Monday, 4 February 2013

Gardening for geeks Part 1


I like many like to grow things, normally herb and a few small fruit shrubs but the problem I run into is that 

Outside It can be too hostile for some plants. They have to deal with Melbourne weather (-5C to 45C, hot & dry) and a larger array of insects and animals that will eat anything.

Inside It can be too dark for most plants and the amount of space near windows could be limiting or none existent  (I commonly see dying plants on people office desks due to lack of light or care) 


Outside I could put together a greenhouse but this does not really sound like one of my projects, I might have to do this for winter to protect some of my small fruit shrubs from the winter frost/wind.

Inside I could setup some grow lights but I am not keen of large Kilowatt lighting commonly used with indoor hydroponics systems. Instead I would like something a lot smaller/cheaper/power efficient. I know it should be possible to use LEDs which are small, cheap and power efficient. I have read about experiments that NASA was doing with growing with red/blue LEDS (most plants reflect green not absorbing it hence they look green) so I thought I would give it a try.    


Is to see if I can grow under artificial light using only a small amount of power creating a smart USB powered plant for my office desk.  

I will try and grow lettuce using red and blue LEDs as the light source, To figure out which light they like more I will have red LEDs on one side and blue on the other side as plants normally grow towards the light.

To mount the LEDs I will just use breadboards so I can easily change the LEDs to try other colors. I would be interested to know how well you could grow plants under light like IR which is not visible to humans (for those that don't want a glowing plant on their desk) 

Adding smarts, I would not mind making the grow environment completely controllable. So this would include using an Arduino to control the lighting, a water pump and monitor some sensors (like soil moisture, ambient light). Adding a internet connection and web interface is also on the list of features (maybe even a IP camera too)


  • Can you grow lettuce upside down with the lights under it? I think it would just look cool on you office desk to see a plant happily growing upside down. It would look outright trippy to see you growing upside down from your ceiling.
  • How low can the power consumption go? 
  • Which light source is best (IR, Red, Blur, UV)?
  • If I was on a space ship how much space/power would I need to feed my self? but as I am not a fan of eating only lettuce I might have to do something on the lines of the bellow
  • Would it be better to do it underwater?
    Algae/water plants>Fish>Me