I have made the decision for an automated garden to only worry about the sensor portion of the growing operation at this moment. For now it to me is safer to continue to use the basic outlet timers as I learn more about handling mains power with micro controllers and relays. They serve the purpose I need right now and are around 10-15 dollars so are a cheap addition. The next level would be to be able be a little more precise based on soil situation to add water etc, but I don’t even have the environmental sensors built yet. So the next phase is to get those built.
I will be utilizing the arduino board I have to hook the sensors up to for gardening automation. I also have a relay board that I can use to interface many of the sensors with so the board has more space if needed. I will use my raspberry pi to control/collect data for this arduino board. I will be testing the following things.
- Soil/Growing media pH
- Light Intensity
This should allow me to monitor the growing environment in my grow tent and provide a baseline for the expanded greenhouse later. I will also be able to test variables once I establish a baseline for my current environment. My overall goal will be to establish proper growing condition baselines to achieve a repeatable outcome when growing. Since most if not all of this data is available online for most plants I will use that to start. Once I start getting measurements I will make adjustments as needed and see the outcomes. Finally it will allow me to see those growing results to know how to create the proper environment for my plants. I hope to gain some great insights to share with you all!
How to Have an Automated Garden Today
One point a I want to reiterate the point above in that light timers can allow you to have a partially automated system. I would say that is the way you can get started today with gardening automation! There is zero learning curve and are very simple to operate. If you are looking to operate water pumps and lights then you will probably need two separate timers. The reason being is that those two things will be on different schedules. You maybe able to find one that can program and do multiple programs at once. That may also be an option. With light timers all you will need to do is to watch your plants, take measurements, and make sure your watering/feeding schedule is working the right way for your plants.
If you have grow lights, water reservoir, and, water pumps you can have an automated growing system for 10-25 USD! If you need pumps, reservoir, and lights that may cost an additional 100-140 USD or more. That depends on how many lights, pumps and reservoir size you need.
The arduino’s and raspberry pis will give you more control and allow you to analyze and collect environmental data. However they do require learning python and c/c++ code to use them in those capacities for an automated garden. They are the next level and you can build even smarter timers and a large range of things. So the one thing I want to get you is the fact that the light timers will give most people what they need. If you have the desire and interest in using micro controllers they are so much fun!
Below are affiliate links the two light timers I use. If you are interested in having an automated garden.
Thikning In Systems
Grow Light Guide
Ramsay Highlander Romaine Harvester