New Playbulb Solar made for pool & outdoors

Start dreaming of summer now. Playbulb has a brand new smart light that lets you decorate your pool, pond or yard with multi-coloured light. It’s the newly launched Playbulb Solar. Continue reading “New Playbulb Solar made for pool & outdoors”

No time for yard work? Get a robot lawnmower

This has to be one of the coolest and most useful gadgets I’ve ever had the pleasure of testing.  Husqvarna’s robotic lawnmower, called the Automower.

The small rectangular device is abut the size of a standard lawn mower, but has no handle. One other key difference? it operates almost completely silently!  The only sound you can hear while it’s running is a soft whir and the clipping of the grass.The Automower benefits from a professional installation; mine was done by local Husqvarna dealers Alberta Forest & Garden. A ‘track’ of rubber-coated copper wire is laid in the grass and spiked in tightly. Then the mower operates within its boundaries.


The robot mower will be mulching my lawn for the next few weeks – watch for a full review here on the blog, and it’ll get demonstrated on an upcoming CTV Tech Talk. I’ll also talk about how you keep it from being stolen, and how you can get it to cut your front lawn AND your back yard, even if the grass doesn’t connect.

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Do you have questions about the mower; how it works, whether it might be right for you? Let me know in comments below!

Making outdoors easy: Gardening Gadgets & App

img_3321Not all of us have green thumbs, but fortunately, technology can help! There are some amazing gadgets that can help make life outdoors easy this summer, plus, we can count on technology to beautify our yards too.

TECH TALK JUNE 2On CTV Tech Talk this month, we looked at a few of these fun and helpful gadget picks.

Fatboy Transloetje Table Lamp

This chic lamp (above) looks like something worthy of a design magazine. Its acrylic form is transparent, allowing you to see the light bulb and electrical workings inside.  It’s operated by using a small, visible touchpad to turn the light on, off and to adjust levels of brightness. It has a rechargeable battery, making it wireless, so it can be used anywhere, including the yard.  Fatboy says it’s waterproof too.

Mpowered Inflatible Solar lanterns

So many creative uses! Blow up these versatile lights and float them in your pool, hang them from trees, or sit them on a table. Without air inside they pack flat, and a small solar panel in the top of the lamp means it’ll recharge all on its own. These are available in white, or colours; where with the touch of a button they can be changed to a variety of LED light colours. Add in the sparkle that’s part of this light, and you’ll create a stunning outdoor atmosphere.

Parrot Flower Power plant sensor

This genius gadget is a small forked spike that you jab into the dirt of your garden, or an indoor or outdoor potted plant. Just tell the stick-shaped gizmo what type of plant it’s watching over, and you’ll get customized reminders to water, add fertilizer, or to move it to a sunnier spot. If you’re always killing plants, this gadget will help you remember to caretake them, and possibly keep them alive much longer.

MiPow Garden smart solar light & candle

Mipow makes very easy to use lighting gadgets that are fun to have around the home (Read about their other lights here)

With the Garden light, you can leave it outside so that it’s constantly recharged by the sun.  Then once it’s at full power, you can control it with your smartphone, adjusting brightness and even changing it to cool colours.

The Candle is battery powered, but it lasts like crazy, thanks to low-energy LED lights.  The candle can provide a candlelight glow, or have it flicker in a variety of colours. It makes a perfect addition to an outdoor dinner table because it can’t be blown out by the wind, but (Fun Fact!) you can blow on the candle to turn it on and off! Plus, you can turn it over and use it to hold real tea lights too.

Best garden ID App! MyGardenAnswers!

Also on Tech Talk I mentioned a great app for identifying plants in your garden; it’s called My Garden Answers (available via the App store or Google Play too). You snap a photo of the plant, leaf or flower, and the database will tell you what it is!  Perfect if you inherited plants or moved into a new space – or if you just want to know the proper names of the things in your garden.img_2916

Winners of this month’s Tech Talk Contest are: Elaine Watt and Jonathan Howes.  CONGRATULATIONS and thanks for watching!

 

Parrot Flower Power plant sensor review

img_3081I’ve never considered myself a gardener, primarily because I can’t be patient enough to learn proper techniques for planting and caring for living things. I’ll plant a vegetable garden every year, but it’s total hit or miss whether something produces or not.
I’m also notorious for forgetting to water my hanging baskets, and then they curl up and die well before the end of the season.

This year, I feel like I can do better. But that’s because I have some technological help. I recently got a hold of a Parrot Flower Power plant sensor. It monitors whatever you’re growing, automatically, and sends you alerts when there’s something you need to tend to.

What Parrot Flower Power monitors

The Parrot Flower Power sensor monitors four key areas of data:

  • Light intensity: the sensor will measure light intensity to establish whether your plant needs more or less sun.
  • Ambient temperature: keeps an eye on the ambient temperature in its location and lets you know if the plant needs to be in a warmer or cooler location
  • Fertilizer: the sensor will measure the level of fertilizer required for soil salinity
  • Soil moisture: keep track of how wet or dry your plant’s soil is and know when you need to water, or when you’ve overwatered

The Parrot Flower Power sensor uses your smartphone or tablet and Bluetooth to connect to the cute stick-shaped sensor. Via the free app you’ll get all the updates you need direct from your garden.

img_3425The base of the sensor features a thin and narrow metal fork that will easily slide into any type of plant pot, or soil. To use it, you select the specific plant you are placing the sensor in, and whether it will be indoors or outdoors. (And if you need help identifying a specific type of plant, I highly recommend the Garden Answers app!)

Once the Parrot Flower Power is paired and connected with a plant, you need to wait about 24 hours for full data. You don’t need to stay connected to the plant during this time, the sensor will just zap the information to your smart phone so it’s ready next time you open the app. With that said, you can still get some limited and immediate ‘live data’ right away, such as what the overall moisture level is in the soil at the moment.

Testing the Parrot Flower Power

I found the device very easy to set up and use. You don’t even need to read the directions, since the Flower Power sensor is quite intuitive.


In my first round of testing, I wedged the device in an aloe plant in my living room. After the device had monitored the plant for about a day and found almost zero moisture in the pot, I dumped a cup of water into it just to see what would happen on the sensor. Using ‘live view’ in the app, I watched as the moisture level went through the roof as soon as the water hit the pot. Excellent! The sensor was working.

I left the Flower Power in there for about a week and then checked the graphs for the four key data points. I could easily see how long it took for the pot to dry out.  Also, during that time, I got an alert/push notification to my phone telling me the plant was in too little sunlight. The app advised me that if we were not merely experiencing bad weather, the plant should be moved to a sunnier location. Given we had just had four or five days of cloud and rain, I didn’t think there was much I could do, but I relocated the plant to a sunnier spot, and that seemed to help.

My next test was to stash the flower power sensor in a hanging basket out front of my house. These are the baskets I constantly forget to water, so getting an alert or reminder could mean I get weeks more life out of these expensive hanging planters.

While initially the water level was just fine, I did get an alert that the basket could use more fertilizer. That was a good one, since I rarely consider fertilizing my hanging baskets. A quick splash of some miracle grow later, and the basket was back in business. Alerts and push notifications to water the basket also kept it from dying early on.

It’s important to note that your phone will need to be within a certain distance of the sensor in order to receive data; so if it’s sitting out in a distant garden area, you’ll need to get within Bluetooth distance to sync your info.

The next tests for the Parrot Flower Power will be to drop the sensor in my vegetable garden; but that test will be a few weeks in the making, so for now, this is the review. I think this small and inexpensive gadget that can help black-thumb gardeners improve their skills. Got specific questions on how this gadget may work in your yard? Ask and I’ll answer them.

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