Cutting-edge gadgets for the garden – Financial Times

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Blades of glory
The only thing more tedious than watching grass grow is the bit that comes next: having to trim it. A recent survey of more than 2,000 Brits revealed that mowing the lawn was among their most loathed household chores (worse, even, than putting on washing). Thankfully, technology has come a long way since 1969, when the MowBot, the first robotic lawnmower, was launched. A “magic” banana-coloured rig, the MowBot “wanders around as aimlessly as a hound-dog pup that’s just got its first whiff of a rabbit’s trail”, read a Popular Science review at the time.
Today’s descendants, more trained hunter than pup, deal with unkempt lawns swiftly and efficiently. Swedish firm Husqvarna is the market leader and two of its latest smart mowers, the Automower 405X and 415X, are ideal for home use. They’re basically twins – with sexy forms that recall toy Porsches – but the 405X works on lawns up to 600sq m, whereas the 415X can tackle larger 1,500sq m expanses. While neither asks much of its owner, you need to place a boundary wire around your lawn so the machine knows its limits. And the charging station requires access to an outdoor socket – or its plug can be snaked through a window.
Beyond that, everything is controlled via an app, a physical button, or voice activation: you can choose your desired grass length between 20 and 50mm; monitor your robot’s progress on your phone; and put it on a strict schedule. It doesn’t inhale clippings – the point is to use it so regularly that the tiny off-cuts can be left on top of the lawn where they act as a natural fertiliser – but it does basically everything else. It checks the weather forecast and, if there’s likely to be frost, will delay its start time so as not to damage the grass. Hilly garden? Not a problem, it can scale a 40-degree incline. A stray patio chair or narrow passage won’t hinder its progress either. Using GPS tracking to figure out which parts to mow next, this thing will raze the lawn with the ruthlessness of a billy goat – but only the gentlest of rustling sounds. Husqvarna Automower 405X (£1,799) and 415X (£2,299)
The cook’s tale
This new release from Kettler, a German company that’s been making garden furniture since 1949, looks so delicious it may even get me cooking. Outdoor kitchens have been growing in popularity lately and versions like the Neo – a handsome chunk of UV-protected, rust-resistant stainless steel (with stucco stone finishing) – make it easy to see why. A little more than 3m across, it has a six-burner BBQ, drinks fridge, tap and sink, plenty of cupboard space, and a roomy workbench for slicing steaks and cocktail garnishes. Plus, the BBQ is fitted with halogen lamps for after sunset. Cue a season of garden parties. Kettler Neo Outdoor Kitchen, £7,499
Know your feathered friends
Bird Buddy, an innovative smart bird feeder that’s about to come to market, is fitted with a camera microphone, and recognition technology. Based on looks and birdsong, it can identify more than 1,000 types of bird. Whenever a winged visitor takes a perch, it will send a notification to your phone, take a snap (its wide-angle lens captures amusing close-ups), and pinpoint the species so, like any self-respecting ornithologist, you’ll be able to tell your Eurasian nuthatch from your European robin. Founded by a trio of tech guys based in Slovenia, it’s available to pre-order now – in blue or canary yellow and with an optional solar-powered roof – and will ship in September. Bird Buddy, from $199 
Electric dreams
Should you wish to neaten those hedges or lop off a wayward branch, but your current tools won’t cut it, consider a cordless electric power tool. They’re quieter and lighter than petrol models, and do away with extension cords that are all too easy to sever. For home use it’s tough to see past Ego Power Plus. Its HT2410E hedge trimmer has a long blade that will snip shrubs with precision. Meanwhile, its new CS1610E chainsaw is a compact machine that can slice through branches up to 40cm wide, has decent power and, depending on the battery you choose, can make up to 450 cuts before needing a refresh. Ego Power Plus HT2410E hedge trimmer, £189; CS1610E chainsaw, £239
Down to earth
There’s a whole bunch of probes you can buy to check the state of your soil and ensure your plants are getting enough water and nutrients. Many home gardeners would benefit from Ecowitt’s soil-moisture sensor, an 8cm probe that can display its readings on an LCD display or app. It can email you when your shrubs are in need of a drink (you can also check if you’re at risk of drowning them). Ecowitt has also launched a temperature sensor that will interest advanced green thumbs: it tells you when the ground is warm enough to plant, and helps you track frost and other conditions when used with a weather station. Ecowitt WH51 Wireless Soil Moisture Sensor, $16.99; WN34S Soil Temperature Sensor, $39.99
Light it up
Thanks to a trio of new wall lights from Philips Hue, the options for illuminating your garden just got more fun. The smart-light brand’s releases include the Inara wall light, whose filament bulb and old-timey design has a Dickensian feel; the Resonate, a minimalist model that throws light up and down walls; and the modern-looking Lucca, encased in a series of neat black bands. Controlled via an app, voice activation, a remote or motion sensor, all are dimmable and can be set to schedules. You can also change the colours emanating from the Lucca and Resonate – there are 16 million shades displayed on the app – when it’s time to party. Philips Hue Inara Filament Wall light, £89.99; Lucca Wall light, £79.99; Resonate Wall light, £129.99
@jamie_waters
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