An automated green thumb in the garden

My wife and I love eating fresh food. Fresh cut herbs cost as much as the whole living plant. So we start buying these fellows in their pot. However, in the winter the days are too short, they won’t grow. So I decided to build a lightened garden to give them what they need. In fact, it is not a new idea, I plan to build a computer controlled garden for a while.

I need  to start somewhere and develop my gardening skills and understand how to automate the thing. This first project is much like a prototype. I gather some junk I accumulated around the house, and I build this little oasis.

Smart garden without electronics

The reflectors

I begin with the reflectors. I build them from old floor heater front panels. I cover them with aluminum foil. They are not wide enough to cover the entire light. So when we sit we can see the direct light. However, they do the trick.

Reflector build with aluminum foil

Reflectors assembly

Here is the complete assembly of the garden, before the paint. Before I start, I already know that my light was too high. In the next one, it will be adjustable. When I built it, I had no clue of the height of the plants I will grow in it.

Fluorescent lightening

I use two 45 watts fluorescent bulbs I pick from my studio box. They are full spectrum 5500k lights. I use it for two weeks now, and the plant seem to have enough light. In my readings, I found that the best temperature is 6400k. I plan to purchase some real fluorescent tube grow lights after the holidays.

Smart garden assembly before paint

The moisture sensors

These bolts will be the moisture sensors. I gravelled about two inches of the bottom of the planter. The bottom sensor will tell if they are too much water. The side sensor will keep track of the soil moisture. Both will be hooked to and Arduino. I hope it will work! I had not tested yet.

Moisture sensors

Moisture sensor head

The controller

This is it for now. The next part is where the fun begins. For me at least! I can not do things the simple way. So I want this garden as automated as possible.┬áHere’s a sneak peak.

Smart garden diagram

Arduino data logger and humidity temperature moisture sensors

2 thoughts on “An automated green thumb in the garden

  1. Hi there,

    This is a really cool project! I’ve wanted to do this myself. What are you going to do with the data logger? Are you planning to use it to adjust the performance of the system?

    - Adam

  2. Hello Adam, Thank you for your interest. The data logger includes a real time clock. I use it to trigger the lights. Since this project is a prototype, I want to use it to monitor the environmental condition and optimise the system. This garden is in front of my sliding door and relatively near the entrance door. This morning the exterior temperature is about -30 celsius! I want to understand how this weather conditions will affect the plans. I also want to monitor the natural lightening condition. The plants get a lot of sun in front of the glass door. So eventually I think I will be able to turn off the lights if they are not needed.

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