The Beginnings of A Wallingford Sensor Garden

As a denizen of Wallingford, Seattle much of my time is spent in wonder at the greenness of it all. My time as a child and young adult in Montana did not prepare me for the lushness of Seattle, and Wallingford is no exception. The spring, summer, fall, and winters here are green and if you look closely enough, you’ll see something blooming during all those seasons as well.

A yearly tradition at the Sulzdorf household was planting a garden. My mother would till the soil, plant the seeds, sometimes put my sister or I to use weeding and/or watering, and if all went to according to plan, by mid-summer the fruits of our labor would be apparent in the number of garden salads or green bean side-dishes accompanying our dinners. Fall heralded the the rise of the gourd (a great horror movie title if ever there was one), and as the growing season came to a close, my mother would be hard at work canning, freezing, or moving things into the cellar.

As a result, gardening and taking care of plants is somewhat second nature to me. While other people lament their lack of a green thumb, I struggle at seeing how you could kill a thing that mother nature herself has difficulties eradicating.

That said, how these plants go about surviving has always been a source of fascination. My pattern is simply to plant, water, weed, and let the sun and great outdoors take care of the rest. My only guides are intuition, constant vigilance, and a knack for knowing when to pull back on the frequency of watering. I have no spreadsheet, no understanding of the general environmental variables (other than, “Oh, it’s been so sunny this week,” or, “The wind must have caused that damage”), and generally run a low-tech operation. Until now.

This year I’ve invested heavily in a series of sensors and microcontrollers, the likes of which no garden of mine has ever seen. With a long-term goal of automation, I plan on moving these sensors out to my newly planted garden (pictures to come) to begin gathering data. The hope being that as I learn more about the microenvironment that is my backyard, the better my plants will be for it.

Of course, as my work on this project progresses, so will my posts on the subject. Hopefully by the end of this, I’ll have something that I can look back on and piece together for future gardeners interested in automation and data mining.

Until then, happy planting!