Hackaday Prize Entry: An Urban Kitchen Garden

[Eric] is used to growing his own food, and looked at the commercial options for growing veggies and herbs year round. It turns out the commercial options are terrible, with proprietary lighting, proprietary ‘seed pods,’ and no climate control.

Unsatisfied with the commercial options, [Eric] looked for a DIY solution. His entry for The Hackaday Prize is just that: an Urban Kitchen Garden.

The Urban Kitchen Garden was a peltier wide cooler in its former life, turned into a grow chamber with LED grow lights, an Arduino, a DHT11 temperature and humidity sensor, a soil moisture sensor, and an old Nokia LCD to keep track of everything. He’s been growing basil in it over the winter, and it just won’t die.

[Eric] won’t be growing tomatoes or beans in his tiny, desktop-sized garden, but it’s not really designed for that. It’s meant for herbs and seedlings, mostly, with larger plants moved outside when [Eric]’s Canadian winters finally subside.

There’s a video of the build, you can check that out below.

The 2015 Hackaday Prize is sponsored by:

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Hackaday Prize Entry: Open Source Hydroponic Monitoring System

A few months ago, [Adam] was building a controller system for a small hydroponic system he had set up in his basement. Since then, the Hackaday Prize was announced, and given the theme – saving the world one plant at a time – he’s renvisioning his garden control and monitoring system as a Hackaday Prize entry.

While the mechanical and green part of the build is exactly what you would expect from something designed from hardware store parts, the electronics are rather interesting. All the plants in either a hydroponic or dirt-based setup will have their moisture level and PH monitored by a a set of electronics that push data up to the cloud.

The current hardware setup includes a DyIO, a very cool dev platform with 24 digital I/Os and 24 servo outputs, a Raspberry Pi, and a few module boards loaded up with ARM microcontrollers and an ESP8266. [Adam] is hitting all the hardware on this build.

So far, [Adam] has a few boards sent out to a board fab, including an analog sensor module, a digital sensor module. a WiFi module hub, and a few bits and bobs that make integration into an existing garden or hydroponic setup easier. It’s a great project for this year’s Hackaday Prize, and proof that you don’t need to come up with a new build to submit something.

The 2015 Hackaday Prize is sponsored by:

Snow Blower Turned Power Wagon

Winter is now gone and it’s time to put away that snowblower. Well, it seems that [SWNH] either didn’t hear the news or thought not using his snowblower for most of the year was a waste of a great resource. No, he’s not using it to blow dirt around, he converted it into a Power Wagon.

A Power Wagon is just what it sounds like, a wagon that is motorized and it is used for moving stuff around your yard. [SWNH] started by disassembling the 2 stages of the snowblower. They came off as a unit with only 6 bolts. Next up, the wagon bed was made, starting with an angle iron frame with a plywood bottom and sides. Two large casters with rubber wheels supports the front of the wagon.

Using the power wagon is easy, fill up the bin and use the snowblower controls to drive the cargo around. [SWNH] says that it steers like a shopping cart. And since the wagon bed is bolt-on, it can be removed and the blower assembly re-installed next winter to take care of that pesky snow.

Solar Powered DIY Plant Watering System

Solar Powered Watering System

It’s great having fresh vegetables just a few steps away from the kitchen, but it takes work to keep those plants healthy. [Pierre] found this out the hard way after returning from vacation to find his tomato plant withering away. He decided to put an end to this problem by building his own solar-powered plant watering system (page in French, Google translation).

An Arduino serves as the brain of the system. It’s programmed to check a photo resistor every ten minutes. At 8:30PM, the Arduino will decide how much to water the plants based on the amount of sunlight it detected throughout the day. This allows the system to water the plants just the right amount. The watering is performed by triggering a 5V relay, which switches on a swimming pool pump.

[Pierre] obviously wanted a “green” green house, so he is powering the system using sunlight. A 55 watt solar panel recharges a 12V lead acid battery. The power from the battery is stepped down to the appropriate 5V required for the Arduino. Now [Pierre] can power his watering system from the very same energy source that his plants use to grow.

Kumo Connect: from Automated Desktop and Backyard Gardens to Automated Everything

photo hutI ran into a guy at Maker Faire Kansas City who I used to scoop ice cream with twenty years ago. We were slinging frozen dairy at a Baskin Robbins in a dying suburban strip mall that had a one-hour photo booth in the parking lot. It was just far enough away from our doorstep that dotting its backside with the hard-frozen ice cream balls that had been scooped and then not always accidentally dropped into the depths of the freezer was challenging. This guy, [Blake], kept a hockey stick hidden in the back room especially for this purpose. I never could get them to fly that far, but he was pretty good at it.

I hadn’t seen him since those days, and there he was manning a booth at Maker Faire. He looked quite professional, showing no hint of the mischief from those days of ice cream hockey. His booth’s main attraction was Niwa, a connected indoor garden. Having spent four years living and working in Japan after college, [Blake] did not choose this name arbitrarily: ‘niwa’ is Japanese for ‘garden’. He loves Hackaday and was more than happy to share his story.

Niwa and gnome

Connecting with Nature

[Blake] is an avid gardener, but his wife does not share this passion. A few years ago, he took a new job that required travel on an almost weekly basis, which meant big trouble for his plants. Unfortunately, he couldn’t find what he wanted to ensure they were taken care of. You know what comes next: he decided he would design his own system. However, he had no experience with electronics.

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DIY Hydroponic System Grows Herbs on the Wall

Wall-Mounted Hydroponic Garden

Everyone knows that you should eat healthy, but it’s not always easy. Fresh and healthy foods are often more expensive than processed foods. When money is tight, sometimes it’s best to just grow your own produce. What if you don’t have room for a garden, though?

When [Matthew] returned home from the 2014 San Mateo Maker Faire, he found himself in a similar situation to many other faire attendees. He saw something awesome and was inspired to build it himself. In this case, it was a wall-mounted hydroponic garden. [Matthew] started out with some basic requirements for his project. He knew which wall he wanted to cover with plants, so that gave him the maximum possible dimensions. He also knew that they may have to remove the garden temporarily to perform maintenance on the wall in the future. And as for what to grow, [Matthew] loves lots of flavor in his foods. He chose to grow herbs and spices.

[Matthew] purchased most of the main components from Amazon and had them shipped to his doorstep. Everything else was found at the local hardware store. The base of the build is an off-the-shelf planter box. The drainage hole in the bottom was plugged up to prevent water from leaking out. A different hole was drilled in the side of the box to allow a garden hose to be mounted to the box. The hose is connected through a float valve, keeping the water level inside the box just right.

[Matthew] then built a frame out of dimensional lumber. The frame ended up being about 4.33 feet wide by 8 feet tall. The boards were fastened together with metal braces and mounting plates. A full sheet of plywood was then nailed to the front of the frame. Thick plastic sheet was then wrapped around the frame and stapled in place.

[Matthew] purchased giant planter pockets to actually hold the plants. He tried stapling them to the front of the frame, but discovered that staples were not strong enough to hold the weight of the plants, soil, and water. He instead used screws and washers.

Next, a submersible pump was mounted inside the bottom planter box. This pump is used to circulate the water and nutrients up to the plants above. Two hoses were connected to the pump and run up the sides of the upper frame. These hoses evenly distribute the water to the plants.

The final step was to mount the unit in place against the wall. [Matthew] didn’t want to screw into the wall and cause any damage. Instead, he placed a couple of bricks inside of the planter box and rested the bottom of the frame on top of those. The top of the frame is essentially hung from a railing up above with some thin steel wire.

The whole unit looks very slick and takes up little space. With some more ingenuity, one could likely build something similar with even more DIY components to save some more money.

Arduino Astronomic Clock Automates Lights


[Paulo’s] garden lights are probably a bit more accurately automated than anyone else’s on the block, because they use latitude and longitude clock to decide when to flip the switch. Most commercial options (and hobbiest creations) rely on mechanical on/off timers that click on an off every day at the same time, or they use a photosensitive element to decide it’s dark enough. Neither is very accurate. One misplaced leaf obscuring your light-dependent resistor can turn things on unnecessarily, and considering the actual time of sunset fluctuates over the year, mechanical switches require constant adjustment.

[Paulo’s] solution addresses all of these problems by instead relying on an algorithm to calculate both sunrise and sunset times, explained here, combined with swiftek’s Timelord library for the Arduino. The build features 4 7-segment displays that cycle through indicating the current time, time of sunset and of sunrise. Inside is a RTC (real time clock) with battery backup for timekeeping along with an Omron 5V relay to drive the garden lamps themselves. This particular relay comes with a switch that can force the lights on, just in case.

Check out [Paulo’s] project blog for the full write-up, links to code and more details, then take a look at some other home automation projects, like the SMS-based heater controller or occupancy-controlled room lighting.