Project idea: ESPHome soil moisture sensor from garden lights

Hi everyone,
I have an interesting idea that I’d like to throw out there and see if anyone might be interested in doing. I just don’t think I have enough skill to pull it off. I was looking for a moisture sensor solution for my drip irrigation system and I came across this garden light on Amazon:

Solar Garden Lights Soil Moisture Meter (4Pack)

This light is solar powered and the light will turn from green to red depending on the soil moisture. I think you know where I’m going with this: What if we rip the guts out of this and put in a microcontroller?

We can reuse the solar panel and the included battery, utilize the moisture meter, the housing and maybe even be able to have RGB lawn lights. Perhaps chain multiple together in order to produce more power as well as to synchronize the RGB lighting (or more likely, go wild with it) because it’s weird to just have one garden light, right?

The questions I’d like to answer are:

  1. Which esp device would be best for this application?
  2. Can we reuse the charging circuit of the current board? If not, which esp has a charging circuit already built in?
  3. How long will the battery power the microcontroller?
  4. If going the daisy chain route, how would you balance the solar panels and charging of the batteries?
  5. How many gpio pins are available on the microcontroller and how many lights can be chained together to sense moisture in a larger area?
  6. Are the parts to cheap too get anything reliable out of?

I know that some of these questions can’t be answered until the lights are in hand but looking at the reviews, someone has graciously taken pictures of the insides already. I would be very interested in reading the responses that the community has for this idea. I’m going to try this for myself after I get some response regarding the right microcontroller to use but I don’t expect to be the one to actually get this done right.

I’m going to guess zero time. Considering solar garden lights are usually powered by a single poor quality 1.2V NiMH cell.

ah. Ni-Cd cell from the look of the picture. So Lithium battery will be necessary. I’m guessing that the solar panel is ruled out as well?

Now that I think about this a little. The microcontroller only need to come out of deep sleep for about 20 minutes on watering days so perhaps these small lights won’t work, but maybe the lights with bigger panels can?