Tuesday, April 19, 2016

How Smart is Smart Phone-Controlled Irrigation?

Wifi-enabled solar-powered Edyn sensor.

 by Jenny Stein – photos by Tom Johnson 
As a reminder, the MMWD water restrictions remain in effect through the end of October:
  • limit watering to 3 days per week – any 3 
  • only water after 7 p.m. & before 9 a.m.
  • use a hose with a shut-off nozzle
  • zero overspray & zero water runoff 
  • do not run irrigation while it’s raining or for 48 hours afterwards
For the full Marin Municipal Water Department regulations and drought updates CLICK HERE.

While commercial irrigation systems are designed (and may be required) to have rain sensors (where water flow is turned off during and following periods of rain) most domestic systems are not that sophisticated. Not to mention that most commercial systems are prohibitively expensive and out of scale for home use. A quick internet search of 'smart garden' yields a slew of new products designed to fill this gap, of which Edyn is just one. *

The EDYN garden sensor and valve work in tandem to supply small gardens with just the right amount of irrigation. Actually the Edyn system is potentially a whole lot more; the sensor provides a wide range of feedback including moisture, light levels, humidity and nutrients. Suitable for container gardening, this solar-powered wifi-enabled local weather-monitoring smart phone-controlled duo looks really smart. But while the hardware is smartly designed and solidly made, there's still a learning curve. **

Smart phone-controlled Edyn valve [left]
alongside the manual-dial raindrip [right]
Most of the products on the market aim to deliver only as much water as is needed (in response to soil moisture or based on local weather reports) as well as provide the ability to control irrigation remotely (let's say when on holiday), or to key in a more sophisticated weekly watering schedule. None of these systems are cheap. In that regard the best control is to use a spray nozzle or tip the water saved (while warming up the shower) onto one's own plants. But if you're looking to upgrade your irrigation, a 'smart controller' is something to consider. 

* This is not a product plug. ** Tom and I signed on to the Edyn Kickstarter campaign in June 2014. As we've had both components for all of a week, we're using the system in 'remote control' mode. We feel we need time to monkey around with placement of the sensor before we slip into 'smart monitoring' mode. We're happy, though. We can monitor our plants from wherever we are and adjust the irrigation accordingly. It's a start. A really smart start.

The 1st part of a two-part article – see also: Irrigation: Not Simply a Question of On & Off