Hydro Unit
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Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Temporarily Offline

Well, nuts. Apparently, the camera has picked up an intermittent, and needs some work. I've taken it down temporarily while I work on it, but I'll hopefully it will be a quick fix, and I can have it back up and running shortly.

Actually, I'm kind of surprised that it's done as well as it has for as long as it has. The camera itself was designed as an indoor unit, to sit on top of your desk or monitor. I've had it mounted outdoors and exposed to almost two years' worth of summer heat, winter cold, and dry and wet humidity extremes that it was never designed to handle. It's done pretty well with them so far - at least up until now.

Thanks for your patience.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

A Matter of Perspective

I was sorting through some files today, and ran across a couple of pictures that illustrate the effectiveness of my "green wall" pretty well. The webcam is mounted high on the wall of the balcony, looking down at the morning glory vines at an angle which is almost 90 degrees from the angle that the leaves assume in order to get the greatest exposure to the sun. The result of this is that the camera looks at the leaves from an almost edge-on viewpoint, and they don't appear to provide nearly as much shade and privacy as they actually do.

Looking at the wall from a position of being seated on the balcony, the foliage really does do a good job of blocking the view of the neighbors' apartments. From the "outside", the effect is even more pronounced, blocking the direct afternoon sunlight - and the view of nosy neighbors - almost entirely.

All of these pictures were taken this past July 10th, just a few minutes apart from each other. The leaf coverage actually improved a bit beyond this before the season was over and they started to thin out again. Back when I started this experiment, I really wasn't too sure if it was going to work all that well. I'm now quite convinced that a few pots of dirt and packets of seeds can grow you some privacy, even in less-than-ideal conditions.

Friday, February 13, 2009


Well, it looks like the first sprout has reached the point where it's poking its head up through the top of its pod. It's a bit too big to squeeze through the hole without help though, so I took the top off temporarily, until it straightens out enough that I can put the little cardboard disk back in place (they keep the light out of the reservoir, to inhibit algae growth).

These are bean plants, but not the little dwarf bush beans that you can get from the AeroGrow people - they're just regular pole beans that I had sitting around in an envelope. I'm sure that they'll outgrow the unit and its light hood very quickly, but this isn't a problem, since I'm not growing them for production, but for getting time-lapse footage of their twining motion as they grow. The seeds in all three pods have germinated successfully - this is just the first one that sprouted far enough to need its dome removed. The others are coming along well though, and they should be popping up within a few days themselves.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Something New!

What's this? An update?

The tomatoes had a good run, lasting far beyond their supply of nutrient tablets, and even had a bit of a comeback later on, using Miracle-Gro fertilizer. They had gotten a bit thin and scraggly though, so it was probably about time to pull them out. I pulled the tomatoes, cleaned the whole unit out, and set it back up with the webcam to watch a new batch of sprouts. I'm just doing a short-term experiment this time around, getting a little bit of time-lapse footage of some young plants. (Hmmmm....I wonder what they're going to be.....)

I've got the pods spaced a lot closer to each other this time, since I'm just interested in sprouts, not growing them out to full size. The AeroGrow unit's lights turn on and off automatically on a timer, and although my camera has a couple of small lights on it, I still wanted a small "fill light" to provide some extra illumination and even out the "lights on" versus "lights off" levels a bit. The solution came in the form of a partially-failed compact fluorescent lamp I had sitting around. Something went wrong in the manufacturing process, and instead of generating the same amount of light as a 60-Watt standard bulb as it was supposed to, it only puts out about 20 or 30 Watts worth - enough for the camera, but not so much that it lights up the entire room. We'll see how well it works as things progress. (It really doesn't even appear as bight as it seems in the photo; the glare you see is just my camera compensating for the low-light conditions.)