GardenBot: An Automated, Open-Source Garden Monitoring System

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Some commenters may have scoffed when Treehugger posted about high-tech green farming using soil sensors, but with over-taxed aquifers causing reduced yields worldwide, more intelligent monitoring and usage of water resources should be a top priority. But soil monitoring isn't just for professionals anymore. In fact, one hobbyist is working on an open-source garden monitoring system that might, if there is enough demand, allow for fully automated garden watering based on precise soil conditions. I, for one, am interested. The GardenBot is the brainchild of designer and artist Andrew Frueh, who decided to combine his interest in open-source micro-computing with his love of gardening:

"GardenBot is designed to be a complete garden monitoring and automation system. In the current version of GardenBot (Beta), you can monitor the conditions in your garden and have charts to help you visualize those conditions. There is also a module to give you electronic control over your water source -- so you can turn the water on with the flip of a switch. Note that the automation features (meaning that the GardenBot will water your garden for you) are scheduled to be made available in a future version -- provided there is sufficient interest in this project."

Besides monitoring soil moisture levels, GardenBot takes soil temperature readings and light levels to allow for a more complete picture of growing conditions. It's based around the Arduino, which Frueh describes as "a little computer (called a microcontroller) about the size of a business card with analog and digital inputs/outputs so you can hook up various sensors, buttons, switches, audio/video devices."

Doubtless, there will be those that bemoan the need for such devices. After all, there was a time when gardeners and farmers would know, almost intuitively, whether their plants needed water or not. But nowadays most of us lead busy lives, and growing food or ornamental plants is a sideline, not our livelihood.

We can't always be around to water at the optimum times, and even when we are, it can be hard to know precisely how much to water and when. I have been known to leave my plants to suffer for too long,and then over-water the poor things to make up for it. A system that could help me be more efficient would be much appreciated—by me, and my poor long-suffering garden...