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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Check Soil Moisture At A Glance With This Useful Display

Keeping soil moist is key to keeping most plants happy. It can be a pain having to dip one’s fingers into dirty soil on the regular, so it’s desirable to have a tool to do the job instead. [Andrew Lamchenko] built a capable soil moisture monitor, and equipped it with an E-ink display for easy readings at a glance.

The device is built around the NRF52810 or other related NRF52 microcontrollers, which run the show. Rather than using an off-the-shelf sensor to determine soil conditions, an LMC555CMX timer chip is used, a variant of the classic 555 timer designed for low power consumption. Combined with the right PCB design, this can act as a moisture sensor by detecting capacitance changes in the soil. The sensor is also able to send data using the MySensor protocol, allowing it to be used as a part of a home automation system.

The soil is tested periodically with the moisture sensor, and displayed on the attached e-ink screen. Since the e-ink display requires no electricity except when rewriting the display, this allows the sensor to operate for long periods without using a lot of battery power. The soil can be checked, the display updated, and then the entire system can be put to sleep, using tiny amounts of power until it’s time to test the soil again.

It’s a great example of design for low power applications, where component selection really is everything. We’ve featured [Andrew]’s projects before; he’s long been a fan of using e-ink displays to create long-lasting, low power budget sensor platforms. Video after the break.

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Parts of the automated soil moisture monitoring station

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.

 

ESP32 Soil Monitors Tap Into Ultra-Low Power Mode

Soil moisture sensors are cheap and easy to interface with, to the point that combining one with an Arduino and blinking an LED when your potted plant is feeling a bit parched is a common beginners project. But what about on the long term? Outside of a simple proof of concept, what would it take to actually read the data from these sensors over the course of weeks or months?

That’s precisely the question [derflob] recently had to answer. The goal was to build a device that could poll multiple soil sensors and push the data wirelessly into Home Assistant. But since it would be outside on the balcony, it needed to run exclusively on battery power. Luckily his chosen platform, the ESP32, has some phenomenal power saving features. You just need to know how to use them. Continue reading “ESP32 Soil Monitors Tap Into Ultra-Low Power Mode”

Don’t Guess, Listen To Your Plants’ Pleas For Water

Plants are great to have around, but they all have different watering needs. If only they could cry out when they’re thirsty, right? Well, now they can. All you need to hear them suffer is your very own Klausner Machine. [RoniBandini] based the Klausner machine on one of Roald Dahl’s short stories, which features an inventor who builds a machine that can make audible the sound of plants shrieking whenever they’re cut.

In [RoniBandini]’s version of the Klausner Machine, the point is to judge the plant’s feelings based on its soil moisture content. An Arduino Nano reads in from the soil moisture sensor, and if the soil is dry, the plant screams. If the soil is moist, the plant emits happy sounds from DF Player Mini and SD card.¬† We think the analog meters are a great touch, and the jumping needles really anthropomorphize the plant.

Go forth and gain a better appreciation for your plants’ feelings, because this project is wide open. Maybe it will help you water them more often. Some plants need to be cut back, so we think it would be cool if you could make it scream when you take a cutting. Check out the demo after the break.

This is isn’t the first time we’ve seen an analog meter used in conjunction with soil moisture. What is a VU meter, anyway? Our own [Dan Maloney] really moved the needle on the subject a while back.

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Vintage Ammeter Becomes Plant Moisture Gauge

It’s not uncommon to happen across vintage measurement equipment at the local flea market or garage sale. Often with an irresistible aesthetic, and built to last decades, these tools nonetheless tend to be sidelined when modern multimeters are available. [Build Comics] had just such a piece on hand, and decided to repurpose it with some modern hardware instead.

The build begins with a Hartmann & Braun 60 amp ammeter. Replete in a nice wooden box, it’s the perfect candidate for a modern refit. The device uses an indicator of the moving iron type. Intending to turn the device into a soil moisture monitor, [Build Comics] began by removing the original heavy-wound coil. In its place, a custom coil was installed instead, wound on a 3D printed bobbin using a modified sewing machine. This allows the meter to be easily driven by an Arduino with little more than a transistor on a GPIO pin. To detect moisture, a Iduino ME110 moisture probe was used. Complete with cloth-covered wire to maintain the vintage look. The original meter plate was also photographed, modified, and reprinted, to read moisture levels instead of current.

If you’re interested in these gauge restoration techniques but don’t have a green thumb, no worries. [Build Comics] used similar tricks to put together a gorgeous weather station that would look great on your desk.

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