It can be hard enough to keep your plants alive and healthy if you dont have time to water them. It gets even harder if you are a trying to plant different species that requires different climats conditions.

The Idea with this build is to make a seedstarter / mini-Greenhouse where i can mimic the necessary conditions for different plants.

Every one of my plants, have a special watering / lightning and temperature needs. The requirements of each one are stored in a database, and the plant is monitored through 3 sensors (Light / Temperature / moisture). Whenever a sensor register a value bellow the saved threshold the Arduino reacts, by turning the water pumps, lightning or the fan to cool the plant.

The plants can be monitored online as well. In my setup i have 16 plants. To make this Instructables short and clear i am not going into details explaining how software and hardware works, instead i will link to Instructables, that can explain topics. I will also share Both my code and schematics, which are commented.

Enjoy, and please remember to comment if you have any suggestions and ideas .... and if you like my Instructable project, please vote for my entry to the contest:)

( I will keep editing the Instructables over the next couple of days, uploading my code and so on :)

PS: the plants shown on the picture, were not grown by using the setup-up (It is not that quick qrowing plants !) it is just for the showing the end result.

Step 1: List of Materials

Here is what you needs :

Micro-Sprinklers, 20 nozzles, 10 meter hose - 8.90 USD

Storage Plastic box, 45 L, 56x39x28 cm - 5.73 USD

Mini Water pump DC 3-12V RS-360SH - 3.94 USD

Normally close, solenoid valve, 12 V - 5.2 USD

Ultrasonic Module HC-SR04 - 1.21 USD

Photoresistor Sensor Module - 0,99 USD

Arduino mega 2560 - 6 USD

Adafruit CC3000 wifi module - 44 USD

74HC595 shift registers - 1 USD for 10 pieces

74HC4051 multiplexers - 1,85 USD for 10 pieces

16 channel 12 V Relay - 12,52 USD

NPN resistor - 1,35 USD for 5 pieces

moisture sensor - 1,12 USD

PCB manifacturing - 17 USD ( you get 10 copies ! )

Aquarium Plastic tube, 3 meter - 2,89 USD

many x wires and connectors

Step 2: The Frame and Earth Trays

The Frame:

The frame it self is made of an old IKEA Expedit, the one i had laying around had 16 holes in it, which was great for what i intended to do. It wasn't manipulated what so ever. Every square was 39x39x39 cm, large enough to starting a grow of a plant.

Cost : I had stuff so i used - 0 USD ( A new IKEA Expedit - 82 USD )

The Trays:

The trays were made from som cardboard, i cut it so it could fit inside the boxes of the closet, and the cardboard pieces were taped together. The cardboard tray was then set inside a plastic bag, to make it water resistant and then filled with some earth.

Cost : I had stuff so i used - 0 USD

Step 3: Watering Sprinklers

Watering Sprinklers:

I was quite in doubt here on how to proceed , there are different options, starting by just setting the water tube into the tray and let the water run or use something to spray the plat from above. I decided to go with the second Option.
I found some Micro Sprinklers in E-bay, They seemed fine since they only sprayed on a small area, so the wall of my boxes didn't became wet. Once received, the holes of the sprinklers were too narrow for my low pressure pumps so i had to make the hole a bit bigger using a drill, i went with 1 mm hole, that worked fine. Then i secured the sprinkles at the top of every box with some wires and staples.

Cost : Micro-Sprinklers, 20 nozzles, 10 meter hose - 8.90 USD

Step 4: The Water Container

The Water Container:

The water container is made of a storage plastic box from IKEA, The box holdes 45 L. In the cover i cut holes with my soldering iron according to the placement of my pumps. That way the wiring of the pumps was outside the box.

Cost : Storage Plastic box, 45 L, 56x39x28 cm - 5.73 USD

The Pumps:

For the pumps i chose 3-12V low pressure pumps, although they are a bit noisy, but it wasn't that bad, and they worked as they should. The pumps were secured to a piece of wood of the length of the water container, and went through the holes that were cut in the cover of the plastic container cover.

Cost : Mini Water pump DC 3-12V RS-360SH - 3.94 USD ( I used 16 of these = 63 USD )

Step 5: Adding Filling Valve and Ultrasonic Sensor

The Filling valve:

The Filling valve is a normally close 12 V solenoid valve. At the side of the plastic container i cut a hole with my soldering iron, and the valve is secured with a wire and glued with a glue gun. The Valve is then Attached to a watering hose.

Cost : Normally close, solenoid valve, 12 V - 5.2 USD

The Ultrasonic Sensor:

For automatic refilling the container, i had to know to level of the water. To achieve that, a couple of options are available. You can either use a water sensor with a couple of wires or use a Ultrasonic sensor. I went with the second option as i found it more reliable. I cut a couple of holes at the cover of my plastic container and then i secured the Ultrasonic sensor to it with a glue gun.

Cost : Ultrasonic Module HC-SR04 - 1.21 USD

se this instructable for more details about measuring water level

Step 6: The Software : the Web Interface

The Web Interface:

I wanted to be able to control the growth of my plants through my plants and also be able to follow the statistics of every plant. I am no programmer, so surely the code can be written more effectively, but it works !.

The website is programmed through JQuery/PHP and i used a MySQL Database. The website is hosted at 000webhost.com which is a free web hosting service. I wont go into details of explaining the code, but i will be listing the function of pages i have. I will attach my code here so it can be used freely.


The index page, listes the plants i have, their picture and name, date of planting and the remaining days to harvest. It simply reads the database and displays it.


The detail page, shows information about the chosen plants, here it displays the last read sensor value from the moisture, temperature and light sensors, the values are read by connecting to thingspeak.com. in addition to that i have toggle switches to manually activate the water pump, the growing light and the fan.


The stats page shows the values mesured by my sensors. The values are presented in a chart. The values are read by connecting to thingspeak.com. There i made a channel of every plant. Every channel have 3 fields; moisture, temperature, light.


The info page shows different informations about the plant.

Step 7: The Software : the Arduino

The Arduino software:

The hardest part for me was the electronics and the coding for the Arduino, as i mentioned earlier i am no programmer, so i had to make a lot of research and many questions at the Arduino forum. A Special thanks for Kurt Mckelvey, who helped with some good advices.

I am not planning to go through my code here, as i am going to attach it here and share it, but i will just explain the logic behind it.

In the loop section, the program starts by connection to the internet through the wifi module, then reads the sensors values through the multiplexers, and then upload the values to the thingspeak.com website, then those values are compared to each plants needs, if the program findes it necessary the pumps are turned on, so the plants gets water, light and air according to its need. Those are turned on though a shift register. Between every second watering, the ultrasonic sensor measures the depth of water inside the container, and then open the solenoid valve if the water level is low. The internet connection is then closed. The cycle runs 3 times a day.

Se This tutorial to understand more about shift registers, and this tutorial to know more about multiplexers.

Step 8: The Electronics

The Electronics:

That was a confusing part, and needed a lot of research, a journey where i learned a lot of stuff, and this was a big reward itself. At the beginning, i was only thinking about making a project involving moisture sensors for 32 plants, and as the project evolved and got a bigger picture, the light and temperature sensors idea emerged. I had also a better idea on how to optimise the hole settings. Unfortunately i am only going to share my old hardware involving the first set-up, since i want to want to add my project to contests, and i did not receive the parts for the light and temperature just yet.

I am sure this part will confuse alot of people,sorry for that, but as soon as i will get the boards and solder, i will update this step.

I had a lot of trial and errors soldering the parts, and due to the many connection of the shift-registers and the multiplexers and lot of wires i got confused. The solution to that was to make a PCB, that was a totally new field to me. After a bit of research i made my self familiar with the Eagle software, i drew the schematics and then sent it to manufacturing though dirtypcbs.com, a cheap, and reliable service.

Costs :

1 x Arduino mega 2560 - 6 USD

1 x Adafruit CC3000 wifi module - 44 USD

4 x 74HC595 shift registers - 1 USD for 10 pieces

5 x 74HC4051 multiplexers - 1,85 USD for 10 pieces

2 x 16 channel 12 V Relay - 12,52 USD each

1 x NPN resistor - 1,35 USD for 5 pieces

32 x moisture sensor - 1,12 USD Each ( 35,84 USD )

many x wires and connectors

PCB manifacturing - 17 USD ( you get 10 copies ! )

Shift registers and multiplexers:

I went with an Arduino Mega due to the many pins needed. In hope for decreasing the number of the digital pins i used 4 shiftregisters, that way 3 Arduino pins allowed me to control 32 water pumps, and for the analog pins i used 5 multiplexers, 1 Master, and 4 slaves, that way using 6 digital and 1 analog pin of my Arduino i could control 32 sensor inputs.

Wifi and moisture sensors:

I used the Adafruit CC3000 wifi module. For the moisture sensors i used 32 cheap moisture sensors, To avoid corrosion of my sensors i used a transistor, so the moisture sensors are only powered when the reading takes place.


The pumps and solenoid valve are connected to the Arduino though 2, 16 channels, 12V relays.

Step 9: Testing

Here i am sharing a bit of my testing of the fan, the water pumps and the lights though my relays. Sorry for the quality of the video. I was using my Gopro, so a bit difficult to sight when you don't have a screen. But anyway it is showing the Concept :)

Step 10: Final Thoughts

Many people will ask, why bother about conventional "farming" when there are many alternativs out there, i am talking about aeroponics, hydroponics, aquaponics .. ect, True, those methods are easy to use, and garantie good results, the problem is that you cannot monitor every plant for it self and give it its necessary requirement of moisture, humidity, lightning. Specially if you have special variaties of plants as i have.

This project has been a big learning experience for me, alot of trial and errors and frustration, but at last, it worked. i would like to share some of my thoughts and also what i think could be upgraded.

- The wooden frame : I guess Building it with plastic woud be more effective, specially because of the moisture, and Water splashes. also it would be a good idea to add coverings at the front and the back to totally isolate the single plants.

- The Water container : it was a bad idea to place it at the top of the wooden frame, as the Water keeps dripping of the sprinkles because of the gravity effekt, so i had it removed to the bottom.

- The Hardware and software : Not doubt this is where the biggeste improvement can be done, for the software, more efficiant functions would be nice, the software as it is Works as it should, stable. But improvement can absolutly be done. For the Hardware, improvements can be done as well, i think in my next version i will go with a shift register that controls multiplexers instead of having master and slave multiplexers, i believe that would be more effective.

- Building a box for the arduino and the Electronics.

- All in all, i guess it would be a nice trick to designe it a "node" way, i mean that you can add "components to the main module without new code. lets say you have 5 plants, and you want to add 2 more, then you can just add to new boxes and every thing will Work. I guess i have to think about how it can be done,. Any suggestions are welcome :)

<p>Awesome project! Great use of Arduino and sensors and controls, as well as web interface. I didn't see anything on where the grow lights were purchases, how much, and how they were controlled (I'm assuming the 16 channel relay boards). Also, do you have a good source online for the data you used, as far as how much light, moisture, heat, etc. for each type of plant? Many thanks!!</p>
<p>that's right ... i forgot to mention it ... the lights were bought from Ebay from China and hooked to the 16 channel relay the same way the pumps are hooked. for the data .. no i dont actually ... what i did is just using the data on the package of every plant .. so it they mention it needs alot of sun i give it sun= 3, if half sun then, sun = 2, if in shade then sun=1 .. and the same i did for temperature and moisture. That way i had a kind of standard to work from in my database</p>
<p>Can you elaborate on what specific lights you are using in this project? There are tons of grow lights on eBay and unfortunately not many will fit into this size space. I've also had bad luck growing basil and cilantro with the red/blue lights on there as it seems to prefer standard 4000k lights.</p>
Why did you choose to run multiple pumps, you could have used one pump that pumps water to all the plant and put the solenoid valve at the sprinkler. This way when the system detects something needs water it turns on the proper sprinklers then the relay for the pump, and if this is outside remove the pump delay and just have the whole thing connected to the hose. You could use a flow sensor if you want to know how much water each plant is utilizing as well. Seems that jabbing a pump for each is not energy optimal
<p>i am not sure i understand what do you mean ... my idea is that ... every plant is isolated from the others and has its own water needs. if i have the same tube running through all the plants, how can i control the water needed for every plant ?</p>
<p>Hi stregoi, maybe you can think in 1 pump, 16 solenoid valve's and 16 sprinklers? </p>
<p>Awesome project, but I think its a mis. When I see the instruction, where are the grow lamps? How I montage the fan's? Sorry, when I spent my time to a project of this I suspect a complete subscribe and not the half of it... :-(</p>
<p>Thank you ...you are right, setting the fan's and the lamps wasnt that detailed .. it just a tought no need to make it boring. i mean it is self explanatory that in every box, you will need a lamp and a fan. and all the fans are hooked to a 16 channel relay, the same is done with the lamps. i hope that made sense .. i will add more description to my instructable</p>
<p>This is awesome! I run a nonprofit called the Engineer Factory and we are partnering with an Environmental Charter School in Southern California. We were looking for a project that integrated sustainable plants, engineering and technology. This is perfect! I would love to get more info on your code. We will vote for you!</p>
<p>Sounds very interessesting .. i will share my code, when all the functions are will written and commented. no need to confuse people.</p>
<p>Look very nice.</p><p>One thing I discovered while working with moisture sensors is that they seem to always be on... I only take reading every 15 minutes when using one. So I put the power for mine on a relay, turned it on 1 minute before taking the reading and then back off. Helps save on the probes and the amount of electricity used (Albeit minimal)</p>
<p>what i did is just using a transistor, hooked to the shiftregisters .. the transistor is only turned on when the reading is done </p>
<p>This is great. I'd like to reverse the process and use one plant at time and determine the optimum growing environment like these guys: <a href="http://www.plantlab.nl/" rel="nofollow">http://www.plantlab.nl/</a></p><p>Your thoughts? </p>
<p>Very cool idea .. but, it is very time consuming, when you are only doing it for fun, and you are one man on it :)</p>
<p>This looks great! I am planning to do something similar in the near future - do you have planned to include nutrients into your setup? Because that is another factor that determines plant health. I am just putting some ideas together so far, thanks for the inspiration!</p>
<p>Cool idea ... i thought about that. infact it wouldnt be difficult to do it. The simple one, just adding nutriants to the main container, and monitor the concentration of that nutriant with and EC sensor, and if the value if low, then a pump from the nutriants container puts some extra in the water container. If the EC is high then water is added to dilute it. from there </p>
How many pounds of ganja did you grow this way?
<p>Hehe .. well, none .. but i am using it for my special medical herbs .. a bought some exotics ones from ebay. </p>
<p>Great instructable. Hope can make same for myself.</p>
<p>Thanks :) .. go for it :)</p>
<p>Very nice! For anyone on tight budget, you can save some cash using ESP8266 wifi module for $7(or less!). These can be coded with Arduino as well.</p>
<p>I figured out that later .. but you are right, they are cheaper :) .. thanks for the tip.</p>
Great job
<p>thanks :)</p>
<p>thank you ..</p>
<p>Great job, I vote you. It is perfect!!!</p>
<p>thank you :)</p>
Awesome work bro !
<p>thanks :)</p>
<p>I've recently taken an interest in growing food again and acquired a greenhouse last summer, but this is way beyond that - I thought my head was going to explode!! But I'm going to soldier thru this and see if I can enlist my techie son to help me out with an adaptation. Great stuff! Thanx for sharing.</p>
<p>sounds cool . and remember to share whatever you build :)</p>
Awesome!!! Definitely gonna vote for you :)
<p>Thank you :)</p>
<p>Can i see the full code</p>
<p>The schematics and php/Json/Mysql code i uploaded, the arduino code, needs just to be commented and cleaned and then i will uploaded as well</p>
<p>where is the code and files i need it ,plzz upload it</p>
<p>The schematics and php/Json/Mysql code i uploaded, the arduino code, needs just to be commented and cleaned and then i will uploaded as well</p>

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