Latest Growth

Keep up with how the plants are doing.

Spring is almost here!

March 5, 2016

It's exciting to think that spring is just around the corner. The weather is going up and down outside right now with days in the seventies as well as sporatic snowfall. The plants have continued to do well with very little shock to the changes being done. The tomato plans have grown a few inches this week, with no signs of injury to the replanting that was done last weekend. I have given them each a wooden stake, and will be designing a trellis that will help them continue to flourish. The recent seedlings of basil and peppers continue to grow and are working on their second set of leaves. Below is a photo of the watermelon which is also going to need some sort of trellis system as the larger two plants now have shoots about six inches long.

watermelon plant

Expanding the base

February 28, 2016

The tomato plants have become more difficult to maintain, as the watering cycle is now down to almost a daily event. It's a good problem to have that these are doing so well, but unless I can get an automated watering system built, it will likely damage the plants. I found some basic six inch plastic pots at Lowe's and transplated all of them. It allowed me to increase the dirt area by about 4x, so I added more potting soil to each. At the same time I did the green been plants as well which also need a frequent watering cycle.

New Plants Germinating

February 21, 2016

The basil and jalepeno peppers that were planted two weeks ago have germinated. Below is a photo of what has peeked through the soil and is coming out on most of the pots. The packages hint at 2-3 months for full maturity, so pently of time for them to get big.

plant germination

Cold Frame Sensors

February 18, 2016

As part of the cold frames being setup, I now have the temperature and humidity sensor located in the garden. We had some sunny conditions which gave a good test of the design. Below is a chart highlighting the great range of the temperature during the day. It has been around freezing overnight, but with bright sun on the southern facing part of the house the temperature in the garden got over 85 degrees, despite it being only in the 40's. This does raise the need to potentially create some sort of venting during the day either by propping up the window or by putting in a fan that could blow out the warmer air.

sensor charts

Mid February Check-in

February 15, 2016

The plants continue to grow this winter in the indoor garden. The tomato plants are by far the most healthy, with a few of them now approaching six inches in height, and a good set of leaves developing. No signs of flowering yet with the tomatoes, however the beans appear to be growing their first set of fruit although likely not large enough to be a food. The lettuce continues to be challenged with small leaf sizes, and not much upward projection in the leaves. There are a few that are starting to look like they may reach full maturity, and are in the second wave of plants. The cilantro have a nice set of leaves, although quite short and seem to have tapered off in their growth. The watermelon plants have recently gotten their second set of leaves and are clearly the jagged melon shapped variety. Small signs of germination in the basil that was recently planed, but nothing with the peppers.

indoor plant growth

Cold Frame Trial

February 14, 2016

The weather was sunny, yet very brisk, so was a good opportunity to setup the Cold Frame in a south facing part of our yard. I addded a few lettuce plants out during the afternoon as it was bright sun, and while it didn't get above freezing in the outdoors, it got into the upper 60's within the Cold Frame. The temperature was to get down into the teens, so I brought the plants inside overnight.

cold frame lettuce

Cold Frame Finished

February 13, 2016

The cold frame is now fully constructed and painted. It currently doesn't have any insulation on it, but the exterior has been painted white and the windows appear to provide a good seal. The next few days the conditions are going to be a real test as we are due to have both snow and freezing rain, so will be able to test out how well it is constructed.

cold frame

Lettuce Growth

February 10, 2016

I'm continuing to try new things with the lettuce plants in hopes of growing my own salad. The current greens continue to be quite small and while growing, do not look to fill up a plate any time soon. The light source is now right above them and they are getting plenty of water, so likely the best solution will be to move outdoors to the cold frame once its ready.

small lettuce plants

Cold Frame Construction

February 7, 2016

In an effort to clear out space for some of the plants, and to provide a cooler growing environment for plants like lettuce, I've started to construct a second growing area using the design for a cold frame. Below is a photo of the current construction from my garage where the growing area will be similar to the current "hot" garden of 2 feet by 4 feet. Ideally I will have this fully operational by next weekend after completing the top as well as provisioning another Raspberry Pi to actively monitor.

cold frame construction

New Round of Seeds

February 6, 2016

As the current plants are doing well, I wanted to start thinking of another wave of plants that can start to take up growing space in the garden, so I picked up a few additional seed packets at Home Depot this weekend. Here are the choices I made going with both an herb as well as a vegetable. I potted four seeds of both today, and will look to see some germination in about a week.

pepper and basil seeds

Cilantro Growing Nicely

February 5, 2016

The cilantro that was planted about three weeks ago is doing quite well, with growth now up to about two inches above the soil line. There are several sets of leaves and they continue to have a robust green color.

young cilantro

Tomato Plant Growth

February 3, 2016

A top view of the tomato plants highlights the robust growth over the past two weeks. The larger ones are now several inches tall with several new sets of leaves on each plant. They are needing water approximately every 2-3 days, and have fine roots coming out of the bottom of the pot.

growing tomato plants

Elevating the Lettuce

January 31, 2016

The quest continues to get the light source more intense for the lettuce. I've now elevated lettuce about four inches above the rest of the plants. This will improve the intensity of the lights.

I've also disposed of all but one of the original Cilantro plants given that they didn't recover from the drought on the 13th. This helped make space for some of the second wave of lettuce plants that are now one inch seedlings, and needed to be given separate pots.

garden view

Moisture Chart

January 30, 2016

I'm continuing to make progress on the moisture control system and have recently added a second YL-69 sensor to the garden, so there is now monitoring of both the lettuce and tomatoes. Here is a chart that shows the moisture level of both of the plant types, and I am now trying to calibrate when the level is set for when it is time to water.

daily moisture chart

Close-up of the Tomatoes

January 28, 2016

The tomato plants appear to be doing the best, with some plants now three inches tall, with many nodes coming off of them, and active growth in the root system. On the bottom of each plant container can be seen root hairs, and they actively are taking in water. This weekend I will add some nutrients to further the growth, and will add a moisture sensor to begin tracking how frequently they are watered.

tomato plant

Plants at 30 days

January 26, 2016

Today marks the thirty day point that the first wave of plants were seeded, and are showing good growth. There still remains the question of how much damage the drought did on the plants, but as of now the tomato, lettuce, and green bean plants are doing well with multiple nodes along the stem. The cilantro has come back and is green, but appears stunted, and will not reach full maturity. The second wave of plants are now 2-3 weeks old, with a strong initial set of leaves.

plant growth

When to water the plants?

January 24, 2016

The plants are doing well, but given the variety and number, it's hard to keep up with when each of them needs to get watered. Based on "feel", I have been watering them approximately every other day, but given that I'm trying trying to create a fully automated garden, I want to have some way to have technology help. My solution is to create an app for this starting with detecting how moist the soil is.

The first step is in adding a new moisture sensor to the garden, so I purchased a YL-69 sensor and connected it to the raspberry pi that also runs the camera on the end. Here's a photo of it wired on a breadboard, running through a ADC Analog Digital Converter.

moisture sensor

I've written a script that then posts the readings out into the Cloud where the information is readily accessible. Next is to create a chart that visualizes the information. Now I'll be able to start getting a more scientific approach to when the plants are thirsty.

Refactoring the Garden

January 22, 2016

This weekend I'm going to make some changes to the garden based on what's working and what needs improvement. The first area of focus is around the lighting as I don't believe that the florescent lights are strong enough to grow all of these plant types. I've added two TaoTronics E27 12W Led Lights to enhance the light spectrum, which focus on the Red & Blue colors. The unit contains twelve 1W LED bulbs, three at 660nm, six at 630nm, and three at 460nm. The lamps rate at 300mA, and yield 4530 Lux from five feet away. Given the low wattage and current, I don't expect a change in temperatures.

Other changes will be to label the plants as I'm starting to get two waves of growth schedules, so labeling will help organize them, and finally I will change the humidity and temperature sensor to be mounted independently of the breadboard, so I'll be getting out the soldering iron.

On the botany front, the second wave of cilantro has now germinated, so I've taken off the celophane and will expose it directly to air while also improving the visuals. The other plants continue to do well, with new height with the tomato plants, and the lettuce are adding length to their leaves.

garden level photo

Stationary Camera Set

January 18, 2016

In an attempt to get some images captured of the photos when I'm out of town, I've now permanently mounted the camera at the end of the growing area, and have written another app that will relay the photos out to AWS, and overlay them onto the home page as well as off into an archive folder. Initial setting is for them to be taken every three hours, including overnight. It should give the ability to create timeseries photos showing the plants growing over time.

Looking at the photo below, you can tell that the lettuce continues to perk up (light green leaves on left side) and the tomato plants are growing well on the bottom right side of the image. The tallest is more than an inch, and the leaves are noticably getting longer as well. The beans are in the back right, and continue to be very wilted. The cilantro is in the back left, and difficult to see from this angle. What remains covered is the secon wave of cilantro that was planted five days ago.

I will be working on some sort of labeling scheme that will assist tracking of these going forward, and hopefully in a few weeks there will be plenty of growth to capture!

garden level photo

Second Wave of Plants Sprouted

January 17, 2016

Once again, it only took a few days for the lettuce plants to germinate, so a replacement wave of plants are available in case those that were dried out earlier in the week don't make it. I've uncovered them, and there are plenty of small leaves now visible. The cilantro haven't yet surfaced, but they were several days behind the lettuce with the first round, so I'd expect them to peak through later this week.

The garden does seem to have stabilized, with the plants now being watered approximately every other day. I've only gotten rid of four plants damaged from the drought, and while the beans are taking a while to bounce back, an additional round of leaves are beginning to form so perhaps they remain relatively unharmed.

Second Set of Leaves

January 16, 2016

The plants are continuing to grow, and it's now noticable the differences between the different seedlings. Here's a close-up of one of the young cilantro plants that you can see clear definition in the leaf structure with the second set of leaves and their jagged edges.

young cilantro

Starting to Recover

January 15, 2016

The plants are proving to be quite resilient, as most have started to bounce back from the drought in the first part of the week. The tomatoes appear to have no impact, and are continuing to do quite well. The cilantro is next in the recovery cycle, with most starting to come back strong and almost back to their original state of the beginning of the week. It looks like I lost a few lettuce plans, but some are starting to recover, and the beans are those that continue to look rough, but appear to have new leaves beginning to form.

wilted plants

Baking in the Garden

January 13, 2016

I had a setback with the garden today as it got too dry, and ended up wilting most of the plants. Its too early how many of them are lost, but the picture below looks rather bleak. With the lowering of the bulbs over the lettuce and cilantro, it potentially was creating a warm zone and I was out of town for two days for work and didn't get a chance to catch it until now.

Based on the damage assessment, I started some additional plants from seed to replace some of the damaged crop. Twelve cilantro and lettuce plants were started from the original packs of seed, and placed into the growing area.

This will be a good test to determine what additional monitoring would be helpful as its a great condition to check for, and will motivate me to get the camera automated to take photos periodically vs. manually. Having more insight into how the plants looked like over the past 48 hours would be good to see the limits, and if there is some correlation to the humidity.

wilted plants

Altered Height of Florescent Lights

January 11, 2016

The plants have continued to grow, but I've noticed that the lettuce leaves seem a little weak. After researching some, I'm concluding that they are potentially not getting enough intensity of the lighting. Given that the lights are on chains, I rearranged the small plants enabling me to lower the blubs to about six inches above the lettuce and cilantro. Now for some observation this week and we'll see if this changes the growth any.

garden growth

Added Insulation to Growing Area

January 9, 2016

In an attempt to create warmer growing conditions, I've now added insulation around the growing area. I purchased a roll of Reflectix and it not only holds in heat better, it also adds a reflective element to the area surrounding the plants. The material is like a version of bubble wrap as it is easy to cut but has a metallic coating to it.

garden growth

All Plants Now Germinated

January 6, 2016

All four plant types have now germinated, so all the covering is off and can keep an easier eye on them. This is day ten from when they were planted, with the Cilantro taking the longest to spring out.

garden growth

Green Beans Have Germinated

January 3, 2016

Now the green beans have joined the lettuce in breaking through the soil and are now showing visible signs of life. They were planted just a week ago, so is exciting to see such quick progress.

garden growth

First sign of life

January 1, 2016

Of the four plants that were initially seeded, the lettuce was the first seed to germinate. This only took five days, and was on the low end of the anticipated results from the seed package. Now that the plants have broken through the soil, I've taken off the plastic wrap which will release some of the moisture from the soil.

seedlings sprouting

Camera Now Operational

December 31, 2015

While the lighting has been bathing the plants for quite some time, there wasn't an easy way to track progress. A second RaspberryPi has been added with a mounted camera that enables photos to be taken of the plants as they grow. Right now none of the plants have germinated, so there still is a sheet of plastic wrapping covering up the plants to hold in the mosture.

initial garden

Initial planting

December 27, 2015

Initial construction of the garden has been made, and the first round of plants has been planted. Here are the initial seeds used in the first crop.

seed packages