Robotics and automation have changed the way that a number of things work in the home. You may not realize that you can automate tasks outside of the home as well. Though they have not received as much attention as home automation sensors and digital assistants, robotic lawn mowers are starting to change the way that people approach lawn care. Modern robotic lawn mowers were introduced only in recent years, but the devices have a longer history than you might think.
Believe it or not, the first robotic lawn mower was actually created and patented in 1969. Dubbed the MowBot, the robotic device was self-propelled and capable of making random turns within an area defined by a signal wire that was used to create a boundary. Though the battery-powered device was primitive compared to today’s robotic lawn mowers, the approach it took to lawn maintenance wasn’t that far off from how today’s devices work. It had some staying power as well, as MowBot Inc. is still producing robotic mowers today that are more modern takes on the original MowBot functionality.
While robots like the MowBot persisted since the 1960s, it wasn’t until the 1990s that the more modern style of robotic lawn mowers began to emerge. A solar-powered mower was developed in 1995 by Husqvarna, and this was followed in the next 10 years by other niche robotic lawn mower designs. Smaller-scale robotic mower releases occurred in the United States and the UK in 2000, but it wasn’t until 2005 that the first widespread commercial release of a robotic lawn mower occurred. Interestingly, these mowers used the same sort of signal wire that the MowBot had combined with a few more modern features.
The market has taken off in the time since then, with a variety of solar-powered and self-charging robotic mowers hitting the market with innovations such as programmability, autonomous obstacle avoidance and even the ability to program or control the mower remotely from a smartphone or similar device. Some modern robotic mowers are even designed to only trim a small section of the grass blades at a time, opting instead to mow more frequently (often without any input from their owners) to keep the lawn in optimal shape.
Robotic lawn mowers offer a number of benefits over traditional push mowers or riding lawn mowers. A few of the benefits of these mowers include:
Other benefits of using a robotic lawn mower include increased free time, more consistent lawn heights and the elimination of the dangers of injury created by the traditional lawn mower.
Though once a niche market, robotic lawn mowers have seen a massive surge in popularity in recent years. Models can range in price from $400 to $3,500 or more, with higher-end models offering greater coverage and more programmability features. Robotic lawn mower sales are growing at a faster rate than sales of traditional mowers, with analysts believing that robotic mower sales will continue to increase by approximately 11 percent each year through 2024. As new mowers are designed and related technologies such as home automation develops, sales rates could increase even more.
If the idea of getting up early on Saturday morning to commune with your landscape is an idea that you cherish, but don’t dare pursue because of the high level of maintenance required, you may be surprised to find out that a perfect garden doesn’t always require backbreaking labor or gallons of water to keep it alive. In fact, there are lots of ways to make gardening easier and increase the time you have to spend glancing at your pert little petunias.
Keeping a garden used to be a massive labor of love, with a huge emphasis on the labor part. But people have been keeping some kind of plant life semi-domesticated since the dawn of human evolution. And, since the dawn of evolution, we’ve been trying to make the process easier and more productive. Whether you’re growing fountain grass or exotic herbs, there’s something on this list that’ll improve your gardening experience:
Sprinklers. The old standby for greener lawns everywhere, sprinklers can be used in other situations, too. For example, if it’s a nice sunny day and the risk of water standing on leaves is small, use one to water your vegetable garden plot. You can also help young trees and shrubs get a good start by sprinkling them gently every warm, dry day.
Drip irrigation. Sprinklers are great for big areas, but what do you do when you just want to water a few specific plants? Drip irrigation is the answer you seek. You can use these systems with basic timers or upgrade to a much more sophisticated system that will let you slowly drip water at the base of plants that don’t like water on their leaves or otherwise need individual care.
Native plants. There’s no such thing as a plant that needs zero attention, but native plants come pretty close. Instead of having to fret over special care for plants that are delicate in your area, choose the ones that have spent generations evolving there. For prairie dwellers, native grasses are a great start; those in the desert can do some pretty incredible things with barrel cactus and dramatic succulents. Visit your local nursery or ask your landscaper what plants are native to your area.
Containers. From pots on the patio railing to gutters loaded down with strawberries, containers make gardening so much easier. You can start with the perfect soil mix, ensuring that drainage isn’t a problem, then add a little fertilizer and your favorite plants. Now you just have to water and watch those babies grow.
Vertical gardens. Plants in and on the ground tend to end up in a mess — especially if those plants are vines! Vertical gardening isn’t limited to these twining climbers, you can also hang levels of containers, allowing you lots of extra space for growing things. Like with any containers, you are totally in control of the environment, but vertical gardening minimizes bending and kneeling. Win-win.