Introducing the JG PiPlanter


Well, it’s been about seven months in the making, but it’s finally alive: my PiPlanter.

Taylor gave me a box of tubing, resistors and electrical components for Christmas last year, along with a web address for instructions to build us a Raspberry Pi-powered automated plant growing robot (or “growbot,” as I like to say now that I just thought of it just right now). Challenge accepted!

The project was created, designed, coded, everything-ed, by Devon Bray at Esologic (@eso_logic), so I simply set out to replicate his basic PiPlanter 2 Lite model.

The PiPlanter monitors light, air temperature and soil moisture levels, and then – my primary albeit minor modification – waters the plants when it detects that the soil has become too dry. It also tweets an hourly photo and update on the readings, as well as periodic charts and videos documenting the planter’s status and growth.

As it turned out, everything from Devon worked great. I would have been done a lot sooner, but I am not skilled nor wise with either Raspberry Pi or Python, so I managed to completely brick my Pi twice before I even got the basic software packages downloaded. Then, a third time, after the Pi had been running for a few weeks, I tried to delete a folder of photos and ended up wiping every file and program off my computer. Whoops. I am not a skilled programmer. I can barely make a robot arm dance.

But, hey, even I figured out how to eventually make the code and circuits work. I got pretty skilled at starting from scratch with the Pi, and the final reinstall took me less than 90 minutes. I learned quite a bit about Raspbian, Python, etc. This was a fun, challenging, next-level project for me, and, to boot, I might even have some decent basil and thyme out of all of this soon.

My goal now is to not touch the PiPlanter for a few weeks and see if the plant survive without my human interference. In the meantime, I’ll be trying to figure out what else around the house I can automate…

Check out my PiPlanter page here: JG PiPlanter. I’ve got some photos, Tweet samples and videos there. I’ve also put up my final code (I made a few tweaks and updates to the Esologic code, but again I take no credit for creating this project). Feel free to borrow, replicate, improve and try your own PiPlanter!


Pepper Update – July 2015

It’s been a couple months since I’ve put my pepper plants outside. Other than the fact that it’s been an incredibly wet June and my plants have been infested with mushrooms and gnats, everything is going well so far. In fact, I’ve already got fruit on all five plants! Here’s a look:


The jalapeno pepper plants are looking healthiest of all. However, my 2014 Vintage plant is nearly twice the size of the 2013 one. I don’t know if that’s because it gets more sun, if it was simply a stronger plant, or if the seeds were better in 2014, but whatever the case, it has really taken off. I already have 4-5 jalapenos on it, and they are bigger than the 2013 plant, too:


And they look great! I should be making some sinus-clearing dishes by mid-July. We’ll see if the buckets of rain this summer have affected the heat at all.

And now, the Mexican bells:


Now in this pot, I have a Vintage 2013 plant (left), a 2014 (right), and a 2014 hybrid (center). Again, the 2014s seem to be getting bigger than the 2013, but the reasons for that are unclear. These plants also seem a lot thinner and less leafy than years’ past. Once again, I blame the dampness. But nevertheless, fruit on all of them:


The left are the Mexi bells. They look about right. On the right is the hybrid, and I can already see that it’s going to be something weird. The shape is just… strange. But I’m sure it will be tasty regardless of what it ends up being, and I can’t wait to start making some recipes. I’ll also be interested in the heat on the hybrids – last year they were incredibly mild considering they were crossed Mexican and jalapeno pepper plants, both of which were quite spicy.

I’ll update again at first harvest.