A greenhouse is one of the best additions to any hobby farm. You can start your seeds earlier, protect tree shoots over winter, or just continue your growing season when winter arrives.
Tending to your plants in your greenhouse can be a nice way to spend cold, snowy days. But what if you don’t have a lot of time or you plan on traveling? You can keep growing, even if you’re not home, by setting up a smart greenhouse using the Internet of Things (IOT) and a few smart devices.
What Is a Smart Greenhouse?
A greenhouse is a glass or plastic structure that offers a climate-controlled environment for your plants in the winter. A smart greenhouse takes it one step further. It has smart devices you can use to set up and monitor the perfect growing environment.
The smart devices are connected so you can see and control every variable. From water to light conditions and temperature, you’ll be able to know exactly how your plants are doing without visiting the greenhouse.
How IOT Works for Greenhouses
The Internet of Things sounds complicated, but it’s actually very simple. IOT is a way computers and smart devices send and receive data to you and each other. By giving your smart devices a way to communicate, they can send you information about your plants in real time.
A good example of IOT is IFTTT (If This Then That). IFTTT is a website with services and applets you can use to set up rules for your greenhouse. The services you choose are dependent on which smart devices you own.
With IFTTT, if you’d like your watering system to pause when the temperature drops below 0, you can set a rule for that. If you’d like all of your smart systems to pause during a thunderstorm or high winds, you can set a rule for that, too.
Smart Devices You Can Add to Any Greenhouse
There are commercial-type smart greenhouses with sensors and control panels used to monitor plants during the growth cycle. Most hobby farmers don’t need a setup as elaborate as that. But there are a few easily accessible smart devices you can add to your own greenhouse to provide custom monitoring, watering and light control.
Once you have your devices, you can use a site like IFTTT to link them all together.
Smart Watering or Drip Irrigation
Watering can be one of the most challenging parts of keeping plants in a greenhouse. With a smart watering system or smart drip irrigation, you can water your plants automatically.
Some smart watering systems simply connect to a water source and turn on using a schedule. But you can also choose a watering system with sensors you can place in your soil. When the device senses the soil is dry enough that watering is required, it sends that information to a switch and the water turns on.
Smart Lights Keep Plants Healthy
Smart greenhouse lighting helps plants grow where there is no outside light source. It can also benefit your plants when they are in a greenhouse by keeping lighting consistent from day to day or extending daylight into the dark hours when daylight savings begins.
Smart lights can be controlled via an app, and you can also set them to have different rules. For example, you can set a rule so your lights will turn on at 4 pm during the months when it’s dark outside by 5 pm.
Smart Temperature Control for Your Greenhouse
Some greenhouses will maintain warm temperatures without outside heating. But most require a heater or other heat source to keep plants alive in the dead of winter.
You can find elaborate temperature control systems to buy just for greenhouses. These systems are packaged with a control panel that monitors the heat outside and inside and adjusts it precisely depending on which plants you have. If that’s not in your budget, you can create your own basic system by choosing heaters or fans meant for patios and adding a smart plug you turn off and on using your phone.
If you’d like to automate that system, you can set up a rule that turns the system on or off automatically when the temperature outside drops.
It can be a bit of work to set up a smart greenhouse with everyday smart devices. But having your greenhouse automated means you can be anywhere in the world and still check in and tend to your plants. The peace of mind is worth the effort.