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PlantLink soil sensor review: A good start for a necessary gadget

After a few weeks of use and many of ups and downs, I consider the PlantLink soil sensor a decent addition to my smart garden.

The promise of PlantLink is to “Never worry about over or under-watering again”. I was disappointed that the sensor only reports on moisture, and not sunlight or fertility like other smart soil sensors. But PlantLink says they’ve talked to plant scientists and they say “the most important factor in keeping plants healthy is administering the correct amount of water”. I’m willing to go with that.

Oso Technologies sent me the PlantLink in exchange for an honest review.

The PlantLink sensor takes a measurement every so often and reports it back to the PlantLink cloud, where you can check on the stats in an app or web site. You can connect up to 64 sensors to the remote base station, which plugs directly in to your router.

VIDEO REVIEW

ROCKY START

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The PlantLink base station.

My initial setup process was bumpy. As I documented in my setup and installation article, I had trouble syncing the sensor to the base station. But eventually things fell into place and I got it running.

Just like everything with technology, unplugging it and plugging it back in seems to do the trick.

But even after I got the soil sensor to connect to the hub and give me updates via the iOS app, I was not seeing the results I expected. The sensor would report dipping soil moisture after I watered. For about four days, no matter how many times I tried to get the sensor to react, I got nothing. It didn’t seem like anything was happening with the sensor.

I put in a support request via the app and got a prompt response. Virginia from the PlantLink team gave me some of the best customer support I’ve ever received. She was incredibly knowledgable about the product and very friendly. She made me glad I reached out for support.

I wanted significant harassment, but didn’t get it.

In the midst of the soil sensor reporting inaccurate data, claiming I needed to water ASAP, I also had notifications turned on. Emails and iOS push notifications were supposed to be sent morning, midday, afternoon and evening. But once one notification was sent telling me to water my plants, that would be it for the day.

I thought I opted in to be harassed multiple times a day in multiple formats – just the kind of endless nagging a forgetful, under-watering, brown-thumbed plant killer needs.

The app itself is simple and really well done. The home screen is a list with a simple graph of how wet or dry the soil is for each sensor you’ve connected. When you click in for more details you get a really slick graph that plots out the moisture history. It’s a beautiful thing.

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Left: The soil sensor reporting correct stats. Right: The soil sensor flat-lining and reporting wrong for my first few days of use.

The mobile web site is also very nice, and you’ll need to use it if you’re on an Android device. The full web site is very similar to the mobile site and works like a charm as well.

IT WORKS

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PlantLink keeps tabs on my climbing fuchsia.

After getting help from PlantLink support I decided to move the sensor to a different spot and re-sync it. That finally seemed to do the trick. When it rained, the soil moisture went up! When it dried off the soil moisture went down! After being frustrated for a few days, the bar for success was set pretty low, and I was happy.

I kept the sensor in that position for a week or so and then moved it back to my first “trouble” spot. The sensor continued to behave in the old spot and reported the stats as I would have expected.

I then moved the sensor to the farthest back corner of my backyard and spent another few days testing. The range was impressive and had no problem going the 50+ feet to my prized Princess Flower.  The sensor kept up just fine and the moisture readings fluctuated as expected.

FINAL THOUGHTS

I have mixed feelings about the PlantLink. I don’t know why it was so hard to set up. I don’t know why it didn’t work the first week. But now that it works, I’m happy. It does what it promised to do, and it does it with style in a beautiful app.

I really like this product, but at $35 per sensor I will probably only buy two more sensors to keep watch on my most prized plants. But if the price of the sensor got as low as $15, I would probably go crazy and buy 10 of them.

I think this is a good 1.0 product, and I can’t wait to see what PlantLink 2.0 looks like.

As I write this review the price on Amazon has dropped under $40 for the sensor and base station. The MSRP is $70, so this is a really nice deal.

Check it out on Amazon

SETUP VIDEO

Full setup article

PHOTOS

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PlantLink in its natural environment.
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PlantLink base station.
PlantLink base station.
PlantLink base station.
PlantLink soil sensor.
PlantLink soil sensor.
PlantLink box contents.
PlantLink box contents.
PlantLink box.
PlantLink box.
PlantLink box.
PlantLink box.

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