Water the tree – there’s an app for that?

Well no, but [Chris] needed something to remind him when to water the tree. Most folks would use their nifty iPhone to set up a calendar reminder, but why do that when you can purpose a 32 bit microcontroller to do it for you?

To detect a falling water level [Chris] attached a two-pin header to the end of a clothes pin clipped to the side of the tree stand. When the water level is covering the pins it completes a circuit, verified by a measurable current. When the water level drops the mbed microcontroller detects the loss of conductivity and through some creative code sends out an email and SMS reminder.

If you’re in love with your iPhone but not your living things, this will keep that tree kicking until after the new year.


  1. pmow says:

    Maybe if the iPhone calendar reminder had a snooze, Chris wouldn’t have to remember it for later. Since it’s now a microcontroller, perhaps it can remind him later if he hasn’t watered the tree yet. A great reason to stay with Windows Mobile…

  2. Anonymoose says:

    It doesn’t use an Arduino or an LED. This project is so fail ;).

    But on a serious note, neat project. Next up he should add tree watering functionality to it with a pump and just avoid SMS :).

  3. Taylor says:

    @pmow: I had a windows smartphone before I got my iPhone. I really wasn’t too impressed with it. And that’s really not a great reason to “stay” with it. It is a reason, but not one that’s gonna cause me to rethink my iPhone. And It’s hard to use a mac with a windows smartphone, it just doesn’t work.

  4. liebesiech says:

    Would be nice to see the actual water level! I agree: No Arduino == Epic Fail :-)

  5. ted says:

    id say combine this with the liquid dispensing rig from below it, and have an all in one system, my plan is to use a solonoid and a jug of water,and avoid the sms. it was a neat function to add, just to prove you could, but its just not worth the time.

  6. tripp says:

    Though if you add a water dispensing system, it has to get the water from somewhere, so you would still need the sms notifications, not for putting water in the tree’s base but for refiling the things that’s filling the tree’s base. ^_^

  7. MS3FGX says:


    If you have a basin of water and you run a gravity feed line down into it, the air pressure on the surface of the water would keep the water from flowing down the line until it got low enough in the basin. You wouldn’t need any mechanization at all, it is just plain physics. It is the same concept that those automatic pet water bowls use.

    Also, it might be nitpicking, but this has absolutely nothing to do with the iPhone besides the fact that is the phone the guy has. There is really no point in it being filed under the iPhone category, especially when we already have a “cellphone hacks” category.

  8. farthead says:

    This is better than a buzzer how? What he did has been done at least 90 times over the past 20 years.

  9. Daley says:

    I’ve gotta agree with most of the above. Sure, it’s cool in the “cuz I can” sense, but kinda Rube-Goldberg (much like most of my hacks) IMHO.

    However, I’m quickly finding the value in this for other things!

  10. toojeep4u says:

    What did you use to send the SMS?

  11. Haku says:

    Feed me, Seymore!

  12. samurai says:

    mbed is the new arduino.

  13. nyguy says:

    lol thats awesome. now all we need is someone to make a baby dipper app for the iphone…
    Text from yourChild:
    i seem to have soiled myself.

  14. Brandonman says:

    Would be pretty sweet if it would be like those auto-pet watering things, as someone else said. Shouldn’t be *too* tough

  15. sparr says:

    So it’s like a Botanicalls? http://www.botanicalls.com/kits/

    PS: that makes 3 posts like this in one day for me, sorry… just weirds me out to see people reinventing the wheel

  16. secure wifi says:

    thanks for this info taken ages to find this.

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