ISSUE 32  |  Down Under

Garden Tech: An App to Water Your Lawn

August 15, 2014 1:30 PM

BY Cynthia Salaysay

What can’t a smartphone do these days? It can buy you lattes, find out the baseball score, and measure how many steps you take in a day. It can check the weather forecast, and turn on your irrigation system. And if you’re using Hydros, a new smartphone app by Simple Elements, it can check the weather forecast and the moisture level in your soil before turning on your irrigation system. We like the idea behind it: saving water, saving money, and helping the planet while keeping the garden in good shape. 

The founders of Simple Elements, Christy and Manuel Masri, invented Hydros after becoming frustrated with their old timer for irrigating the lawn. “We could set the days and how long to water,” said Christy. “But if we were out of town and didn’t know it was going to rain, there was no changing it. It would turn on the sprinklers in the morning, even though it might be raining in the afternoon. After that happened several times, we thought, ‘why not create a controller ourselves?'”

In drought-stricken places such as California, Hydros is particularly relevant, as the scheduling tool allows you to restrict watering to certain days. But even if you’re simply a busy gardener, it can save you money–from 25 to 60 percent off your water bill, according to the company website. Simple Elements is working to develop further tools for water companies so they can credit residents for using Hydros sensors to restrict water use.

Photography courtesy of Hydros.

Above: Hydros comes in two parts: A rechargeable sensor placed in the ground checks the condition of the soil, and a controller hooks into the irrigation controller to turn the water off and on. A smartphone (currently iPhone supports the app; an Android platform is in development) and a home Wi-Fi network are also required to operate the system. 

Above: The application checks the Internet for the weather forecast–a high chance of rain will delay watering. Later, the sensor will check the moisture level of the soil to see if it did rain, and how much. Hydros will then recalculate how much water the garden needs. And based on temperature, humidity, and soil moisture levels, it will calculate how long to keep the sprinklers running. 

Above: Other factors also influence the schedule, like soil type and grass type, and how moist you’d like the garden to be. You can feed Hydros information about your soil–clay? sand?– and your grass–Bermuda?–to tailor the watering schedule to your plants’ specific needs. You can use multiple sensors for different parts of the garden–say, one for your vegetable bed, one for your rock garden, and one for your lawn. And you can program each zone to be watered accordingly, via your smartphone. You can also manually turn on and off the water, via your smartphone. 

Above: The price is $230 for the controller and one sensor–which would eventually be recouped through savings from your water bill. Installation is simple and free. The company is currently launching a new round of testing and development–expect to see Hydros on the market early next spring.

For more apps to help you in the garden, see ID Leaves and Flowers (There’s an App for That and The 10 Best Garden Design Apps.