Watering my tomatoes - wireless solar powered irrigation

Hey, I’m trying to set up a system that helps me water my pottet tomato plants while I’m away and I would love to hear what your ideas are!. As we all know the “friendly neighbour”-system requires social interaction and is not controllable to the required precision…

There’s no power outlet where the plants are at, which is why I want the system to be li-ion based with solar recharging. The water must be pumped from a rainwater basin, and it would be really cool if the amount of water pumped could be based on the days temperature, or the soil moisture (a mi plant sensor is available in HA).

There are two options I came up with so far:

  • an esp32 with 18650 shield and charge controller + solar panel, boost converter, a relay, and a 12v pump

This solution would alow the setup to be somewhat autonomous. It could run in dep sleep all day until a set time, where it turns on wifi, contacts HA to check for the days temperature/soil moisture and then starts watering accordingly. The benefit would be, that even without contact to HA this could still function as an overpowered clock/timed relay that waters in set intervals.

-> this sounds super cool, bit it’s more expensive, and might surpass my creating/programming skills

  • I have a Sonoff RF in my system and there are super cheap RF relays out there. One of those coupled with 18650s, a solar panel, a charging circuit and a 12v pump would be easy to set up. An automation in HA could check for the days temperature/soil moisture and then send according open/close commands via RF.

-> cheaper and easier to set up, but the RF receiver can fail and no one will notice… There’s the possibility of a 15 second delayed clsoing after the opening signal was received by the relay. This could be used as a safety against overwatering.

I’m looking forward to hear what you think! Maybe you even know of similar projects which I could utilise! Cheers!

1 Like

WOW Nice idea! Puts my simple timer & earthbox to shame, but it works.

I think option 1 is the way to go. Also you could add a sensor to make sure you actually have water in the tank.

I think option 1 is the way to go. I have a NodeMCU plant monitor that reports via MQTT to Home Assistant. It isn’t solar powered but I have run it off of an anker battery pack. It has a deep sleep mode so the reporting itself shouldn’t use too much power. If you need it to run for more than a few days, perhaps a cheap solar charger (like this maybe) would work.

Details of my setup and fritzing diagram are here. The printed component is just the box, so use whatever you want for that.

With this you’ll get info on:

  • Light
  • Soil moisture
  • Soil Temperature
  • Air Temperature
  • Air Humidity

My .ino code for the NodeMCU is on github here.

I use this to trigger a 12v peristaltic pump that is hooked up to a nearby raspberry pi. It is triggered through a HomeAssistant automation with the soil moisture as a trigger. My python script that turns on a trickle flow of water is also on Github, here.

In your case the pump or valve would probably need more power than would be available through a battery pack (12v), so depending on your setup you may need to have a separate system for irrigation - or you may find it would be more suitable to power a pump close to an outlet and run a long tube/hose to the plants (peristaltic pumps are pretty good for this).

Nice input thanks @sfgabe.

I would perhaps use a miflora sensor which gives temp, moisture, light level and soil conductivity. Works via bluetooth to the esp32, which could also control your pump via a relay. Also covers all those sensors in your frtitzing.

But that is the good thing about this stuff, there are many ways to do any project.

1 Like

@nickrout Haha yes, but my solution is 1/10 of the price and 200x the effort.

Good point. I splashed out and got 4 mifloras recently and just connected my first via esphome on an esp32 last night. As a result my coriander plant has been watered (manually, it is in a pot on the windowsill. The others will go in pots on the deck where I have most of my herbs and lettuces and will be automated.)

1 Like

Thanks for the Input! I will definitely take a good look at your solution (which is pretty awesome).

I agree that option 1 should be the way to go, as it’s safer, scalable, more powerful and much more exciting, but…

…makes it more unrealistic at the moment. After ordering components I only have a couple of evenings to work on this before my leave. I think I’ll get back to this over the winter, but for the rest of this summer something simpler will have to do.

Also, I already have mi flora sensors, as mentioned by @nickrout, in place, which is why additional sensors aren’t really necessary. A water level sensor for the basin is tempting and already on my project list, but it isn’t really necessary at this point, since the reservoir holds enough water for at least 4 weeks of absence.

I’m really bad at actual battery math, but the pump would run at 5W for 1-3 minutes per day… I think a 3s 18650 pack should have more than enough power to run it over a few cloudy days. However I have no idea how much power those RF receivers consume - this might actually be the pitfall of this idea. Update: I found a couple of sources stating stand-by currents of 3.5 to 8 mA. That sounds ok-ish.

1 Like

Hi! I am am a couple of years late to this party but I would also like to make an automated solar powered watering system for my little greenhouse. Did you ever make something?

I bought a watering system from aliexpress a couple of years ago that works kind of like I want. The problem is that it does not communicate with HA and the water scheduling is very cumbersome. I don’t even remember how to program it anymore.
The simplest solution would be to just connect a output from an ESP32 to the watering button on the original board but I would like to get rid of the original circuit altogether if possible and just use a ESP32 board instead. I would like to find out how I can power the ESP32 board from the battery / solar panel that I have.