I've been curious about the best was to make sure my leafy living companions stay healthy while I'm away ever since I left for a week-long vacation about a year ago thinking I'd come up with a clever drip system to keep my favorite fern alive during my absence, only to come home and see the system failed and the plant was no more. Then last week I came across the Self-Watering Plant project on Instructables.
DIYer and Technology Editor at Instructables Randy Sarafan (who also created the Simple Bots we loved at Maker Faire) has devised a way you can leave home without worrying about the carnage you'll return to -- dead leaves strewn all over the living room floor, stems withered to bending in unnatural directions, oh the horrors!
It is a device for the true gadgeteer, more labor and parts intensive than the simple upside-down-soda-bottle system (which, ahem, was the system that failed me).
Sarafan writes, "Instead of remembering to water my plants when the soil goes dry, I only have to remember to once and a while refill the water reservoir. In this way, I have decreased my obligation to these plants and put it off to a much later date. Perhaps further iterations of this device can be connected to a rain barrel so that I won't even have to worry about refilling my reservoir, and the entire system can be fully automated."
The set-up is fairly simple. Here's a video breaking it down:
Granted, there are more electronic parts involved which adds to the energy footprint of the project. You might be able to find these parts used or scavenge them from other projects you've completed and are no longer using. Either way, it is a fun project to learn how to DIY custom electronics to suit your specific needs, even if we have to admit that repurposing a plastic bottle would be cheaper, easier, and greener, albeit uglier.
So if you're interested in watching your houseplant use a sippy cup to drink, here's your chance. It's also your chance to give it a real shot at living a full and happy life!