Introduction: Properduino - When an Engineer Gardens - Part 1 - Le Propergator Watering System

Making it like this has a tenancy to fail badly and I got patches of water like in the picture below
Bonjour! =]
Arduino for Propergators
THIS IS A WORK IN PROGRESS!!! So yes its probably not polished yet and has teething problems=[
Also, the pictures may not be brilliant as my camera is my phone
Fortunately its the N95 =] Came down the food chain from my dad lol
This instructable is based on the Garduino by liseman and has been adapted heavily to make something like this...

This is my first Instructable so bear with me whilst I get the hang of it
*slaps hand for making excuse*
Right onwards... and into stage 1, obtaining parts

A little about me
I am Luke =]
I am 14 years old
I live in the UK (you have no idea how hard it is to get components over here)
I use the word "Le" instead of the to remind me to do some French work when im finished writing >.>
And most of my projects are driven by music/nothing to do
And that I need to do a GCSE project by middle of april =[

Step 1: Getting All the Stuff You Might Need/want

Ill sort this into two lists:
Needs and Wants

What you NEED:

Experience/Things that you cant buy from a shop:
The ability to solder
The ability to not get scared if you need to solder something that is going to be plugged into the mains (I have this, honest...)
The ability to strip wire (which I am lacking)
Faith in yourself *rainbow*
Good judgement, if the solder joint looks OK but is a little grubby, don't bother touching it up
*back to the point*
About �100 to buy bits and pieces *and seeds*
Access to a radiator/heater to dry your soil pots out if you need

Soldering iron
"HEAT-it craft tool" Hair dryer thing that warms things up in other words
Wire cutters
Various screwdrivers
A drill, preferably with the correct drill bits *unlike me who cant get to b+q to get any...*
//the correct dill bits are 5 mm so you can stick the tubing and wires in the side of the propergator
A craft knife
"The kitchen scissors" the affectionate name for the pair of holy scissors that everyone in our house uses
A multimeter, preferably one with continuity test on it *sooo handy*
Chocolate blocks/Terminal blocks - YUM! Make sure they are rated high enough for the "ampage" you are putting through them
Solder - I use lead-free stuff, much to the disgust of my dad/granddad who believe"things are fine the way they are". Ya ill pass on that thanks

2x roll of duck/gaffa tape
You have no idea how useful gaffa tape is in projects...
I say two rolls so you cant loose a roll like me =]

Component bits
Any sort of Arduino board *any = any but a lilypad, those tabs look annoying so solder*
LED's - Any sort, preferably high power like in the picture below (pic 1)
Resistors - 100 ohm, 1k, 10K and 4.7k is what I need so far, but then again I am not finished yet =]
Relays - How many - you decide. I use those relays as they are small and powerful =]
Transistor - Any NPN type
Phototransistor - Light sensor
CdS Cell - If you dispose carefully =]
"Thermosistor" - Temp sensor
DS18B20 - A more presise but more complicated sensor

Hardware - Like wire and sockets
An enclosure where you can stuff a relay with 240v going across two points =] *I used an old laptop power supply thing with... a fair amount of "insulating" tape on it
Single core wire - Lots of it, preferably in different colours
300V rated cable - I live in the UK with 243V (measured =]) power

A plug - Preferably an RCD plug that you can wire the modified extention lead/pump/light into
A socket - If your not RCDing the plug then RCD the socket
//Just put an RCD in somewhere!!!

Garden stuffs
4mm tubing - Hozelock kind, From a garden centre that sells the automatic watering stuff. When you go, dont buy the whole system even if you are tempted, you cant push a button and water your plants *the eventual goal of this project*, however go ahead and buy some stopcocks, they look like *past tense of building my system*
12mm tubing (well, 12mm was the size of the thing on the end of the pump) - the water backbone, you can connect any shoots (4mm tubing to this) as your pump can handle
A small pump - Its harder than it seems to get a decent sized pump that can works. All I can say is: Garden center -> Aquatics -> Fountains -> Smallest pump you can find. Around 100/450 gallons/litres an hour will work. It shouldnt matter if its mains powered, just make sure you get a relay and some veroboard... (the one with copper strips on)...
Hozelock part: 4mm Tubing - 2772 - what makes up the shoots
Hozelock part: Flow Control Valve 4mm - 2776 - Stopcock for your shoots
Hozelock part: Straight Connector 4mm - 2778 - Depending on how many shoots you need off any backbones, you will need some of these. DON'T BUY THE TOOL!!!! Its useless. Trial and error lol. Use a pointy screwdriver and just thread it in, it will also make sure the connection is watertight as well =]
Also, buy some of the correct tubing for your pump when you are at the garden center, I prefer the... tubing that is flexible, is black and has what look like threads running around it. I prefer it because you can warm it up until its wobbly, bend it over and use a heavy weight to stick it down so its sealed, making an end cap thing for it. Re-enforce it with a food thing. I have forgotten what they are called, Look in picture 3.

Don't forget your seeds and compost =]

Notes about all this -
You should have most of this already if you do electronics for some of your current life =]

Anything you want for projects =]
Things like special tools are wants...

Step 2: Build Up Your Relays!

This will help you so much.
It takes you through all the steps that are needed to build the relays up.

Solder relay to veroboard
Take a spare cable with a plug on one end
Strip the black stuff from the outside of the cable
Cut the negative cable short and strip it
Strip both ends of the bit you cut off above
SURFACE MOUNT using a lot of solder to the contact on the relay
This is to make sure the veroboard doesn't have to carry 243V AC, only the solder contacts have to carry the V's.
Then solder in the two coil connections
I used multicore wire from the relay so I used a terminal block to convert it to single core.

Step 3: Package Your Relays in a Box!

get some sort of box for you to put your relays into.
I stuck a piece of gaffa tape over the board to insulate it
then I wrapped the whole thing in yet more tape to insulate it more =]
this is a creative step, don't go out and buy an enclosure for this
just... improvise =p

Step 4: Use Your Relays!

build a circuit like this one using most of the parts from step one
Include the LED so you know when the relay should be on
Make sure the relay extension cord IS NOT PLUGGED IN!!!
Write up a program that turns the relay on for 2 seconds when the character "R" is received over Serial and when a button on pin 12 is pulled HIGH, the relay turns on.
Make sure you have a button on pin 12 or comment that bit out =]
for some reason it returns numbers when you press a key that ins't R. I think its the DEC I put after it =/
It should look like this:

//Relay controller for water pump

int relay = 10;
int button = 12;
int thirteen = 13;
int val;

void setup (){
pinMode(thirteen, OUTPUT); //start of setup basic cmds
digitalWrite(thirteen, HIGH); //debug light
delay(500); //WAITZ!!!
pinMode(relay, OUTPUT);
Serial.println('Bonjour. Press R to turn relay on for 2 seconds');
digitalWrite(thirteen, LOW); //End of setup cmds
delay(500); // end of setup cmds


void loop(){

if (Serial.available()) {

val =;
if (val=='R'){
digitalWrite(thirteen, HIGH);
digitalWrite(relay, HIGH);
digitalWrite(relay, LOW);
digitalWrite(thirteen, LOW);
} else {
Serial.print("You pressed:");
Serial.print(val, DEC);
Serial.println(". Press R for Relay, Any other key will do nothing");


if (digitalRead(button) == HIGH){
digitalWrite(thirteen, HIGH);
digitalWrite(relay, HIGH);
digitalWrite(relay, LOW);
digitalWrite(thirteen, LOW);


Upload it to your board
Open your serial monitor
Send some R's

You should hear the relay clicking over and the LED should light up.
If not, youve put the transistor in wrong and you now need to redo it all =]
You can now see why I didn't put the transistors and all that in the box =]
Sorry the picture is a duplicate of the first step.

Step 5: Connect Relay Power to Wall!

Wire in the pump into the chocolate block you see in picture one. If your pump came with a plug on it, you will need a socket and some deep housing for it so you can store the relay and its gubbins.

After sealing it all up
Plug your contraption into the wall
Put your pump in some water!!!!
Send an R over serial
Now hopefully, your pump activated for 2 seconds and then cut off
Viola =]
You have a controllable chocolate block/power outlet if you used a socket and housing.
Thanks SparkFun! =]

Step 6: Making the Backbone!

Le Backbone is used to carry the water pushed out from the pump and towards the general direction of the propergator/plant location. Le Backbone should fit onto the pump securely and then Le Backbone should run close to the propergator so the sprouts can connect to Le Backbone and then water your plants =]

Take the 12mm tubing *if your tubing isn't 12mm, pretend that it is =]*
Attach to your pump
Stick pump where you are putting the water
In other words, Put your pump in the bucket where you are gonna store the bucket and run Le Backbone to where your propergator are. If you can, put your bucket above the propergator to reduce the strain on your little pump.

Step 7: Terminate Le BackBone!

This is a simple task. You need to warm up the end of Le Backbone with a craft heat gun thing and then compress it with a heavy weight, like the bottom of a drill to make it flat and *hopefully* make it sealed. However mine did not work first try, so I warmed a longer section of the pipe up and bent it over the already folded over bit. See heavily annotated pictures

Step 8: "SPROUTS!"

Making the little sprouts to take the water from le backbone to your plants is simple

I will attempt to consolidate it to 3 steps

1. Puncture Le Backbone with a small screwdriver
2. Screw a 13mm to 4mm Hozelock connector into the hole. It WILL go in >=]
3. Attach about 1 metre of 4mm tubing onto the connector.
4. Glue if you want, glue over the little connectors to prevent leaks with something like... araldite.

Repeat for as many watering tubes/sprouts that you need.
If you find you get leaks, Glue the tubing watertight with copydex or similar glue. Just remember to disconnect the main plug before-hand. *personal experience, turned pump on and I got some gluey sludge all over my windowsill...*

Step 9: Tea Break

Pendulum - Granite - Play Count: 177
Linkin Park - By_myslf - 100
Tea break and read the next 3 attempts, Make up shopping lists and take a step back from the computer and tools...
Make sure everything you have done is waterproof and it wont flood your carpet/kill you.
And plug in that RCD!

Step 10: Drilling the Holes in the Side of the Propergator!

Measure the size of the tubing that makes up your sprouts in mm. Add 2mm to that size. Go find that drill bit + drill. This is to make sure that the sprouts fit in the holes and you don't have to push a lot to get them in the propergator. If your propergator is heated, look out for

1. Mark out where you are going to put the hole with a sharpie
2. Make a dent like a centerpunch but with a screwdriver if you cant get access to one
3. Drill the hole through

Voila! Done. Now feed one of your sprouts through the hole and repeat for as many sprouts as you need for that propergator.
Repeat for as many propergators as necessary.

Step 11: Feed the Sprouts Through!

Have them just loose in the propergator. I hope you didn't intend to adapt this system to your already planted seeds... If you did... I will make a step for you.

Put one sprout through each hole you just drilled in step 10
Next step...

So simple, im not going to take a picture =]

Step 12: Insert the Tubes Into the Position That You Think Would Best Suit Your Plants!

Long name, short step.
In practise, just put the tubes where you are going to put them to water your plants
I used some food containers that mum wanted me to stare my components in >=]
I think the bottom inch or two of a milk bottle *in Britain, we have plastic bottles, im not sure about you americans =P* would be a good idea as something easily recyclable and widely available and can hold your soil and plant =]

I drilled a hole in the side of the food containers, pushed the tube through, then cut triangles into the tubing and then put soil over them. This attempts to make sure the water is in a fairly even distribution.

Step 13: Run the Pump a Couple of Times!

Just to test it and to make sure your soils damp.
you can increase/decrease the time the pump goes on for depending on how thirsty your plants are.
Water them when you feel like it.
Code a button in so you can just push a button to water your plants.
If you are feeling adventurous, code some sort of time in so it can water the plants when you forget.
Use two arduino's an have one of them on an xbee module and light + temp sensors, the other one having the relay and a receiving module connected to it. Think creatively...

Step 14: Plant Your Seeds!

Read the back of the packet.
Have fun germinating =]

Part 2 will be along soon featuring sensors and xbee modules for the propergator.
Have fun

Thanks to the Garduino Instructable and to SparkFun for the relay tutorial.

Step 15: Sealing Holes in Backbone...!

I had a problem that one of the holes where the sprouts came off Le Backbone, it was leaking from the joint. to fix this, I filled in the hole and decided to extend the tubing to another point on the backbone. To fill in the hole, I mixed together two peas of araldite and pasted it over the hole. for good measure, when then araldite is no longer sticky on the outside, I smothered where the araldite joint was in copydex, a type of pva glue. For good measure I them wrapped it in baking paper to prevent it from dripping. However, upon peeling it off when it was wet, the copydex went stringy. Keep the paper on until its dried =]

Step 16: A Word of Warning

Make sure you use a strong glue to glue the little connectors to Le Backbone, I have had several leaks. after much araldite and... soap + hot water, I ended up with this nice little system.
Im sorry it ended up more permanent than it intended to be =[
My system does work, I will do around 5 parts to When an Engineer Gardens, as at the moment I have the time free. I am having some trouble with the Xbee Modules at the moment. See here. If you know what's causing me the problems, please help out =]