Water Your Plants Just Four Times Per Year

While it’s true that some plants thrive on neglect, many of them do just fine with a few ounces of water once a week, as long as the light level is right. But even that is plenty to remember and actually do in our unprecedented times, so why bother trying? [Martin] has solved this problem for us, having given every aspect of automatic plant care a lot of thought. The result of his efforts is Flaura, a self-watering open-source plant pot, and a YouTube channel to go with it.

The 3D-printed pot can easily be scaled up or down to suit the size of the plant, and contains a water reservoir that holds about 0.7 L of water at the default size. Just pour it in through the little spout, and you’re good for about three months, depending on the plant, the light it’s in, and how much current water it draws. You can track the dryness level in the companion app.

Whenever the capacitive soil moisture sensor hidden in the bottom of the dirt detects drought conditions, it sends a signal through the Wemos LOLIN32 and a MOSFET to a small pump, which sends up water from the reservoir.

The soil is watered uniformly by a small hose riddled with dozens of tiny holes that create little low-pressure water jets. This is definitely our favorite part of the project — not just because it’s cool looking, but also because a lot of these types of builds tend to release the water in the same spot all the time, which is. . . not how we water our plants. Be sure to check out the project overview video after the break.

No printer? No problem — you could always use an old Keurig machine to water a single plant, as long as the pump is still good.

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Plants compared side-by-side, with LED-illuminated plants growing way more than the sunlight-illuminated plants

Plant Growth Accelerated Tremendously With LEDs

[GreatScott!] was bummed to see his greenhouse be empty and lifeless in winter. So, he set out to take the greenhouse home with him. Well, at least, a small part of it. First, he decided to produce artificial sunlight, setting up a simple initial experiment for playing with different wavelength LEDs. How much can LEDs affect plant growth, really? This is the research direction that Würth Elektronik, supporting his project, has recently been expanding into. They’ve been working on extensive application notes, explaining the biological aspects of it for us — a treasure trove of resources available at no cost, that hackers can and should learn from.

Initially, [GreatScott!] obtained LEDs in four different colors – red, ‘hyper red’, deep blue, and daylight spectrum. The first three are valued because their specific wavelengths are absorbed well by plants. The use of daylight LEDs though has been controversial.  Nevertheless, he points out that the plant might require different wavelengths for things other than photosynthesis, and the daylight LEDs sure do help assess the plants visually as the experiment goes on.Four cut tapes of the LEDs used in this experiment, laid out side by side on the desk

Next, [GreatScott!] borrowed parts of Würth’s LED driver designs, creating an Arduino PWM driver with simple potentiometers. He used this to develop his own board to host the LEDs.

An aluminum PCB increases heat dissipation, prolonging the LEDs lifespan. [GreatScott!] reflowed the LEDs onto it with solder paste, only to find that the ‘hyper red’ LEDs died during the process. Thankfully, by the time this problem reared its head, he managed to obtain the official horticulture devkit, with an LED panel ready to go.

[GreatScott!’s] test subjects were Arugula plants, whose leaves you often find on prosciutto pizza. Having built a setup with two different sets of flower pots, one LED-adorned and one LED-less, he put both of them on his windowsill. The plants were equally exposed to sunlight and equally watered. The LED duty cycle was set to ballpark values.

The results were staggering, as you can see in the picture above — no variable changing except the LEDs being used. This experiment, even including a taste test with a pizza as a test substrate, was a huge success, and [GreatScott!] recommends that we hit Würth up for free samples as we embark on our own plant growth improvement journeys.

Horticulture (aka plant growing) is one of the areas where hackers, armed with troves of freely available knowledge, can make big strides — and we’re not even talking about the kind of plants our commenters are sure to mention. The field of plant growth is literally fruitful and ripe for the picking. You can accomplish a whole lot of change with surprisingly little effort. The value of the plants on your windowsill doesn’t have to be purely decorative, and a small desk-top setup you hack together, can easily scale up! Some hackers understand that, and we’ve started seeing automated growing solutions way before Raspberry Pi was even a thing. The best part is, that you only need a few LEDs to start.

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A soil moisture sensor with silkscreen chipped and copper corroded

Soil Moisture Sensor Coating Lessons Learned The Hard Way

Ever wanted to measure soil moisture? Common “soil moisture meter module arduino raspberry compatible free shipping” PCBs might deceive you with their ascetic looks. Today, [Raphael (@rbaron_)] is here to teach us (Twitter, unrolled) what it takes to build a soil-embedded sensor that can actually survive contact with a plant.

As the picture might hint, waterproofing is of paramount importance, and soldermask doesn’t quite cut it. Raphael describes his journey of figuring out approaches and coatings that would last, starting from simply using nail polish, and ending with the current option – a rotisserie-like device that rotates sensors as the coating applied to them dries, mitigating a certain kind of structural failure observed long-term. With plenty of illustrative pictures and even a video of the rotisserie device in action, you’ll quickly learn things that took time and effort for Raphael to figure out.

This isn’t the first time Raphael shares some design battlefield stories and lessons with us – he has taught us about overall capacitive moisture sensor principles, too! If that interests you, we’ve covered quite a few moisture sensor designs, from cheap but hardy two-nails designs to flip-dot-equipped ones, and some of us take the commercial designs and upgrade them!

We thank [Chaos] for sharing this with us!

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A tupperware-sized 3D-printed aeroponics cell, a grid-like contraption, with about 30 cloves of garlic in it, about five of them starting to grow. The cell is printed with white plastic, and there's a semi-transparent acrylic roof with LED strips attached to its underside, lifted about 3-4 inches above the garlic.

Aeroponic Cell Grows Garlic, Forwards CellSol Packets

Certain pictures draw attention like no other, and that’s what happened when we stumbled upon a Twitter post about “resuscitating supermarket garlic” by [Robots Everywhere]. The more we looked at this photo, the more questions popped up, and we couldn’t resist contacting the author on Twitter – here’s what we’ve learned!

This is an aeroponics cell – a contraption that creates suitable conditions for a plant to grow. The difference of aeroponics, when compared to soil or hydroponics methods, is that the plant isn’t being submerged in soil or water. Instead, its roots are held in the air and sprayed with water mist, providing both plenty of water but also an excess of oxygen, as well as a low-resistance space for accelerated root growth – all of these factors that dramatically accelerate nutrient absorption and development of the plant. This cell design only takes up a tiny bit of space on the kitchen countertop, and, in a week’s time, at least half of the cloves have sprouted!

Much like a garlic bulb, this project has layers to it – in that this aeroponic cell is also a CellSol node! The CellSol project is a distributed communication system that can use LoRa and WiFi for its physical layer, enabling you to build widely spanning mesh networks that even lets you connect your smartphone to it where it’s called for – say, as an internet-connected hub for other devices to send their data through. We’ve covered CellSol and it’s hacker-friendliness previously, and one of the intentions of this design is to show how any device with a bit of brains and a SX1276 module can help you form a local CellSol network, or participate in some larger volunteer-driven CellSol-powered effort.

If, like us, you’re looking at this picture and thinking “this is something I’d love to see on my desk”, [Robots Everywhere] has published the STL files for making a hydroponic cell like this at home, as well as all the code involved, and some demo videos. Hopefully, the amount of aeroponics projects in our tips line is only going to increase! We’ve covered Project EDEN before, a Hackaday Prize 2017 entry that works to perfect an aeroponics approach to create an indoor greenhouse. There’s also a slew of hydroponics projects to have graced our pages, from hardware store-built to 3D printed ones!

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Photo of an automated plant watering system attached to four potted plants.

Automation Allows You To Leaf Your Plants Alone

The greatest threat to a potted plant stems from its owner’s forgetfulness, but [Sasa Karanovic] has created an automation system that will keep his plants from getting too thirsty. Over the past year [Sasa] has been documenting an elegant system for monitoring and watering plants which has now blossomed into a fully automated solution.

If you haven’t seen the earlier stages of the project, they’re definitely worth checking out. The short version is that [Sasa] has developed a watering system that uses I2C to communicate with soil moisture, temperature, and light sensors as well as to control solenoids that allow for individual plants to be watered as needed. An ESP32 serves as a bridge, allowing for the sensors to be read and the water to be dispensed via an HTTP interface.

In this final part, [Sasa] integrates his watering system into a home automation system. He uses a MySQL database to store logs of sensor data and watering activity, and n8n to automate measurement and watering. If something isn’t quite right, the system will even send him a Telegram notification that something is amiss.

If you think automation might be the best way to save your plants from a slow death, [Sasa] has kindly shared his excellent work on GitHub. Even if you don’t have a green thumb, this is still a great example of how to develop a home automation solution from scratch. If you’re more interested in television than gardening, check out [Sasa]’s approach to replacing a remote control with a web interface!

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IoT flower pot monitors moisture and temperature levels.

Smart Flower Pot Build Is All About That Base

For some reason, it seems like most of the plant monitoring setups we see separate the plant and the monitoring system. This makes sense in a don’t-own-a-waterbed-and-a-cat kind of way, but it also doesn’t from an aestheitc standpoint. This build by [Jorge Enrique Gamboa Fuentes] sure does look nice and tidy as an all-in-one unit, and fortunately is built with obvious issues in mind. It tracks water level, soil moisture, and soil temperature with a single device — a STEMMA-connected soil sensor that does all the monitoring work.

This attractive beginner build is a Python-powered project that runs on a PyPortal Titano and has a speaker that anthropomorphizes the thing so it can berate you politely ask for water in English. But the real magic of this build is in the enclosure itself. Thankfully, it’s designed with a drip tray, but it also keeps the electronics out of the water, allowing just the tip of the sensor to get wet. You can view the vital signs directly on the device, or on a web dashboard whenever you’re away.

In the future, [Jorge] wants to experiment with GCP and Azure, connect more flower pots together, and add more sensors so that it is more autonomous. One of the major lessons learned was that you probably shouldn’t start with a succulent, because they need very little water and this will drag out your development time considerably unless you over-water it, which will kill it. Check it out after the break.

If [Jorge] wanted to go the easy route, they might stick this plant under an old Keurig that’s been converted to an automatic watering device.

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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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