What can go wrong? Once you know the problems that can arise and how to avoid or deal with them, you’ll grow a garden you can be proud of.
Electricity replaces the sun, wind, and some natural processes as the dependency for plants to grow indoors. The first glaring problem with the typical indoor garden is that extension wires are annoying and a potential safety hazard. On the other hand, wireless communications can lack the reliability of the wired variant. Going further, should the system be available to the local network or should it be connected to the Internet?
The greatest advantage to using the Arduino family of microcontrollers for DIY electronics projects, is that they are ubiquitous. Since they are so available, they are inexpensive and you can find open-source software to get started. If you’ve ever had the opportunity to work with an Arduino Uno microcontroller board, then you’ve probably executed the flashing LED example. Going further, you might attach a button, or switch, to trigger the LED or to turn it off making the project interactive. There are many sensors that could be connected to the Arduino Uno and setup to trigger events, such as the LED flashing, using threshold values that we would need to experiment with in order to figure out what settings work best for creating the effect we want.
What needs monitoring? What needs to be done to make sure plants grow well? Research your plant's needs. Many cool weather plants typically enjoy temperatures in the day of 70°-75°F, and night 55°-60°F with a relative-humidity of 40%-60% for most growing plants. A water and nutrient solution system should have a temperature between 18-21°C (64-70°F). These factors vary depending on variety, selection, phase of growth that the plants are currently growing, and hardiness, some plants can tolerate stress better than others.
What do plants actually require in order to grow well? It is important for context and it is important for every human to understand what it takes to grow plants, even if the future doesn’t allow for outdoor cultivation. At a minimum this is my effort to prevent future generations from suffering the fate of a World without plants as proposed by Mike Judge in his movie “Idiocracy” where people no longer understand why plants wouldn’t want to live on a beverage containing “electrolytes.”
A basic, low-cost, reliable, indoor garden is a controlled environment typically in the form of a tent inside a room, inside a garage. You have one or two AC-powered ventilation fans, recirculating and/or one is the intake and the other is the exhaust. You have two super bright fluorescent lamps connected to a mechanical/digital timer controlled AC outlet providing the plants with their appropriate light-cycle. Your plants are contained in soil, or a basic deep water culture hydroponics system. A large plastic reservoir with multiple grow baskets containing clay pellets partially submerged in the nutrient solution being aerated by an aquarium-style air-pump that’s connected to an air-stone, creating bubbles, preventing stagnation, keeping the culture healthy.
A "smart" garden uses electronics for the purpose of making decisions based on defined parameters and provides a more connected environment.
You value the project because you are able to customize and experience the process of its creation, both physically and mentally.