and Nevada, people here in Connecticut can generally use their roofs to generate some or all of their electricity. The rising efficiency and lowering costs of putting solar panels on one’s roof are making the economics of doing this much more attractive.
While not completely outdoors, some homes are now drilling deep wells not for water, but for heating and cooling. If one drills a deep hole (a couple hundred feet) into the ground, the temperature stays pretty constant year round. By cycling fluid down and back up from the ground, you can get pretty constant free temperature. This means that heat can be sent into the ground and cool air brought up in the summer and cold can be sent down and warm(er) temperatures can be received in the winter.
These systems are quite expensive to build, but can save significant amounts of energy over the years.
Sprinkler systems are getting smarter, too. Years ago, sprinklers had timers that would go on and off every day at a certain time. They’re now smarter in that they can know if it’s rained recently and, therefore, don’t require watering now.
Drip irrigation systems also use far less water by only watering where plants need water the most and not all of the ground surrounding the plants. These require some setup and are not great where people (kids?) or animals might come through and disrupt the tubes that span from plant to plant.
With all of the tech that is available, I’m still a low tech gardener. Most of the watering I do is by hand. Yes, it takes more time, but I find it relaxing and enjoy the quiet and enjoy spending time seeing the plants and flowers grow.
So as I’ve looked for nozzles for my garden hose, I’ve tried half a dozen. They all seem to leak or have more spray functions than I ever knew existed. So far, my favorite nozzle is my thumb. I can put my thumb over the end of the hose and make an infinite amount of spray variations. I can’t make quite the same patterns as the expensive nozzles, but after a lifetime of using my thumb, it makes a pretty good nozzle.
And, with my thumb, I can deftly squirt the kids if they try to sneak up on me. No commercial nozzle I’ve seen can do that.
Yet again, not every problem requires a technological solution. Quite often, simplicity trumps sophistication. Watering my garden is one of those situations for me.
Mark Mathias is a 35-plus year information technology executive, a resident of Westport. His columns can be read at http://blog.mathias.org online. He can be contacted at email@example.com.