Students in our EECS 1011 "intro to programming class" will be working on growing plants throughout the semester as part of their minor project. Students will connect their Arduino-compatible Grove board to the plant to automate the watering process.
Students may choose to grow something from seed or to continue to maintain an indoor potted plant. If you need to buy supplies, it shouldn't cost you more than about $20 to get started with soil, a pot and seeds. A potted plant can start at $5. A packet of radish seeds? $2. There's no need to buy expensive hydroponic systems, grow lights, etc.
Are you a student in the class and are not sure where to start? There are certain keywords that are helpful when searching online: "container gardening", "indoor gardening", or "seed starter". There are five places that I can recommend from which that you can consider getting plant supplies:
- A friend or relative. There are probably lots of people within your network who garden. Ask for recommendations.
- A florist. You know, the place that you go to buy roses for your mom or that special person in your life. They also tend to sell potted plants perfect for growing indoors.
- A garden centre, either stand-alone or attached to a hardware store. You can get 1-5L of indoor "starter" potting soil, a small pot and a base (or a kitchen plate) for the pot to prevent water from leaking out onto your table or floor. Search for "seed starter" at Home Depot or Home Hardware or Lowes.
- Your grocery store. Check this video out : https://youtu.be/cOcMVmR8ziE
- Online. Use DuckDuckGo, Google or your favourite browser.
Gardeners are generally really happy to share tips and ideas. Like here. Or here. Or Here. Or here. Or check out YouTube! In Ontario, there's a call-in show at 12 noon on CBC radio, with a gardening session once a week (like this episode on indoor gardening).
In Toronto area consider visiting the Evergreen Brickworks, or Toronto Master Gardeners or Young Urban Farmers. If you don't live in Toronto, there are probably similar types of venues around you.
Types of plants that I would recommend? If it's already growing and in a pot, choose whatever looks good to you. If you're starting from seed, choose something that will germinate in 1 to 2 weeks. But if you don't have much experience Thinking about growing things from seed indoors? Check these out:
- See this YouTube video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DeLjnFTDjFc
- Struggles with growing stuff inside. Recommendations for things to buy, lighting, etc.
- McKenzie "Herb Garden Grow Kit" (all-in-one herb growing setup @ Home Depot)
I'll add more tips as I think about them here.
James Andrew Smith is an associate professor in Electrical Engineering and Computer Science Department in YorkUniversity's Lassonde School. He lives in Toronto, Canada. While on sabbatical in 2018-19 with his wife and kids he lived in Strasbourg, France and taught at the INSA Strasbourg and Hochschule Karlsruhe and wrote about his personal and professional perspectives. You can find him on Twitter.