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.
The hydroMazing controller is designed to operate ventilation fans for air circulation, water pumps, occasionally a humidifier, heaters, or any other appliance that is necessary to maintain an ideal environment for plants to grow. Typically, we DIY'ers would hook-up some relays to a microcontroller to achieve control. However, with hydroMazing, the system uses remote controlled wireless AC outlets, ensuring safer control than traditional relays. hydroMazing uses low-cost open-hardware modules and the ubiquitous microcontroller, the Atmega328, on an Arduino Nano*, offering the flexibility of customization and expansion. The sensor choices are endless, but I’ve narrowed it down to a few important and relatively inexpensive modules. A temperature and relative-humidity sensor, moisture sensors for soil, liquid temperature probe for hydroponics, a simple photocell. There are many other optional additions including the float switch or switches and flow-rate sensors.
Plants don't need access to the Internet to grow. So what can a Raspberry Pi 3 with built-in WiFi and bluetooth do for hydroMazing? A connected hydroMazing can let us know what is going on inside our garden through a web-interface, email, or even, text-messaging.
It was two years ago when I decided to try using an Arduino Uno microcontroller to replace my individual Lux WIN100 Heating & Cooling Programmable Outlet Thermostat. These outlets control an appliance, such as a small heater or, in this case, a ventilation fan. A device that is plugged into the outlet turns on... Continue Reading →