How to set up a smart garden

Yes, you read that right: we built a smart garden at CNET Smart Home.

If you are wondering what that means or what could possibly be ‘smart’ about a garden, it simply means that as a team we have built a fully functional garden from the ground up and are going to use it intelligent garden technology Grow tomatoes, peppers, lettuce, jalapenos, and the infamously spicy Carolina Reaper peppers.

Here’s exactly how we set it up and how you can use these smart gardening tools too.

Also read: How to create a garden in these 7 easy steps

Start with intelligent watering

Aside from building our garden bed from scratch, the majority of our work went into designing a bespoke smart watering system. Proper watering is the most important aspect of gardening, so that’s what we’ve focused on in the first place.

Building our garden bed took a long day at work.

Chris Monroe/CNET

We only needed one smart part in our smart watering setup: the Orbit B-Hyve Faucet Timer Plus. The faucet timer is one of the few options for adding smarts to an ordinary garden hose. That resthow rachio, GreenIQ and Rainbird, replace the controller for your in-ground sprinkler system.

The B-Hyve Faucet Timer plugs into an ordinary outdoor faucet, making it an easier starting point for most. The “plus” part of the name refers to the included hub. Without the hub, you can only control it with your phone when within Bluetooth range. We plugged the hub into an outlet on an interior wall on the other side of the faucet. The hub connects the faucet timer to Wi-Fi and allows control via the app from anywhere.

The faucet timer is installed outside the smart home.

Chris Monroe/CNET

B-hyve’s faucet timer allowed me to create schedules with the app. It also keeps track of the weather and can create schedules by itself. Because the app was designed for sprinkler zones in a garden, it’s not perfect for a vegetable garden. You can only customize schedules for different types of grass as opposed to tomatoes and peppers. Still, it’s easy to use. Check back later in the week for the full B-hyve Faucet Timer review.

With B-hyve installed, we set about delivering the water from our tap to our garden. We used several parts to build our own drip irrigation system that you can easily find at any hardware store.


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Set up intelligent watering in the CNET Smart Home


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We connected a splitter to the faucet so we can make our drip irrigation permanent and still have access to the hose when we need it. We connected the B-Hyve to the splitter. Then we installed a backflow preventer and a pressure reducer. We want the water to drip onto the plants and not splash.

We attached a 100 foot garden hose to these pieces and ran it along the wall from the faucet to our yard. We connected the hose to the irrigation hose and ran that hose underground from the wall to our garden bed. We dug a path under our garden bed to do this and then brought it to the surface along the top boundary of where we plan to place the Carolina Reapers.

A color map of CNET's smart garden layout.

Our smart garden plan. Lettuce is green. Jalapenos are blue. Tomatoes are orange. Peppers are yellow. Carolina Reapers are red.

Steve Conaway/CNET

We punched four small holes in this last section of umbilical tubing and attached four lines of emitter tubing to the holes. We looped the hoses around the designated area for each plant. We give our tomatoes, peppers, jalapenos, and lettuce a similar amount of water, so we made the loops large enough to accommodate four emitter holes each.

We’re going to give the Carolina Reapers a little less water than the others, so we used smaller loops with only three holes. Varying the size of the loops was an easy way for us to adapt watering to different plant needs while still getting water from the same source.

Emitter tube for the Smart Garden

Our loops of emitter tubes. When finished, the plants replace the brackets that mark the center.

Chris Monroe/CNET

Finally, we capped the ends of our emitter tubing and capped the end of the purge tubing with a purge adapter so we can purge the system when needed. With this, we’ve turned a single smart piece of hardware into a remote controllable, weather-aware drip irrigation system.

The Orbit B-hyve Faucet Timer Plus is $70, or you can just get the Faucet Timer for $40. In all, the rest of the parts cost around US$100 (about £70 or AU$130, although they’re not widely available in the UK or Australia just yet).

The finished garden bed with our drip irrigation system.

Chris Monroe/CNET

The rest of the smarts

We decided against using a crop sensor as the B-Hyve is intelligent enough to monitor the weather itself. Likewise, Plant sensors wilt as a category. As the season progresses we will keep our eyes open for a new good option if we need more refinement. If you want your system to be even more tied to the weather, check out ours Smart Weather Monitors themed piece.

Smart watering aside, CNET’s Megan Wollerton has a guide to setting up a smart outdoor camera. She used the Netgear Arlo Go, a smart outdoor camera that helps you keep an eye out for pests. When a smart camera detects motion, it could set off an alarm or flash outside lights.

If you try any of these smart garden hacks, let us know how it goes and what you end up growing in your smart garden.

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