Take charge of your yard with the Scotts Gro 7 Zone Smart Watering Controller

scotts gro 7 zone smart watering controller box contents

With the arrival of spring, many of us will be venturing out into the garden in the coming weeks to tidy up the ravages of winter. While we’ve seen a slew of smart home solutions arriving over the last few years to make life easier indoors, the idea of a “smart garden” has yet to take off.

This year, the gardening gurus at Scotts are hoping to brighten up – and smarten up – your back yard with a host of automated watering products designed to keep plants topped up and looking their best. The range comprises in-ground irrigation controllers, water sensors, sprinklers, sprayers and even a drip kit for potted plants.

The $150 Gro 7 Zone Controller is the brains of the operation. Part of a new breed of smartphone-powered irrigation systems, the controller automatically programs itself using real-time weather data, with an accompanying app for manually scheduling tweaks and one-off sprays on the hottest days. We got our hands on it and took it for a spin.

scotts gro 7 zone smart watering controller  top down

Smarts for your irrigation system

Resembling a large (7 by 7 by 1.5 inches) Wi-Fi access point, the sober-looking controller is reasonably-well built, with a removable plastic cover protecting internal wiring connections to each of the seven available zones. Unlike some controllers, this one is designed to be installed inside the house (or garage), so you may need to extend existing cabling if you’re swapping out an external device.  Scotts includes screws and anchors for easy indoor mounting, but be sure to locate the device near a power outlet.

Installation is simple – that is, if you have an existing irrigation system. If you’re starting from scratch, it’s worth taking time to plan out your watering zones and potentially seek the help of a professional landscaper to source and install the irrigation pumps, valves, and tubing.

Otherwise, you’ll find that Gro integrates neatly with existing, “dumb” controller wiring. Swap out that old sprinkler controller (labelling your wires as you go with the included sticky labels), download and install the Gro Connect smartphone app, and get connected.

Unlike competitors such as the $220 RainMachine Touch HD or the $119 Orbit B-hyve System Controller, there are no on-device controls available, so you’re restricted to app control or optional Amazon Alexa or Google Assistant voice control.

scotts gro 7 zone smart watering controller connector

Simple app gets you connected quickly

Scotts has done a great job with the accompanying Gro Connect app, which is friendly enough, even for novices. It can be used with the 7 Zone Controller or $100 Gro Water Sensor Starter Kit to supply local weather data and scheduling. Once you’ve connected your mobile device to the controller or kit via Bluetooth. You then supply your Wi-Fi network details (only 2.4 GHz bands supported) and you’re good to go.

As long as you’ve wired the controller correctly, any existing zones will be automatically detected, or you can configure zones from scratch. The Gro app also supports a range of features to enhance efficiency and convenience. Automated watering schedules optionally support EPA WaterSense Specifications, which takes account of each zone’s soil type, slopes, and shade to calculate efficient watering schedules on a per-zone basis. You’ll also find notification alerts for network connectivity and hardware issues along with prompts notifying you if a watering cycle will be skipped due to local weather.

A simple vertical scroller allows you to trigger manual watering for up to two hours, while scheduled watering is simple to manage. Preset options allow for one-tap schedule at sunrise or after sunset. Alternatively, dig into the detail and configure your own watering schedule for specific times of the day.

Warranty information

Scotts Gro 7 Zone Controller is sold with a 1-year limited warranty.

Our take

While smart controllers are available that support more zones, Scotts has done a great job developing a solid, mid-range device that’s a quick, easy, and smart upgrade for older sprinkler systems. It doesn’t necessarily make life easier for anyone considering their first steps in back yard irrigation, but a friendly app, easy scheduling, efficient water distribution, and smart integrations with Amazon Alexa and the Google Assistant make the Gro 7 Zone Controller a great pick.

Is there a better alternative?

For more precise watering or larger back yards, consider the $279 Rachio Smart Sprinkler Controller (3rd Generation) which supports up to 16 zones and includes integrations with Alexa, Google Assistant, IFTTT, Nest and others.

How long will it last?

While smart home/garden devices are a new category for Scotts, it’s an established brand with comprehensive customer support options, so we’re hopeful the company will invest appropriately in the Gro line for the long term.

Should you buy it?

If you’re looking for a quick and easy way to add smarts to your garden, this isn’t the device to do it. But owners of existing, older in-ground sprinkler systems will find lots to love about the Scotts Gro 7 Zone Controller.

Emerging Tech

Awesome Tech You Can’t Buy Yet: Robo sidekicks, AC for your bed, and more

Check out our roundup of the best new crowdfunding projects and product announcements that hit the Web this week. You can't buy this stuff yet, but it sure is fun to gawk!

Take control of your Xbox with these top-tier Xbox One gamepads

A number of different controllers are available on the Xbox One, from gamepads made by Microsoft, to third-party controllers loaded with special features. Here are the best you can buy.

How to connect a Nintendo Switch controller to your PC

Nintendo's Switch controllers, including the Joy-Cons and the aptly titled Pro Controller, use Bluetooth, which makes them compatible with your PC. Here's how to start using them for PC gaming.
Smart Home

White-hat Chinese hackers turn Alexa into a spy, briefly

A team of Chinese researchers revealed this week that they were able to use a cracked Amazon Echo to exploit a series of Alexa interface flaws to take control over an unteuched Echo running on the same network.
Smart Home

Cortana and Alexa can now call each other as new relationship begins

Microsoft and Amazon announced a public preview of Cortana and Alexa integration. U.S. customers can now open Cortana with Alexa and vice versa. Basic functions such as calendars and shopping lists are available with the preview.
Product Review

Philips Hue’s Color Ambience makes smart home lighting simple and stylish

It’s not the cheapest smart lighting available, but for those seeking style and sophistication, it’s certainly the best.
Smart Home

Hands-on with the Glas, the most beautiful thermostat you’ve ever seen

Johnson Controls today opened the doors for consumers to buy Glas, the company's answer to Nest and Ecobee, the Honeywell Lyric, and basically every other company that thought it would turn that simple round dial on the wall on its ear.
Smart Home

The Glas thermostat is now available and works with Cortana, Alexa, and Google

Microsoft just debuted its very own smart thermostat (the first that it's created), and of course, it can be controlled via voice with Microsoft's virtual assistant Cortana. It also works with Alexa and Google Assistant.
Smart Home

How to set up your Lenovo Smart Display

Here's how to set up your Lenovo Smart Display, including what information you need to provide to the Home app and how to choose the right Google Assistant settings for your new smart screen.
Emerging Tech

Buying on a budget? Here’s all the best tech you can snag for $25 or less

We live in a world where you can get a cheeseburger for $1, a functioning computer for $5, and thousands of HD movies for $10 -- so it stands to reason that you should be able to pick up some pretty sweet gear for $25.
Smart Home

Fraudulent sales of home alarm systems are on the rise nationwide

According to a new consumer survey from the Consumer Federation of America, there are increasing reports of bad actors using scare tactics and manipulation to sell fraudulent alarm systems.
Smart Home

A school district subsidizes a tiny home community for teachers

The lack of affordable housing in Arizona's Vail school district prompted the plan for a community of tiny homes reserved for educators. Other cities in the U.S. use the tiny abodes for homeless and economically disadvantaged people.
Smart Home

Kroger supermarket chain tests driverless grocery deliveries in Arizona

Kroger and autonomous delivery innovator Nuro began a pilot program in Scottdale, Arizona, for grocery home deliveries with Prius cars to test the self-driving concept. The first tests do not use the purpose-built Nuro vehicle.
Smart Home

Vitamix recalls 100,000 blender containers after multiple ‘lacerations’

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission issued a recall of about 105,000 Vitamix blending containers after 11 customers reported accidents, including lacerations due to a design flaw in the product.