Gardening for nerds

I have always enjoyed plants. They are often beautiful, and when they aren’t, they are usually incredibly interesting.

Growing plants of my own has always been a challenge. Up until recently, I have not lived in a place where I felt comfortable taking ownership of the space. Additionally, I have been terribly absent minded, and unmotivated.

However, I recently, married, and bought a house which means I now have control of space.

My wife is interested in growing plants which gives me some motivation.

I am, however, still absent minded, and we’ve little experience with growing plants. Our initial attempts have been thwarted by our tendency to forget about them, and our ignorance of the conditions they need to grow.

In response to these circumstances, I decided that I could take advantage of my skills as a programmer, my knowledge of electronics, and my general ability to envision/assemble to create an indoor garden where we could more accurately control the growing environment, and automate many of the processes that often slip our minds, leading to the untimely death of too many plants.

This goal to automate the light exposure, and watering in an controlled, indoor environment actually involves the convergence of at least two different projects:

  1. An indoor garden.
  2. An electronic monitoring system capable of automating light and water dispensation.


  1. An Indoor Garden

When I started working on my indoor garden, I had to define parameters:

  1. I decided that I wanted it to fit along the wall in what may be described as my dining area.
  2. I would like to minimize the depth of the garden, or the distance that the garden projects from the wall, out into the room.
  3. I’d like to maximize my use of vertical space.
  4. I would like the design to incorporate components that I have quick, easy access to.

Those parameters being established, I started doing some research.

There are many design examples for indoor gardens out there, but the first that seemed close fitting my needs was what is described as a vertical garden.

There are probably hundreds of different design options accessible by just doing a quick google image search, however, the one that seemed the most accessible to myself was one that used gutters to create horizontal rows.

Gutter Row

Styles of Vertical Gardens

Once I had a design objective, I could get to work making it a reality.

To begin with, I tried to identify some elements I wanted to include in my design:

  • Angled row, tilted slightly down on one end, to facilitate the draining of excess water.
  • Outward tilting shelves, to allow easier access.
  • Mounting points for Fluorescent lights.
  • A system for draining water with included bulkhead fittings, and vinyl tube.
  • Aluminum guttering for increased strength.
  • 6 in guttering for deeper shelves.

With all of this in mind, I drew up plans in Autocad, bought my materials, and assembled my garden.


By now, I have identified a couple of problems with the original design.

First, the placement of the fourth row (bottom) does not provide enough space to include the bulkhead fitting, and drainage tube.

Second, the 2 fluorescent lights included in the original plan do not provide enough light for adequate growth. To correct this, I could try a fluorescent fixture with more bulbs, or I could try using LED lights, mounted directly above each row.

Third, the outward tilting of the shelves is somewhat unnecessary. Access to the shelves would be better accomplished by making them easily removeable.

All of that being said, here are some links to photos of the completed project, along with materials lists, and CAD drawings.

Photos of the finished product, and assembly of a Vertical Garden.

Design Files for a Vertical Garden.

Materials List of a Vertical Garden.


So, recently, someone made a comment within view of the public that attracted quite a bit of ire from the same.

“Just to bring it back, can we take back ‘racist’ and say, ‘discriminatory,’ because I think that’s a better word,” Raven-Symoné asked. “And I am very discriminatory against (names) like the ones that they were saying in the (video). I’m not about to hire you if your name is Watermelondrea. It’s just not going to happen. I’m not going to hire you.”

This comment was part of a larger conversation discussing the results of a study which demonstrated that people are more likely to associate a number of “negative” attributes to ideas of people with “black” sounding names.


At its core, this is an interesting demonstration of prejudice. There is nothing about a name that should give any indication of the personality, or physical attributes of a person. However, there is something in our environment, our experiences, that has contributed to this association.

Prejudice is based on the idea that you can experience something once, and then extrapolate that experience to predict the result of future occurrences. It is something that is (apparently) inherent in our organism, and exists because it is incredible useful to us.

As a child, if you see something bright, and touch it, only to find that it causes you pain because it is burning you, you might have less desire to touch something bright again. Prejudice can contribute to survival.

However, like anything else in the world (a demonstration of my own prejudice), it has pitfalls.

If you’ve studied statistics, or done anything else in life, you probably know that nothing is consistent. A single experience is not a good sample size for making any kind of predictions with accuracy.

For example, I have eaten a lot of Pizzas. Nearly all of them are delicious, and a great experience. However, a few have been delicious, and terrible experiences, still others have been not tasty, and mediocre experiences. If my only (first) experience with Pizza was a terrible one, prejudice would lead me to never try pizza again. Why would I if pizza wasn’t good for me, or enjoyable? However, as you know, through your own experience, my first, terrible experience, is not indicative of the experience that pizzas usually provide. If I based my entire life on that single experience, I would be missing out on quite a lot of good.

Sometimes, relying on a single experience doesn’t have many terrible consequences for you, or others. If you go to a restaurant, and your experience there is not enjoyable, you may be likely to not spend your time trying it again. There are hundreds of restaurants in your area, what is your incentive to go back? Not doing so probably won’t seriously detract from the quality of your life.

However, I think it is important, for us, as creatures that are generally capable of critical thought, to try and re-consider our prejudices whenever we can, and to put a bit more care into ensuring that our prejudices don’t hurt others.

When considering your child’s friends, try not to associate qualities that haven’t been observed. Just because you had a bully named Frank as a child, doesn’t mean that your child shouldn’t be encouraged to hang out with a Frank at school. If your daughter starts talking a young man named Dan, that doesn’t mean that he will get her pregnant, and try to steal your toaster.

As long as there are humans, there will be trends within different groups of us. People from France will probably speak french. People with an Asian genetic background will probably have naturally straight and black hair. Someone named Watermelondrea may have dark skin. Extrapolations aren’t inherently bad, it is just in our interest to try and give thought to what decisions they make for us.