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Ever wonder how you can use technology on your urban homestead? Is technology overwhelming and foreign? Learn how to embrace modern homesteading technology.

iPhone with apple tree

Technology is impacting our lives every day, whether we like it or not.

Not a day goes by when you don’t use something with a screen or an electronic circuit board.

After all you’re reading this article either on your smart phone, tablet, laptop or desktop computer. Maybe halfway across the world.

I work with technology everyday in my day job as a technical analyst at my local university. I help provide computer systems and services that make university administration easier and help our faculty, staff and students do their work.

So I see technology as being useful and necessary in our lives, unlike how it’s sometimes portrayed in media. Yes, it can be addicting, but there are ways to limit it’s use so it doesn’t become a problem.

In homesteading and gardening, there are many ways to use technology. Whether it’s to get information or automate work, the correct applications can make things easier and we can have better success in growing food for our families.

Online information

woman using laptop with coffee

In years past we had to go to a library or nursery to get info on gardening. Without the internet, we couldn’t just Google how to grow broccoli or when we can transplant peppers as an example.

It took much longer and sometimes the info was just not available.

Sharing info really was difficult and garden clubs were popular as a means to talk to other gardeners in urban areas.

Rural homesteaders in some ways had it easier as they had next-door neighbours doing the same things and could help each other out. Trips into town to the local feed store were valuable not only for the supplies you could buy, but also the information you could get for free.

Today with the internet virtually at our fingertips and always available, we now can get almost any info instantly. And that in itself is a bit of a problem as there is so much info out there and there are many conflicting views. So you do have to do a lot of sifting to get the right info.

So what kinds of online resources do you have at your disposal:

Just don’t fall in the trap of spending all day reading, researching and not spending any time in the garden!

Timers

Grow lights

These are a time-saver! And in many cases also a plant-saver!

Timers are typically used with irrigation systems, either in-ground sprinklers or with drip irrigation. You set the timer for when you want your plants to be watered and for how long. No more forgetting to water and killing your plants!  Here is one I recommend if you are just adding a drip system attached to a hose bib: Orbit Single Outlet Programmable Hose Faucet Timer

And you can make sure you are following any local watering restrictions.

The other way timers can be used is for grow lights. In order to grow strong seedlings indoors, you need to use grow lights. However it is generally not a good idea to have them on 24 hours a day as plants need some rest too, plus it costs money. A simple timer can turn the lights on for a set number of hours a day when it gets dark. I have this one that works quite well: Woods 2001 Outdoor 24-Hour Timer with Photocell Light Sensor, (Dusk to Dawn Or Off After 2, 4, 6 or 8)

Timers could also be used to open and shut greenhouse vents or turn fans and heating on or off. But typically other sensors are used for that such as temperature and humidity.

Sensors

remote temperature display

There are lots of sensors that can be used to automate systems around the garden and to keep you informed. 

One of the most used is a rain sensor that can be added to an automated irrigation system. If it rains, the system knows not to turn on. Just be careful that you still water areas that don’t get rain, such as under eaves, in greenhouses or hoop houses.

Other sensors are more useful in a greenhouse. Humidity sensors can turn on fans to move air and avoid diseases such as mildew. 

Temperature sensors can also turn fans on and off, but they are mostly used for opening vents if the temperature gets too hot. They can also start heating systems in winter or those cool nights in spring and fall.

Or with a remote temperature readout (see photo above), you can monitor the temperature outside or in a greenhouse and take appropriate actions based on that.

Motion sensors can also be used to trigger sprinklers to scare away animals from your garden beds. Most are a simple connection to a hose and use very little water per triggering event. The best selling model on Amazon is: Orbit 62100 Yard Enforcer Motion Activated Sprinkler with Day and Night Detection Modes

Or in some motion sensors can play music or make other loud noises. You may find however that these devices are not always effective, especially when the animals get used to them.

Smart phone

iPhone with headphones and flowers

For many of us we have a love-hate relationship with our smart phone (whether it be an iPhone or Android Phone or something else.)

We love our phones as we can check our email anywhere, keep up with social media and always be reachable via phone or text. But that can also make our phones a leash or addiction that we just can’t get enough of.

So how can your phone help you with your gardening and homesteading? Here are some ideas:

  • Emergencies: if you injure yourself or someone else gets injured in the garden or homestead, you can call emergency services without having to rush indoors
  • Staying available: when you have a marathon all-day session in the garden (lucky you!) if a family member or friend needs to contact you in an emergency, they can get a hold of you
  • Photos: there are so many uses for photos that I made a separate section below
  • Measuring: if your phone has it, measuring apps that let you measure lengths and areas with your phone’s camera
  • Identify: there are some apps that allow you to more easily identify that mystery plant you found
  • Notes: jot down notes of garden successes, failures and where and when you have planted something or harvested something; or keep a running shopping list of what you need to buy next time you go to the nursery or garden centre
  • Calculator: to figure out how much soil to buy to fill raised beds, etc.
  • Music: something to keep you moving or maybe something mellow to relax to
  • Learning: listen to audiobooks or podcasts; bonus if it is about gardening

You can probably think of many more uses. Just make sure to keep your phone out of the dirt and moisture. Some of the new phones nowadays do have some water-resistance, so are somewhat resilient if it rains or you water your phone in addition to your plants!

Digital Photos

photo collage

Gone for the most part are the days where you shot a roll of photos (remember those photos you took just to fill up the roll?) and then had to bring them to a developing service and wait for your prints.

Today’s digital cameras, whether they are point-and-shoot, DSLRs or the excellent cameras in our smart phones make taking photos and using them so much easier. Gone is the cost of film and developing it.

So now you can take as many photos as your camera’s or phone’s capacity allows and you can of course copy the photos elsewhere to reclaim space to take more.

Here are some uses for the photos you do take:

  • Take photos to ask at a nursery what kind of plant you have
  • Keep a digital diary of your garden over the course of the year, so you know what you planted where and when, including harvest times, etc. 
  • Share your garden progress with friends and family on social media or in gardening groups; you can also similar to the first point, ask questions about your garden and plants to get answers and feedback
  • Markup photos to dream up changes you want to make to your garden
  • Take videos and upload to social media or YouTube to show others how to do something

So remember to bring your camera into your garden and take lots of photos!


The right technology tools can make homesteading and gardening easier, faster and more fun. Use some or all of these modern homesteading technology ideas to bring your homesteading into the 21st century!

If you enjoyed this article, have something to add or have any questions, please leave a comment below.

Wishing you all the best!

Marc Thoma Signature

Marc Thoma

Tranquil Garden Urban Homestead, Victoria, BC

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Marc Thoma

Marc is the founder of Tranquil Garden Urban Homestead. He has more than 15 years gardening experience and is working steadily on creating his own urban homestead, trying to be more self-sufficient by growing most of his own vegetables and fruit.

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