Instructables
Picture of Garduino Upgrade, Now with more Twitter!
A couple months ago I came across two great instructables.  The first was the Garduino, an arduino controlled garden to help you grow plants at home.  The second was the Tweet-a-Watt, a project that teaches you how to monitor your home power usage using Xbees and Twitter.  I read about both these projects here at Instructables and in Make Magazine, Vol 18

I thought it would be great to combine both these projects and build myself an indoor garden that I could monitor from work via Twitter.  Thus began an adventure in gardening and electronics that taught me a lot and took me much longer than perhaps it should have.  Fortunately for you I'm going to write down all the steps so you can get started right away.  Maybe you'll follow up with this project and upgrade your garden or use this as a guide to start on a similar project.  Either way, I hope you'll let me know what you get up to.

If you're ready then head to the next step and begin the process!

Edit: Please see the code now posted on GitHub - https://github.com/chrisgilmerproj/garduino-upgrade

 
Remove these adsRemove these ads by Signing Up

Step 1: Gather your materials

This project is really two projects in one.  It is both a gardening project and a wireless project.  But, as is true with any project, getting your materials will probably be the hardest part.  This is because building can move along pretty fast once you have everything, but it's finding out you're missing the one crucial piece that always holds things up.  Below is a list of web pages from my wiki with a list of all the parts you'll need.  Go ahead and take a look, I've listed them with as much detail as I could and if I've left something out just let me know so I can add it to the list.

Various Parts Lists:I highly recommend you buy a couple extra parts here and there.  You'll find, as I did, that they come in handy when you make a mistake.  For the majority of the parts nothing is particularly expensive so buying a few extra things won't hurt.
Very cool stuff. A word to the wise though, while the foil is shiny, it is still silver in color, which is just a very light black. You'd be better off with an opaque white material. In my photography I fould that using ordinary foamcore board is an amazing reflector of light, and is more efficient at it than foil. Maybe this could work for your design.
natantus (author)  thejugglingjohn4 years ago
Hey, I appreciate the comment on the foil.  I wouldn't have thought of that and now I may try to switch it out.  Foil just happened to be cheap and available in my kitchen, so I figured it would work here.  Thanks for the advice!
The mylar that was suggested earlier has really helped me with my projects. If i remember my numbers correctly it was almost 200 lumens more than when I wasn't using it. I just cut to size an old emergency blanket that came out of a first aid kit. It does reflect heat back as well which is helpful for growing in winter months.
What equipment did you use to measure the lumens in your grow setup?
I used a soil meter from the local home depot... something like http://www.amazon.com/Bond-9629-3-Way-Garden-Moisture/dp/B000UJTOEO/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1316452006&sr=8-1

i will grant that it probably isn't the most accurate thing in the whole world...

I will probably go to something like this mastech unit later. But I'm going to be out of the loop for about a year, so it will be some time before I can start playing around with stuff again :-(

http://www.amazon.com/Mastech-Digital-Illuminance-Light-LX1330B/dp/B000S19W3W/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1316452054&sr=8-1
mylar is ideal and white (2 ply greenhouse plastic is white on one side and black on the other) is next best, aluminum foil isn't "black" at all but it certainly makes consistently uneven lighting which is bad for plants.
I'm not sure if it's real mylar or not but a cheap way to get a super reflective material is to buy a few of those "space blankets" they sell in Army surplus stores, you can usually find them for around $5 (in the U.S. anyway).
You might want to check your cars first aid kit as they usually come one with one, just hope you don't need it =)
Most of this is beyond my ken and or cash reserves. I came upon this item searching for help with a way to utilize a remote announcer thing from Harbor freight tools that does real well (range over 200 feet) but not all I'd like. It flashes a light and makes a sound whenever anyone/thing passes by the remote unit.

I would like to figure out a way to take the output (light/sound) and wire in a relay to control say 120VAC to ring a louder bell or flash more lights or set off an X-10 code (their remote sensors don't work at the range the HFT unit does).

I belong to a Google Group on Woodworking that's pretty good but have not found a similar discussion group where one might post such queries and get something other than SPAM and offers of free sex.

If you can help . . .

Thanks
One direction to look into is wire in transistors to switch an AC relay. This is well documented, but I wouldn't advise any beginner to work with exposed AC. See next paragraph instead.

A much easier and potentially safer route is to wire an AC or X10 remote control or other remote control. There are a lot of tutorials for using a micro to control a remote control (the book Practical Arduino has one example, but search the web). Basically you would use a pin from the arduino to electrically simulate a button push (bridge the switch) on the remote. This is a very good beginner-intermediate project.
Varenberg3 years ago
This is a very nice setup, and i really loved to read your instructable. I ordered myself a arduino uno, and i'll be building this one, with my own needs offcourse. If you want to keep plants indoor, i suggest making a growbox that's light proof and airproof. I would add ventilators and a temperature and moisture sensor to keep things under control. I would allso install the light sensor, just to see when the lamps are worn and give less light. In your growbox you play god so anything is possible. An fusebox in metal would house the electronics, safely away from water and inside an automated sprinkler from a fire extinguisher. With low currents this is not necessary, but in my case i'm controlling a 600 watts growlight. I would allso add more soil moisture setups which will control my pump and give water through spikes. Allso air circulation is a must have to avoid "dead" spots between the leave"s and stems. Another system i have is taking water from a rain collecting container of a 1000 liters wich feeds my "feeding" barrel. Rain water is still the best for growing plants. The possibilities are really endless, you could allso inject co2 so your plants grow faster...

Keep up the good work ;)
saintneko3 years ago
As a former hydro store employee, like to chime in with a few points - aluminum is very reflective but foil has a very uneven surface so the light scatters in more directions, lessening the intensity - that would be a better trait very near a light source (notice how they don't put mirrors (which are backed with vacuum evaporated aluminum usually) in the HID light reflectors, but instead rough or hammered metal surfaces to prevent hot spots from occurring). Mylar is more reflective than a bright white surface but we're only talking 10% more reflective than the black and white poly tarp someone mentioned above - nicknamed 'panda film.' The panda film is very good for covering large areas and usually sold off of rolls by the foot (it comes off ten foot wide, but it's folded on the rolls so only looks about three feet wide in the store), whereas for mylar you're usually stuck buying a whole roll (at least, hydro store wise). If you have a store like Tap Plastics nearby, you can buy mylar from them, usually by the yard.

If you're attempting to control atmospheric conditions such as humidity and temperature, getting foam-core insulation panels and taping some mylar/panda film to the inside and then making a box of them around your grow area is fairly effective, but a fan to vent excess humidity / temperature is a must in a mostly or fully enclosed area (unless you have other ways of controlling those) - keeping the water reservoir outside the grow chamber helps prevent excess humidity from building up.

A fan is good in any case because it will keep fresh gasses circulating amongst your leaves and even out humidity and such to prevent mold, as well as keeping your plant stems in motion and strengthening them. When my friend was experimenting building his own LED grow lights, we just used some computer fans since the power supply was compatible, they actually ended up helping to make up the difference between the power consumption of the LEDs and the power output of the supply (because all our electronics were hand tooled without any fancy microcontrollers like you kids have today).

This is an awesome project, and I'm totally bummed I can't afford to build something like this to take care of my bonsai - though I'd need soil moisture sensors and the ability to water on a per-plant basis ... or have to re-pot all of the little trees in such a way as they'd dry out at the same speed.
sniper69jr4 years ago
I am a little confused how did you hook up the tweet-a-watt with the graduino ??
s2kills4 years ago
well first i think i might  be a little confused what this project is .  i guess it's kinda cool  if you want to tinker around  but some light timers... any how
use Mylar its really reflective and you can  buy a forum of it at the 99 cent store
tho its extremely thin and  can be hard to work with if you get the  kind from the
hydro store it's like 25 bucks for 20 feet and alot thicker  but yeah i can see why  you used the foil and now  the lights..
lights,  the  cheapest !! lights  you can get  i recommend the  light fixture at wal mart for  like 12 bucks  t12 48in  bulbs  i would get  the  cool white  with the blue  labeling for the vegetative  growth  in a leafy green plant 6100k to 6500k
should  make your  herbs grow  nice if you have  t5 lights  those are  nice  but  more expensive  thay have them at homedepot for 35

 >>but some light timers...

but you could take it so much further and have automated controls from everything to light, heating, ventilation, watering. some stepper motors and your lights on a track and you could simulate the movement of the sun, aeration in hydro settups, why have your pumps going full blast when the lights are off?

i mean this just all off the cuff but the ideas are endless!
V=IR4 years ago
 Looking at the attached .pde file, I'm not seeing any programming to receive commands from the serial via python.

I'm new to Adruino and just wanted to understand.
natantus (author)  V=IR4 years ago
Well, I knew I wasn't completely crazy.  There are two versions in my code repository and I grabbed the wrong one.  Try this link, it should have the code you need:

http://svn.chrisgilmer.net/viewvc.cgi/project/completed/garduino/arduino/garduino/garduino_pde/garduino_pde.pde?revision=22&view=markup
natantus (author)  V=IR4 years ago
You're absolutely right!  I must have uploaded the wrong file.  I'll correct that tonight when I get home.  Basically I use a series of Serial.read() commands to get information from the serial input.  You'll see it when I put the code up for you.  Also, if you don't see it by tomorrow morning just give me another nudge, chances are I got distracted by another one of my projects.
winterfresh4 years ago
 Nice Instructable! I have made a Garduino-esque watering rig myself this summer and ran into some of the problems that you have mentioned (The soil resistivity calibration problem, Water flooding everything) I have also run into some of my own problems as I tried to make it an outdoor irrigation system. Including not being able to find a watertight box meaning that everything got wet when it rained (Luckily I didn't get electrocuted). 

I'm glad to see that everything worked out OK for you. Keep making robots!

PS: First!
natantus (author)  winterfresh4 years ago
The biggest help for my project was putting safeguards in place to ensure I couldn't continuously water until I flooded my kitchen (again!).  Once I had that figured out it was just a matter of watering enough.  

I hope you got the watertight box for your system worked out, it can be pretty dangerous when it rains if the whole thing is outside.  Did you consider changing your relays to GFCI outlets?

Thanks for the encouragement and I hope to hear more about your project! And go FIRST!