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Indoor Garden Update – Basic Microcontroller Circuit

Good news everyone, another step completed in my window garden. This is just a plain PIC 16F877A microcontroller with a 20MHz resonator and a character LCD. There is also a big photo-resistor for shits and giggles and some neat buttons.  I got a dual relay board from eBay to turn the pump on and off, and an extra socket for a light down the road.

Excuse the bad pic of my PIC...

Inside the outlet box and wall plate I gussied up are the 120V mains.  After triple checking with a multimeter and several websites, I made sure the neutral and hot sides of the plug were wired correctly. Neutral being white, the widest blade of the plug and silver tab on the socket. The hot, black side is switched and is the brass tab. To have the two sockets independent, clip the jumper between the hot side only.

Bare circuit, No cover breadboard pr0n!

So far, this is an overly complicated setup to turn one thing on and off occasionally. I’m working on my own version of a soil moisture sensor (I wasn’t too happy with the plaster version). Then I was thinking of using it as a Neural network experiment to learn to control itself using a variety of data.

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Indoor Gardening Update – Window Setup Complete

Yay, after some prototypes and refinement, I’ve settled on an indoor growing setup. I can’t have plants in a conventional way because of the cat and me not watering them. So by encapsulating the dirt with a 2 liter bottle and adding electricity to keep my interest, I may just be able to keep something alive.

Well, nearly done...

During an unexpected trip to the hydro store this week, I picked up a water pump as the final component and set out to finish. Since nothing but weeds were growing from the original setup, I dumped everything from the containers and started fresh with what I learned. Which was:

  1. Gravel is needed for drainage.
  2. NO top soil.
  3. The black rubber seals break down quickly when exposed to light.
  4. Leak test each container before filling with dirt.
  5. If chemicals are used in the water, the reservoir needs a lid (caught the cat drinking from it).

To irrigate the plants, I sampled what the local home center had to offered. The adjustable drip fittings worked best along with a nine way manifold. The rest is tubing and fittings from the hardware store.

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Gardening with Microcontrollers

May 2, 2011 1 comment

Yay, spring is finally here and it’s time to start planting things. That way I’ll have something to neglect when its hot as hell or something for the squirrels to dig up. Which ever kills the plants first.

No, this year will be different. I’m going to harness the power of microcontrollers to; A) keep plants watered and B) Stop animals from destroying anything is growing.

I already have an outside area for growing some crops, but I also want something inside for fresh herbs year-round. So I’ll have two different areas to monitor and control. In both places I’ll monitor the soil moisture with some DIY sensors with the intent of automated watering.

The herbs will hang in the kitchen windows and use 2 liter pop bottles for growing chambers, which I built a couple months ago. Only weeds grew, but this trial run allowed me to sort out draining issues before real plants grew. Also, my first attempt at sensors failed. Here’s a new batch after a little googling.

Outside, I’m going to modify a plastic owl I bought last year. Needless to say it didn’t do the job, so I thought some flashing LED eyes and a lot of noise will change that. I’m not sure what kind of sensor detects treacherous squirrels,  maybe a motion detector, or a series of lasers…

Anyways, this project has many components and will be a miracle if it’s completed. I think I’ll make a permanent page for the entire system once it’s something something operational.

Categories: gardening, microcontroller