You can always trust the Germans to come up with more efficient ways of doing things. In this case, it's looking after your outdoor space. Today, in Stuttgart, we were able to check out first-hand tool brand Stihl's latest smart garden ideas. They'll take the backache – and headache – out of looking after your lawn and plants, leaving you free to put your feet up and enjoy.
Get your back yard sorted with our garden ideas
The adoption of smart home technology is predicted to grow from 8.2 to 37 per cent in UK households from 2016 to 2021*, and a surprising amount of that technology will be found in our gardens. Available from Spring 2019, these clever-clogs gadgets are top of our wish list.
1. Smart lawn mowing
Stihl's first offering lets you get the garden sorted while you're not even at home. Its iMow robotic lawn mower is a winner in our eyes for three reasons.
The first is that, thanks to improvements in its lithium-ion battery, it can cover an area of up to 1,000sq m in one sitting – good news if your garden isn't the size of a postage stamp. It's also super quiet at 60dB, meaning you'll be able to have a conversation without shouting while it's working away.
And finally, it actually knows what the weather is going to do, and will schedule its weekly mowing accordingly.
To stop the robot munching on your favourite flowers – or taking a dip in a pond – it comes with this special guard wire. You use this to create a border that contains the mower, making sure it doesn't get into trouble. You'll also want to use this to fence off any drops, such as steps, so that it won't take a tumble.
Top tip: A mulching mower like this one is a fast way to a healthy lawn. The small cuttings it drops back onto your turf act as a natural fertiliser.
Coming soon: RMI 422 PC, EU1,999 (£ TBC), Stihl
2. Smart watering
If you've got a simple timer system straight out of the 1980s, you can update it easily with Stihl's smart sprinkler system. This clever box can control up to 16 separate sprinkler valves, allowing you to schedule when your grass and plants are watered from anywhere in the world using an app on your phone.
The smart box simply replaces the controller of your existing system.
And unlike a rudimentary timer system, this smart box can pull in local weather reports. So if rain is due, it will automatically water your garden less, saving up to 50 per cent of your supply.
You'll also be able to buy sensors to hook to the system that measure the soil moisture levels, so you can be sure your lawn or flowers receive enough water to grow.
Coming soon: GCI 100 Smart Garden Hub, EUR249 (£ TBC), Stihl
3. Smart garden lighting
The GCI 100 will work with other smart technology, like lighting. Connect it to a light sensor, and it will be able to illuminate a pond or a garden path as the sun begins to set – again without you having to go in search of your phone or a lights witch.
4. Virtual chainsaw lessons
Now you don't need to seek out a forest glade – or risk losing a limb (!) to try your hand at chopping down trees, trimming off branches and cutting logs for firewood.
Stihl's new virtual reality training uses an HTC Vive virtual reality headset, a PC and a TV. A tracker is attached to an empty battery pack that slots in to the lightweight MS 500i chainsaw. You then don a headset and practice wielding the saw!
Stihl tells us it's planning to bring the technology to showrooms and country shows, so you can master your technique before trying the real thing.
*According to statistics from Stihl.
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Amy Cutmore is an experienced interiors editor and writer, who has worked on titles including Ideal Home, Homes & Gardens, LivingEtc, Real Homes, GardeningEtc, Top Ten Reviews and Country Life. And she's a winner of the PPA's Digital Content Leader of the Year. A homes journalist for two decades, she has a strong background in technology and appliances, and has a small portfolio of rental properties, so can offer advice to renters and rentees, alike.
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