Tomato Irrigation

No hack will be more readily accepted by the significant other more than an automated vegetable watering system. [Jouni’s] homemade rig keeps those tomatoes happy with just the right amount of moisture. A bucket serves as the reservoir, a submersible pump gets the water to the soil through a bit of plastic hose. An Arduino monitors the soil sensor, watering and tweeting about it when things dry out too much. Don’t miss the soil moisture sensor post if you need some tips on how to get that end of things working. The rest is pretty straightforward.

31 thoughts on “Tomato Irrigation

  1. Instructions for another awesome self-watering container take a bottom-up approach, with a several-gallon reservoir in the bottom that slowly wicks up into the soil.

    Concept and detailed instructions for one version:

    A much easier to build container:

    Some tips:

    1) Pick up some porch screen while gathering materials at the hardware store. You can protect the fill tube and overflow drain to prevent mosquitoes from breeding in the water.

    2) The water jugs in the youtube video have a small hole pierced near the top to let air escape as water fills up from below.

    I’m currently testing the style shown in the youtube video on my patio. I just got them set up in time for second planting and I’ve got some tomatoes put in as well as beans and egg plant starting from seed. So far everything’s going great.

  2. Everyone knows tomatoes are just the guinea pigs, the good stuff gets planted once the kinks are worked out :P.

    I do like the setup, but wonder if you could skip the sensor and simply time the pump to go off at regular intervals. I imagine your data will show a fairly consistent watering schedule.

  3. @Skitchin: What about different weather conditions? When it’s hot, there aren’t only the tomatoes using the water, but also some of the water will evaporate. so you need to water the plant more often.

    What i don’t like about this setup is the water reservoir. A bucket is never secure enough. Imagine children (or mature friends with significant level of blood in their alcohol) walking around. One kick to the bucket and you don’t only have a minor pond, but also maybe a wasted watering system.

    I’d take something seal-able…and probably include some filling system for the reservoir. Jouni’s setup already includes a water level control for the bucket, so it might be usable for opening some valve to fill the reservoir.

    Nice build though. I really like it.

  4. sigh. reminds me of my plans for a patio hydro system this summer. unfortunately the damn police took most of my good equipment when they raided the place. so mad about that. hydro equipment != growing weed! moral of the story: get your vegetables from portugal, your medicine from big pharma, smoke cigarettes, and burn oil. :(

  5. @Skitchin I live in a _VERY_ hot, dry climate that varies from day to day. One day our temperature low/high is 45/82, the next it’s 76/104. Relative humidity is always very low (except when it’s raining – d’uh).

    Because of this, our watering schedules are all over the places. If we set it to water so that it won’t dry out if we have a week straight of high temperatures we end up wasting water when we have a cold front. If we set it for the low/mid range, the plants can dry out and wither very quickly after a couple of days of high temp weather. A soil moisture sensor let’s you say “Screwit” for the watering schedule and instead water only when it’s needed.

  6. whats wrong with tomatoes? I have a couple plants out back, heck we even have a couple here at work (along with watermelons)

    They are easy to grow and quite tasty, Grow up? you might want to take that advice

  7. Can you make it with multiple soil moisture monitors that can average over a larger surface? Say, the 75 tomato plants we have in our backyard? Maybe toss in a ph monitor too? Use the arduino to control irrigation valve solenoids?

  8. “what you gonna do with them a salad ?
    how about nice fat join for you and buddies, that’s what wrong”


    please form a somewhat coherent sentence

    salad? really? never seen a salad with a tomato? what is difficult to comprehend? Tomato cut on bowl of other rabbit food drowned in fat dressing and cheese :)-

    you may want to try one sometime

  9. sorry I don’t speak “I think I am being a clever pot thang”

    I have nothing wrong with anyone’s personal life, but dont expect me to know your northeast Saskatoon moose raider’s middle school bleacher slang for dubious activities

  10. Hi all, thanks for all the comments. Few responses:

    To many: yeah, I know there’s other similar systems as well. This is not unique idea, nothing is unique I guess. :)

    toaste: Actually the box where the tomatoes is that kind of box :) But those things can run out of water and their reservoir is quite small. And the soil can get too moist quite easily and your plants will die.

    nomad: Well, I don’t have kids and highly doubt that the water reservoir falls over. If it does, the water leaves from our balcony to the ground.

    Henrik Pedersen: why wouldn’t it twitter if it can :) You’re missing the point. And also: I can easily check when the tomatoes have got their water – without some kind of logging systems you can’t be sure of it, you’re probably not there to see it pumping :)

    This system has grown already one crop of tomatoes last summer and their were juicy! Now it’s just an addon with the internet-connection :)

  11. This is what happens when you try to introduce a topic like gardening in with the hacking crowd.

    Gardeners are sometimes too busy gardening to worry about refining the hacks if they serve the purpose. (Unless of course they also hack)

    Hackers are sometimes too busy refining the circuit and growing imaginary weed in their heads to appreciate the time and commitment that many gardeners have.
    (Unless of course they also garden)

    I’d bet the, waitaminute…35 cents(!) in front of me that 98% of the ones mentioning growing weed are the ones you have to show which end of the trowel to hold.

    -now pass that over here…

  12. -forgot to mention.
    Just got back from a KILLER Pa. vacation and I have a ton of weeding, cutting and watering to do!

    (no crops, but some 10-foot high Hollyhocks, brethren and cistern…10 feet!)

    Be well.

  13. @twitch You are wasting 5$ getting your tomatoes at the store. You get to eat a real tomato only if you grow it yourself or get it out of a can. Those things you are getting in the store are bland, chemical laden, tinkered for looks not taste tomatoes. A grown tomato, especially in an urban environment, is a challenge. Tomatoes require a very narrow margin of error on the watering. Too much or not enough will produce End Blossom Rot. Not enough, the plants wither and die. Too much and the plants will rot and die. This is not as easy as one would think.

    But the rewards are worth the effort. And an added benefit, not many police will get a search warrant to raid your house when you grow tomatoes.

    @strider_mt2k You would be surprised at the amount of hybrid gardener/hackers there are. This year was a banter year for my tomatoes. I am working on a pot that will keep the tomato soil at a constant 70 degrees, a constistant moisture, and has to look nice.

  14. I have a similar but simpler setup I use when we go on vacation. We have many orchids in the house growing on slabs of wood that must be sprayed with water daily.

    I use a 5 gallon bucket of water with a 120V submersible pump plugged into a household timer. Using a bucket limits my mistakes to 5 gallons max. The timer is set to turn on at 6:15 AM and off at 6:16 AM. The sump pump has an ordinary garden hose connector on the top, to which I have connected a drip irrigation pressure regulator (drops it down to 25 PSI max.) From the regulator, I connect it with an adapter to a piece of ordinary 1/4″ drip irrigation hose. From there, it goes to manifolds which fan out with very flexible 1/4″ aquarium hose to drip irrigation spray nozzles I affix with clothespins. I just point the nozzles at the plants that need daily water.

    (The mounted plants are all located inside environmentally controlled glass cases which keep the water from being sprayed all around the house.)

    I had the bucket, pump, and leftover drip irrigation parts laying around the garage. I had to spend $20 for an electronic timer that has one minute resolution. And now we can head off for a week without trying to find someone to come and babysit the plants once a day.

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