The Smart Way to Garden: How to Choose a Smart Irrigation Controller

Smart irrigation controllers aren’t just gadgets; they’re your garden’s new best friend. Imagine a system that knows exactly when and how much to water your plants, even adapting to the whims of the weather. In this article, we will explore how these smart devices are revolutionizing the way we interact with our gardens, making them greener, happier, and effortlessly thrive.

What are Smart Irrigation Controllers?

Smart irrigation controllers are advanced systems that automatically adjust watering schedules for gardens and lawns based on real-time environmental data. The Irrigation Association ( defines “smart controllers” as (controllers that reduce outdoor water use by monitoring and using information about site conditions (such as soil moisture, rain, wind, slope, soil, plant type, and more), and applying the right amount of water based on those factors”.

The shift from traditional to smart irrigation systems is characterized by moving from fixed, manual schedules to dynamic, data-driven ones. Traditional systems rely on set timers, requiring manual intervention for any changes. In contrast, smart systems use weather data, soil moisture levels, and other environmental inputs to automatically adjust watering times and amounts.

Different Types of Smart Irrigation Controllers

Weather-Based Controllers are the eco-conscious gardener’s best friend. They use local weather data to make smart watering decisions. By adjusting the watering schedule according to the weather forecast, they ensure that your garden is not over-watered during rainy periods or under-watered during heat waves.

Moving to Sensor-Based Controllers, these are a boon for precision gardeners. Equipped with soil moisture sensors, they can determine the exact watering needs of your plants. They automatically adjust their watering schedule based on real-time soil conditions, ensuring your plants get the perfect amount of water without any waste.

How to Choose a Smart Irrigation Controller?

On-device Controls

Controllers with user-friendly on-device controls are important for immediate manual intervention. Look for devices with clear displays and intuitive interfaces, which are especially useful during setup, maintenance, or when Wi-Fi is unavailable.

Indoor/Outdoor Mounting

The choice between indoor and outdoor mounting depends on your garden’s layout and the climate. Outdoor units should have robust weatherproofing to withstand elements, whereas indoor units can be more feature-rich and are protected from the weather.

Number of Zones

The size and diversity of your garden determine the number of zones needed. More zones allow for specific watering needs of different garden areas, such as lawns, vegetable patches, or flower beds. Controllers offering a higher number of zones provide greater flexibility and precision in watering.

Scheduling Flexibility

Flexible scheduling options are vital for adapting to the varying needs of your garden. Look for controllers that allow multiple start times, durations, and specific day selection. This feature is particularly beneficial for gardens with diverse plant types and changing seasonal requirements.


Notifications are essential for staying informed about your irrigation system’s status. Choose controllers that provide alerts for system issues, completed watering cycles, or changes in the watering schedule. This feature is invaluable for timely interventions and maintaining an efficient irrigation system.

Smart Scheduling

Controllers with smart scheduling capabilities use data like soil moisture, weather forecasts, and plant types to automatically adjust watering schedules. This advanced feature ensures optimal watering, reduces waste, and can significantly improve plant health.

Smart-home Hub Support

For those with existing smart home setups, compatibility with smart-home hubs like Google Home or Alexa offers seamless integration. This allows for voice control, routine automation, and a unified approach to managing both indoor and outdoor smart devices.

Easy Installation and Setup

Some controllers come with DIY-friendly designs and clear instructional guides, making them suitable for homeowners who prefer to install the system themselves.


Check for compatibility with your existing sprinkler system, hoses, and nozzles. Ensure that the controller can be integrated smoothly into your current setup to avoid the need for additional equipment or extensive modifications.


Smart irrigation controllers come in a wide range of prices. Balance your budget with the features you need. While higher-end models offer more advanced features, there are also cost-effective options that cover basic smart irrigation needs.

Are Smart Irrigation Controllers Worth It?

Yes, they are. Here’s why:

1. Reduced Water Bills

 By automatically adjusting to weather conditions, these controllers minimize water usage, leading to noticeable savings on your water bills.

2. Precise Watering

These systems ensure that your garden receives the exact amount of water it needs, eliminating both over and under-watering. This leads to healthier plants and a more vibrant garden.

3. Convenience

The ability to control and monitor your irrigation system from a smartphone app is incredibly convenient. It’s ideal for those who travel or have limited time for gardening. For those interested in smart home technology, these controllers can be integrated with other devices, adding to the overall efficiency and convenience of your home.

4.  Long-Term Savings

Despite a higher initial cost compared to traditional systems, the long-term savings in water usage and utility costs make smart controllers financially beneficial. Some regions also offer rebates to offset the initial expense.

FAQs about Smart Irrigation Controllers

Q: Can I install it myself or do I need a landscape professional?

Many smart irrigation controllers are designed for easy DIY installation, complete with user manuals and online guides. However, for intricate systems or if you’re not confident with the installation, it’s advisable to hire a professional.

Q: If I install a smart irrigation controller, will I get a discount on my water bill?

Installing a smart controller can lead to reduced water usage, potentially lowering your water bill. Additionally, some local utilities offer rebates or incentives for installing water-efficient systems, but this varies by location.

Q: How much do smart irrigation controllers cost?

The cost of smart irrigation controllers typically ranges from around $100 to over $300. The price varies based on the number of zones they control, connectivity options, and other advanced features.

Q: Which smart irrigation controller works best?

The best smart controller depends on your specific gardening needs, including the size of your garden, compatibility with your current system, and desired smart features. Brands like Rachio, RainMachine, Soildrops and Orbit B-hyve are often recommended for their reliability and range of features.

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