Six gadgets for the summer garden
Roula Khalaf, Editor of the FT, selects her favourite stories in this weekly newsletter.
Go with the glow
These dinky lights are the perfect way to keep the party going round the garden table as the sun goes down: they stand 6cm high, emit a soft ambient glow and turn on and off with a tap. Gingko Lemelia light, £29.95; gingkodesign.com
Leave it to the robo-mower
A cross between a Mars rover and a robo-dog, the Blade is undeniably cute, and while its most prominent feature is a large, red STOP button – which doesn’t inspire confidence – no emergencies or even mild peril occurred in testing. It comes in four parts: the Blade itself, a charging station, an antenna and the sweeping attachment. The EcoFlow app helps you position the charging station and the antenna; once they’re optimally located, you pin them down and tuck away the cable that runs between them, along with another cable from the station to mains power. On Blade’s first run, you manually drive it around the edge of the area you want to cut or sweep (up to a maximum of 3,000sq m, a bit under half a football field) using the app as a joystick. Thereafter it works diligently on its own, respecting the boundaries you’ve set.
As its front wheels point inwards at an angle, it’s not the most graceful of movers, but when it reaches an edge it can pirouette neatly and continue on its geometric path. (You’re left with very satisfying stripes across the grass.) The wheels are sufficiently large for rugged-ish terrain to pose no problem, it automatically routes itself around obstacles and, if it begins to rain, it heads back to the charging station (because mowing in the rain isn’t a great idea, robot or not.) The sweeper, which can operate independently of any mowing tasks, slots neatly on the back, collecting leaves, twigs and grass ready for manual emptying. EcoFlow Blade + Lawn Sweeper Kit, £3,199, ecoflow.com
Fire up the furnace
Given the opportunity, pizza-oven nerds will talk at length about the pitfalls of attempting an authentic Napoletana in the garden, including lumpwood charcoal strategy. Ooni has thankfully made such conversations redundant with this all-electric pizza oven (its first) for indoor or outdoor use. Operation really couldn’t be easier: there’s a temperature dial, a timer, and a third dial to adjust the balance of heat between top and bottom heating elements. The only thing between you and a delicious stone-baked pizza is human error – in my case, dough that was too sticky. My second attempt was magic, and at a blistering 450ºC I had but two minutes to wait. Ooni Volt 12 Electric Pizza Oven, £799, ooni.com
A cool water butt for greener gardeners
The majority of water butts are fairly unsightly, but this one was the result of a graduate design project that gathered considerable momentum and has since won a clutch of awards. A built-in five-litre jug automatically fills whenever it rains for easy deployment in and around the garden, while the excess runs into the 70-litre raindrop-shaped container below. As well as reducing mains water consumption, the rainwater is better for plants than tap water: fewer salts and chemicals, more nitrates. The product is made using wind energy and, as you might expect, is 100 per cent recyclable. Elho Pure Raindrop, £375, elho.com
A film on the lawn
Smart spectacles gained a bad reputation rather quickly. Early adopters of Google Glass found themselves confronted, assaulted and barred from venues on suspicion of surveillance. The Nreal Air, however, sidesteps those problems by having no camera, just a built-in display that lets you translate the screen of your phone or tablet directly into your line of vision. A mildly irritating USB cable runs from the left arm of the specs to your device, but they’re light (79g), have discreet speakers built in, and the experience of watching films on a huge virtual screen while kicking back in your garden chair is extraordinary enough to warrant the price tag. Better still, you won’t get punched in the face, probably. Nreal Air, £400, ee.co.uk
A question of weather…
Never underestimate the quantity of delicious data that can be harvested from an aubergine-sized device on a pole in your garden. The solar-powered WittBoy (with AA battery back-up) sends weather information to a small, WiFi-connected hub in your home, which also keeps tabs on conditions indoors. The resulting graphs, visible on an app or the web, were like catnip to my inner geek: temperature, humidity, rainfall, wind, air pressure and UVI, all plotted live and stored for viewing. That data feeds into a map of local weather stations, allowing you to wonder why it’s half a degree warmer a mile down the road. Add-on sensors will measure soil moisture and air quality. Ecowitt WittBoy GW2001 Weather Station, $199.99, ecowitt.com