Previously published in Your Sanibel.
Technology influences and enhances almost every aspect of our daily lives. How we communicate, the way we learn, where we travel and how we book vacations, how we design and decorate our living spaces the list of ways technology works for us is literally endless. So many of our homes are now outfitted with new electronics and virtual assistant technology like Amazon Alexa or Google Home that not only share news of the daily weather forecast (this time of year it’s some variation of highs in the mid- 80’s, bright and sunny in the morning with chance of afternoon showers), they can stream music throughout the home and through outdoor speaker systems, and control indoor and outdoor lighting settings and themes.
With a growing demand for products that offer convenience, efficiency, and enable specialized settings for our unique living areas, it’s no surprise that technology is evolving both indoors and out. Here are just few ways that technology can work for you in your outdoor living area and landscape. While maybe not as sophisticated as the Amazon Alexa, the technology advances available for the outdoors continues to add convenience to our daily lives and is increasingly controllable by the swipe of a button.
1. Garden Design and Inspiration
Apps like Houzz, Pinterest, and Instagram offer inspiration for our own indoor living areas, and in recent years have had an increasing influence in the design of our outdoor spaces. I can’t even begin to estimate the number of times my clients have shown me a photo from Pinterest or Houzz and exclaimed, “We want this in our landscape!” In fact, most of my clients have shared Pinterest boards of ideas while working through the design process. Oh, and in case you were wondering, finding the photo and inspiration is the easy part – executing is the difficult part!
2. Landscape Lighting
Color changing and dimmable LED fixtures can use up to 75% less energy than incandescent lights, last longer, and offer a multitude of settings and options. A smart digital timer allows the flexibility to change color, brightness and timing of lights for individual spaces, themes, parties, and allows control of separate outdoor spaces all from your phone. For example, if your favorite sports team is playing on Christmas, the front landscape lighting colors can be programmed red and green for Holiday lighting and the back outdoor patio can be programmed to green and gold for your favorite football team. Color changing lights can also be utilized in underwater applications for entrance pools or koi ponds.Note: Whenever considering outdoor landscape lighting on Sanibel, make sure that you and your licensed landscape lighting contractor are familiar with and adhering to the Sanibel Lighting Codes and Dark Sky regulations. The full ordinance Chapter 126 – Zoning, Article XIV.-Supplementary district regulations, Division 4. – Outdoor Lighting is available at www.mysanibel.com.
3. Smart Watering & Landscape Irrigation
Water efficient irrigation is a growing market with high demand, especially in our fragile coastal environment. While rainfall is overly abundant during “rainy season”, our winters are often so dry that we worry more about spring wildfires than April showers! With such extreme fluctuations of rainfall, it is especially critical that the irrigation systems in our yards are both efficiently designed and properly maintained. Irrigation design considerations include: functioning rain sensor (required by Sanibel code), separate zones for sod vs. landscape beds, having water efficient sprays and rotors, and functioning controllers. A growing trend with irrigation controllers are those that have a smart module or program like Hydrawise or Weathermatic which link to WiFi and allow the homeowner or professional to control and change settings from their phone or tablet remotely. These smart programs can detect daily rainfall events and override the system during a rain event to conserve water. They can also detect pressure changes and leaks within the system and send a service alert.Inquire with your licensed irrigation technician on the availability of these add-ons as connection to WiFi is often required, and older systems may not be compatible with the new programs. Keep in mind that all irrigation contractors on Sanibel are required to be licensed by the City.
4. Mosquito Misting Systems
Mosquito misting systems are growing in popularity especially as the new design trend for outdoor pool areas do not include pool cages. Mister Mosquitos and MistAway bug systems offer an app called iMist for the smartphone which allows for wireless control of your misting system.
5. Electric Dog Fence
Of course technology has extended to the care and well-being of our best friends. Most brands of electric dog fences now offer a smart controller add-on to the control panel which allows the service tech to identify breaks in the loop and quickly repair. This option is most convenient for seasonal residents to ensure that summer landscape maintenance mowing and edging activities did not accidentally compromise the system.
New landscape trends and Apps emerge every season. We are fortunate on Sanibel to be on the front end of most trends and will continue to utilize the most current tech advances available for our landscapes.