Automated Watering Machine Has What Plants Crave: Fertilizer

We’ve seen countless automated plant care systems over the years, but for some reason they almost never involve the secret sauce of gardening — fertilizer. But [xythobuz] knows what’s up. When they moved into their new flat by themselves, it was time to spread out and start growing some plants on the balcony. Before long, the garden was big enough to warrant an automated system for watering and fertilizing.

This clever DIY system is based around a 5L gravity-fed water tank with solenoid control and three [jugs] of liquid fertilizer that is added to the water via peristaltic pump. Don’t worry, the water tank has float switches, and [xythobuz] is there to switch it off manually every time so it doesn’t flood the flat.

On the UI side, an Arduino Nano clone is running the show, providing the LCD output and handling the keypad input. The machine itself is controlled with an ESP32 and a pair of four-channel relay boards that control the inlet valve, the four outlet valves, and the three peristaltic pumps that squirt out the fertilizer. The ESP also serves up a web interface that mimics the control panel and adds in the debug logs. These two boards communicate using I²C over DB-9, because that’s probably what [xythobuz] had lying around. Check out the demo video after the break, and then go check on your own plants. They miss you!

Don’t want to buy just any old peristaltic pumps? Maybe you could print your own.

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Solar Stevenson Screen For Smart Sprinkler

It’s not infrequent that we see the combination of moisture sensors and water pumps to automate plant maintenance. Each one has a unique take on the idea, though, and solves problems in ways that could be useful for other applications as well. [Emiliano Valencia] approached the project with a few notable technologies worth gleaning, and did a nice writeup of his “Autonomous Solar Powered Irrigation Monitoring Station” (named Steve Waters as less of a mouthful).

Of particular interest was [Emiliano]’s solution for 3D printing a threaded rod; lay it flat and shave off the top and bottom. You didn’t need the whole thread anyway, did you? Despite the relatively limited number of GPIO pins on the ESP8266, the station has three analog sensors via an ADS1115 ADC to I2C, a BME280 for temperature, pressure, and humidity (also on the I2C bus), and two MOSFETs for controlling valves. For power, a solar cell on top of the enclosure charges an 18650 cell. Communication over wireless goes to Thingspeak, where a nice dashboard displays everything you could want. The whole idea of the Stevenson Screen is clever as well, and while this one is 3D printed, it seems any kind of stacking container could be modified to serve the same purpose and achieve any size by stacking more units. We’re skeptical about bugs getting in the electronics, though.

We recently saw an ESP32-based capacitive moisture sensor on a single PCB sending via MQTT, and we’ve seen [Emiliano] produce other high quality content etching PCBs with a vinyl cutter.

Give Your Smart Home A Green Thumb With MQTT

We have all been stuck inside for too long, and maybe that’s why we have recently seen a number of projects attempting to help humans take better care of their housemates from Kingdom Plantae. To survive, plants need nutrients, light, and water. That last one seems tricky to get right; not too dry and not drowning them either, so [rbaron’s] green solder-masked w-parasite wireless soil monitor turns this responsibility over to your existing home automation system.

w-parasite MQTT diagram

Like this low-power soil sensor project and the custom controller for six soil sensors, [rbaron’s] w-parasite uses a “parasitic capacitive” moisture sensor to determine if it’s time to water plants. This means that unlike resistive soil moisture sensors, here the copper traces are protected from corrosion by the solder mask. For those wondering how they work, [rbaron]’s Twitter thread has a great explanation.

The “w” in the name is for WiFi as the built-in ESP-32 module then takes the moisture reading and sends an update wirelessly via MQTT. Depending on the IQ of your smart-home setup, you could log the data, route an alert to a cellphone, light up a smart-bulb, or even switch on an irrigation system.

w-parasite circuit board in a potted plant[rbaron] has shared a string of wireless hacks, controlling the A/C over Slack and a BLE Fitness Tracker that inspired more soldering than jogging. We like how streamlined this solution is, with the sensor, ESP-32 module, and battery all in a compact single board design. Are you asking yourself, “but how is a power-hungry ESP-32 going to last longer than it takes for my geraniums to dry out?” [rbaron] is using deep sleep that only consumes 15uA between very quick 500ms check-ins. The rechargeable LIR2450 Li-Ion coin cell shown here can transmit a reading every half hour for 90 days. If you need something that lasts longer than that, use [rbaron]’s handy spreadsheet to choose larger batteries that last a whole year. Though, let’s hope we don’t have to spend another whole year inside with our plant friends.

We may never know why the weeds in the cracks of city streets do better than our houseplants, but hopefully, we can keep our green roommates alive (slightly longer) with a little digital nudge.

 

Plant’m If You Got’m And Keep’m Alive

Having a few plants around is a great way to liven up your living and/or working space. They look nice, you get to watch them grow and change, and some types of plants can actively improve the room’s air quality. But let’s face it — even the easy ones require a baseline level of care that can easily fall by the wayside. After all, the poor things can’t scream out for water or get up and find a sunnier spot for themselves.

[Ine Hocedez] was tired of watching her plants die and not knowing why. The two main culprits involve water and light, though there can be other issues like soil pH and bugs. It’s easy to get the balance wrong, so why not automate everything?

Plant’m is a complete, portable package that [Ine] designed for a school project. A soil moisture sensor dictates the watering schedule via Raspberry Pi, and water is automatically pumped from an elevated tank.

The lamp is meant to supplement the sunlight, not replace it. But that’s the real beauty of this botanical box — [Ine] can just pick it up and try a different spot if the plant droops or shows burnt spots.

Got the sunlight part down for your plant, but can’t remember to water it? Re-purpose an old Keurig and give it an automatic drip.

Wirelessly Weighing Plants With The ESP8266

There’s a good number of hacks, and commercial products, for telling you when a plant needs watering. Most of them use an ADC to measure the resistance in the soil. As the soil’s moisture content drops, the resistance increases. High impedance, dead plant.

[squix]’s Thirsdee takes a different approach to plant health monitoring. Instead of measuring resistance, it simply weighs the plant. As the soil dries up, it gets lighter. By measuring the change in weight, the amount of water in the pot can be estimated.

Thirsdee uses a load cell to measure the weight. It’s read using an HX711 ADC, which is controlled by a NodeMCU. This development board is based on the ESP8266 chip. Since Thirsdee has WiFi, it can push notifications to your phone and log data on ThingSpeak. If you’re looking at the plant, an OLED shows you the current status of the plant. For us viewing from home, we can see a graph of [squix]’s plant drying out in real time.

[squix] provides us with a list of suppliers for the parts, and all the source code on Github.

Automatic Plant Care Minus The Microcontroller

Plants are a nice addition to most any habitat. Many of them bear flowers or attractive foliage, some of them help filter the air, and others, like aloe vera, have medicinal properties. While some plants require very little care, they all need a little moisture at some point. Overall, plant care is a bit fiddly: water them too much and you run the risk of root rot; water too little and risk death by dehydration. Hackaday alum [Kevin Darrah] would prefer not to gamble with either condition, and so in the course of a weekend’s time, he constructed a solar-powered automatic plant watering system from components he had on hand.

While he likely had a microcontroller or two lying around, he didn’t use one. His is a system of MOSFETs that trigger a motorized pump from one of those automatic bug spray bottles to draw from a reservoir and water the plant. The solar panel charges a bank of 6800µF capacitors that [Kevin] took out of an old receiver. When the desired charge is reached, the small soil sensor module is powered, assessing the moisture level. If the level is below the threshold determined by a trimmer pot, the power from the capacitor bank is dumped to the water pump and his plant gets a drink.

[Kevin]’s design deals nicely with the possible pitfalls of solar power. He’s included a 0.1µF cap to ensure latching through the system, and added a bleed resistor so that the pump is never powered unnecessarily. After running it for a couple of days, he’s already seeing moisture regulation in the soil. His complete demonstration and theory of operation is after the break. If you’re into solar power but aren’t quite ready to ditch the µC, check out this Arduino-controlled solution for thirsty tomatoes or this PIC-powered plant pacifier.

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Hey There Little Plant. Let’s Be Friends!

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Perhaps, you’re circle of friends is getting too small. Or maybe, you just want to communicate with the leafy, green beings that have rooted themselves in the soil inside your house. If so, this environmental monitoring system will be perfect for you!

Created by [Dickson], this project monitors soil moisture, air temperature, and air humidity of your indoor plants and will alert you via email and SMS when your plants are thirsty. No longer will your sprouts shrivel up in the sun, but rather, they will be well-hydrated ready to produce their veggie goodness.

The system is battery operated, wireless, Arduino and Raspberry Pi based and comes with an Android app, which in turn allows you to view real-time and historical data, thus giving you the option to check in on your crew of Chlorophyll-embedded friends.

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Let’s look at the sensors which are at work on the project.

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