In the early 1940s, several countries saw an incredible shift in agriculture. What were called “victory gardens” were being planted en masse by people from all walks of life, encouraged by various national governments around the world. Millions of these small home gardens sprang up to help reduce the price of produce during World War 2, allowing anyone with even the tiniest pot of soil to contribute to the war effort.
It’s estimated that in 1943 alone, victory gardens accounted for around one third of all vegetables produced in the United States. Since then, however, the vast majority of these productive gardens have been abandoned in favor of highly manicured, fertilized, irrigated turfgrass (which produces no food yet costs more to maintain), but thanks to the recent global pandemic there has been a resurgence of people who at least are curious about growing their own food again, if not already actively planting gardens. In the modern age, even though a lot of the folk knowledge has been lost since the ’40s, planting a garden of any size is easier than ever especially with the amount of technology available to help.
As someone who not only puts food on the table as a writer for a world-renowned tech website but also literally and figuratively puts food on the table as a small-scale market farmer, there are a few things that I’ve learned that I hope will help if you’re starting your first garden.
Herbs are a great way to spice up any dish. Often they don’t need much, meaning that it’s possible to grow a useful amount in a fairly compact area. [Sunyecz22] wanted to do just that, so built a convenient indoor herb garden, giving it some smarts along the way.
The project is built around an Arduino Mega, a venerable stalwart of the scene that comes in handy on projects requiring plenty of digital I/O. It’s paired with four soil moisture sensors, one per planter pot to keep an eye on water levels. The system also controls LEDs which provide light based on the time of day to help the herbs grow. Finally, a tidy 3D printed enclosure gives the project a neat, finished look.
It’s a build that’s a straightforward way to get into automatic plant maintenance, and leaves plenty of scope for future work. With the capable Arduino Mega on hand, it would be a cinch to upgrade to automatic watering down the track. We’ve seen similar builds before, too. Video after the break.
Anyone who has ever had to propagate small plants from seed will know that efficiently sowing seed can be a difficult process. Getting a consistent number of seed in each point while achieving any sort of speed is almost impossible, and as a result it becomes a tedious process. If only there were some means by which it could be automated, perhaps a way to do a whole tray at once!
Fortunately [Michael Ratcliffe] is at hand, with his tray-sized drop seeder. It consists of two sheets of acrylic each with a grid of holes, offset from each other by able to be brought into alignment with a lever. Seed is shaken over the upper surface until all the holes contain some, and then the lever is operated allowing it to drop through into the soil below. There is a matching dibber if required to push the required grid of holes in the soil.
It’s a simple yet ingenious gadget that genuinely will make the lives of horticulturalists a lot easier, even though it might not be perfect for all types of seed. He’s created a video which we’ve placed below the break, and should you wish to create the dibber we’ve already covered it.
Greenhouses are a great way to improve conditions for your plants, and are an absolute necessity for any serious gardening in colder climates. When the time came for [gentleworks] to build a new greenhouse, rather than going with a conventional design, they decided to go with a geodesic dome instead.
The greenhouse uses a few techniques that will be unfamiliar to those used to run-of-the-mill carpentry. The individual cedar struts meet at a series of hubs, constructed out of short lengths of Schedule 80 PVC pipe. The struts are attached to the pipe with steel straps, screwed into place. This doesn’t give the strongest of holds, but as most of the loads on the struts are compressive in nature, it works well in practice. Plastic sheeting is used as a covering to help let in plenty of light while keeping the cold out. The greenhouse is also heated, and can maintain a 40 deg F temperature differential with 14,000 BTUs.
Across the Northern Hemisphere it is now summer and the growing season is in full swing. Vigorous plants that will soon bear tasty fruit are springing forth from the soil, but unfortunately so are a lush carpet of weeds that require the constant attention of the gardener. “If only there were a machine that could take that on!” she cries, and as it happens she’s in luck.
The FarmBot is an open-source robotic vegetable grower able to take care of all aspects of sowing and tending a vegetable plot. We first saw them five years as a semifinalist in the first Hackaday Prize. This is a CNC machine for the raised beds of your backyard garden. Give it power, water, and a WiFi connection, and FarmBot goes into service planting, watering, weeding, and monitoring the soil. Now they’ve shipped over a thousand of their Genesis model and today have announced of a pair of new models that promise to make their technology more accessible than it ever has been.
In a nod to Tesla, FarmBot is calling this their “Model 3 moment” — the new offering is smaller and leaner to appeal to a wider customer base than their well-heeled, CNC machine loving, early adopters. The new FarmBot Express and Express XL models are now shipped 95% pre-assembled to lower the bar on getting up and running. They cover two sizes of planting bed: 1.2m x 3m or 2.4m x 6m, with an MSRP of $2295/2795 although there is currently an $800 launch discount available.
For us, FarmBot is the success story of an early Hackaday Prize entrant. From a great idea and a functional prototype, the project has successfully made the transition to commercial viability and holds a genuine promise of making the world a better place by helping people grow some of their own produce. Who knows, in five years time it could be your idea that’s reaching commercial viability, we think you should enter the Hackaday Prize too!
One of the hardest aspects of choosing a career isn’t getting started, it’s keeping up. Whether you’re an engineer, doctor, or even landscaper, there are always new developments to keep up with if you want to stay competitive. This is especially true of farming, where farmers have to keep up with an incredible amount of “best practices” in order to continue being profitable. Keeping up with soil nutrient requirements, changing weather and climate patterns, pests and other diseases, and even equipment maintenance can be a huge hassle.
A new project at Hackerfarm led by [Akiba] is hoping to take at least one of those items off of farmers’ busy schedules, though. Their goal is to help farmers better understand the changing technological landscape and make use of technology without having to wade through all the details of every single microcontroller option that’s available, for example. Hackerfarm is actually a small farm themselves, so they have first-hand knowledge when it comes to tending a plot of land, and [Bunnie Huang] recently did a residency at the farm as well.
The project strives to be a community for helping farmers make the most out of their land, so if you run a small farm or even have a passing interest in gardening, there may be some useful tools available for you. If you have a big enough farm, you might even want to try out an advanced project like an autonomous tractor.
We’re not exactly what you’d call naturalists here at Hackaday, so to us, the idea that hot pepper seeds need to germinate in hot conditions sounds suspiciously like a joke. The sort of thing somebody might tell you right before they try to sell you an elevator pass, or cram you into a locker. But we don’t think [Dean] would have gone through so much trouble if it wasn’t true. You’re still not going to sell us an elevator pass, though. Not again.
According to [Dean], the Carolina Reaper pepper seeds he bought from Puckerbutt Pepper Company (truly a name you can trust) recommend that they be germinated at a temperature between 80 and 85 degrees Fahrenheit for up to eight weeks. To make sure they were maintained at the optimal temperature for as long as possible, he decided to get a heating pad he could place under the seeds to keep them warm. He just needed some way to make sure the heat only kicked on once the soil temperature fell out of the sweet spot.
To get an accurate reading, [Dean] ended up going with a waterproof K-type thermocouple connected to a SainSmart MAX6675 module that could be buried amongst the seeds. When the soil temperature drops below 82.5 F, it kicks on the heating mat through an IoT Relay by Digital Loggers. He even added in a capacitive soil moisture sensor and a couple of LEDs so he could tell from across the room if he needed to water what he loving refers to as his “Hell Berries”