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Jack Wallington has a life-long affinity with plants, wildlife and design. In my spare time, he’s studying for RHS Level 3 with the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh, having passed Level 2 with seven commendations. Today, Jack Wallington gives us the scoop on the top garden gadgets for small space gardening…
The Small Space Essentials
I love tech and I love gardening. As an amateur gardener I’ve found some of today’s geeky gardening gizmos really good at stopping me killing plants. Not killing plants, after all, is definitely something to strive for as a gardener. Also, gadgets help you maximise space if you only have a small urban plot like me. Out of all of my garden gadgets, six have proven to be absolutely brilliant at getting me started…
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Garden Gadgets – A digital thermometer
Rock and roll, right? Bear with me. Thermometers are a must for knowing exactly when to start growing stuff in spring, especially if you plan on growing plants from seed. You can get expensive gizmos to connect to your iPhone these days but all you need is a cheap fifteen quid digital thermometer that is accurate and tells you day and night temperatures, and humidity. After much research (… a two second flick through Amazon reviews) I opted for ‘TFA Indoor Digital Thermo Hygrometer’ – try saying that after a glass of wine. I’ve had one of these for over two years and it’s still going on the same battery. I love its retro plasticky effectiveness. It’s worth hunting for a waterproof outdoor thermometer too.
Garden Gadgets – Garland Super 7 Windowsill Propagator
Awesome people like to give growing plants from seed a go. So assuming you are one of these awesome people you’re gonna need the tools. I was given the Garland Super 7 (£25 – £30) for my birthday two years ago. It is my favourite gardening gadget of all because it looks pretty cool with emerging life bursting from it, fits on a windowsill and it works! Everything germinates on mine and I can pretend to be a space botanist (bonus). With this you’ll be pumping out plants like nobody’s business. It feels like magic as little green shoots of new life spring up. Just remember to always use proper, fresh seed sowing compost – it matters – and don’t overwater.
Garden Gadgets – Parrot Flower Power
Parrot Flower Power is a twig shaped plastic gadget with a range of sensors built into it that talk to an app on your phone. You stick it into the soil near your plant (inside or outside) and it will monitor the plant’s water, light, fertiliser and temperature needs. While its ‘twig’ design makes me laugh at the backfired attempt to be inconspicuous, the sensors work incredibly well. The price has come down now to £35, which is still quite expensive because it can only monitor one plant at a time. If however, like me, keeping even one plant alive is an achievement, this is value for money. I really do recommend it because it works well and acts like a little robo-guide, educating you on the correct plant maintenance. After 6 – 12 months, you’ll learn what to look for yourself and it can be moved to another plant.
Garden Gadgets – Dark Sky
I confess I am obsessed with the temperature, the weather and as much data on both as I can get my grubby gardening gloves on. I cannot get enough. My only excuse is that knowing the temperature and weather is critical to gardening. So Dark Sky, a live satellite data powered weather app is brilliant. It’s simple and the most accurate weather app I know of. I must check Dark Sky in winter and spring more than I check Twitter and Facebook… Almost.
Garden Gadgets – GardenTags Gardening App
GardenTags is great for many things but two standout as essential: 1) keeping a record of what you’ve grown and when, and 2) asking for help from other gardeners when you need it. It’s amazing how easily you forget the good, the bad and the time of year things happened. Personally, I use my phone to keep a photo record of the stuff I find interesting. Upload it to GardenTags and you have a diary to look back on. You can also use this app to post questions and seek advice, something I do all the time to improve my knowledge.
Garden Gadgets – Cold frame
I like to think of cold frames as miniature green houses. “Hey, a miniature green house isn’t a techie gadget you moron” I hear you think. But you’re clearly not thinking like a medieval farmer my friend (also, I just checked a dictionary and a gadget is any tool that does something useful, so there you go). As a box with a hinged window, these gadgets are vital for defying cold weather when growing hardy seedlings like sweet peas and hardening off your propagator grown plants in spring. I picked up a simple small wooden one with a plastic window for about £40.
With these six items I had a production line of seed grown plants in their hundreds starting in a space no bigger than 3ft. There’s obviously a bit more to gardening, however with these pieces of technology your life will be much easier and chances of success better. All for very little money indeed.
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