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Website update (Release 13)

We've just made some minor updates to the website. These are mostly behind-the-scenes, enabling our next round of improvements.

  • Fixed broken emails
  • Minor gem upgrades
  • Build process improvements: Check PR author is in under Travis, Check for "forgot to commit Gemfile.lock" in CI, Block external URLs in feature tests
  • Add support for Bootstrap alert types
  • README file update for Freenode IRC

New photos

I've just uploaded some more recent photos of my plants. The parsley is still going strong, having seeded itself in a second spot along the box. One patch has died back a bit - I clearly need to pick it and use it more often. The chives have also died back a bit, again probably because I wasn't harvesting enough. The aloe vera has tripled in size - if anyone in the area wants some, there's plenty. Along with a ton of geraniums, which apparently love my dry soil whenever I forget to water.

New website features and bug fixes (Release 11)

Our next release has just gone live. Let us know if you spot any issues. Emails from comment replies still aren't working on the main site, but is working fine, or find us on Github, Gitter or IRC.

New features

  • Crop approval flash alert for wranglers upon sign in
  • Added Bootstrap accessibility plugin

Technical improvements

  • Removed redundant code from our crowdfunder last year
  • Remove warnings and debugging puts from rspec output
  • Add capybara-screenshot to assist with feature testing
  • Use standardized & translateable strings for the photo show page
  • Stop hard-coding strings for pagination
  • Refactor photo controller create for readability
  • Updated Gemfile.lock for Code Climate inclusion
  • Add code climate to README
  • Add config/factory_girl.rb so that rspec doesn't fail with a confusnig 'Could not find mapping for #

New website features (Release 9)

We've just pushed a load of new features and bugfixes to the site, thanks to @pozorvlak for deploying, as well as all our coders - we had several new contributors this time.

New Features

  • Thumbnails of crops should now show on a post where you reference a crop
  • You should be able to unsubscribe from notification or community emails with one click
  • When posting, the focus (where your cursor is) should automatically move to the subject field. If the post is a reply or a comment, it should go straight to the main content.
  • When you delete a photo, you should now get a message flash up, instead of not knowing whether it had succeeded or not
  • When replying to a private message, you now see the message you're replying to for handy reference
  • You can now search from the places index page
  • We're now starting to track how long a seed takes to grow to a mature plant. This is in the early stages of collecting data at the moment - eventually you'll be able to see a prediction based on other people's experience with that crop. For now, there's a pretty progress bar.
  • Posts and comments now show when they were edited, if they're edited
  • Member profile page now shows date of last login
  • Add placeholder to harvest screen's plant part select box
  • Display available seed count on crop pages
  • Redesigned navbar
  • Sunniness icons on planting pages, for partial shade, sun, etc.
  • Places pages show nearby seeds and plantings, not just members
  • Added link to owner's profile from seeds', plantings', and harvests' index page
  • Harvests, seeds and gardens have a new card-based design

Bug Fixes

  • Limit the vertical space taken by crop varieties in sidebar
  • Display only the active plantings on the garden page, where finished plantings aren't helpful
  • Photo view page now links back to the harvest or garden it is a photo of
  • Thumbnails now have a background so we don't get odd effects with transparency
  • When signing out, you get redirected to the last page you were on, if it's something public, rather than always to the homepage
  • We've supported alternative and scientific names for a while, but you had to add them after creating a crop, not at the same time. Now you can do it all in one go.
  • Make it clearer which fields are required and which are optional when filling in various forms
  • The members page didn't flow very well on different sizes of screen - it now does so better
  • A link to Open Service has been added to the footer
  • Notifications are now paginated, using our new trial pagination gem
  • Posts at the bottom of the homepage were all saying they were "1 minute ago", because they got cached straight after posting. They now say the right date.
  • We added tracking seeds as organic, heirloom or GMO in the last release. Now this information is added to the CSV and RSS output, so other apps can use it.

Technical Improvements

  • Automated testing improved with poltergeist
  • Robots are now discouraged from visiting our staging site
  • Switching to a new way of handling secret keys that makes it easier to progress from dev to staging to live
  • More automated tests added
  • Our test data (database seeding) is now improved, so our testing will be more realistic
  • Maco is now a committer! Update the docs accordingly
  • Performance improvements of some database calls
  • Developer improvements (tweaks to .gitignore)
  • Refactored some automated tests to make them faster
  • New versions of various gems and other upgrades

Let us know of any issues you find! We hope to make releases a bit more frequent in the future. Search is also now working much better, with Elasticsearch turned on.

New website features (Release 8)

We've just pushed a load of new features and bugfixes to the site, thanks to @pozorvlak for kicking it off and @maco for supporting, as well as all our coders and testers.

New Features

  • New crop request form! This makes the approval process easier on the crop wranglers.
  • Search now checks alternate names (such as coriander and cilantro) and scientific names (not yet available - see below)
  • Seeds have organic, GMO, and heirloom options, along with and how many days until maturity
  • You can now attach photos to your garden
  • On the member page, members can be sorted by name or by how recently they joined
  • When logged out, visitors will see a note at the top of post pages, so first-time visitors can see what Growstuff is all about
  • Wranglers now see a "wrangle crops" button on the crop listing page

Bug Fixes

  • You can no longer claim to have fewer than 0 seeds.
  • The page footer height has been tweaked.
  • You can no longer follow yourself.
  • Crop wranglers will no longer see an error page if they leave out the Wikipedia link when adding a new crop.
  • Some formatting bugs with the homepage and browse crops have been fixed.
  • Sometimes users would see an error page when they tried to follow other users: this should no longer happen.
  • Users should no longer receive an error when trying to download harvest data.
  • Harvest photos should now provide a link back to their harvest after attaching the photo.

Technical Improvements

  • Static content like the page footer is now stored in a CMS, for easier maintenance.
  • We're now storing all harvest weights as kilograms in addition to whatever unit you put in, with conversion handled by ruby-units. This will let us give harvest totals more easily in the future.
  • Users can now search by alternate names, scientific names, and partial names, with the matching handled by ElasticSearch (not yet available - see below)
  • Travis CI now pushes successful builds on the dev branch to the staging site on Heroku, so merging a pull request to dev automatically deploys it to staging.
  • Lots more features are now covered by automated tests.

Sadly, it looks like the search features will have to wait a while until we can work out how to install ElasticSearch in our production environment, but we've written the search code in such a way that it can be turned on later with a configuration switch.

Aloe vera

aloe vera is rapidly becoming my favourite unkillable plant, taking over from spider-plants because not only does it seed everywhere, survive me forgetting to water it for weeks, survive me over-watering in guilt when I remember, and not appear to care whether it has sun, shade, accidentally left on top of a radiator or shoved in a utility room with no heating, but unlike the spider plant, it also does something useful other than providing greenery in your house. Top spas keep advertising aloe vera beauty products, but I have the pure stuff whenever I want, just by breaking off half a leaf. It's very soothing on burns, which was useful after I dropped half a saucepan of boiling water on my foot the other week.


My herbs are all dead again. I can't figure out if it's lack of water, if they don't like the semi-shade, if I need to give them more food or compost or what.


At least the aloe vera is flourishing. And, in true Murphy's Law, I haven't burned myself since I got it, so I haven't needed to use it at all.

Dead plants

I was looking at a planting page, and couldn't find many actions from there. E.g. on, there's no button to harvest. I have to go to my harvests to create a new harvest. Can we add a link for that, please?

Also, what do I do when a plant dies? Is there any way to mark a planting as no longer existing? It looks like this will be covered by the future feature to mark a planting as finished - ID 46972853 in PivotalTracker - is that right?

What to plant

I'm currently trying to decide what to plant next, as some of my current flowers die back. I have planter boxes and a few small flowerpots on the balcony. The rosemary is doing well, but I'd like some vegetables, as I use those far more often than herbs. I have no idea what I'm doing, though. It's semi-shade (west-facing), and I'd like things that don't need too much TLC. What can I grow in the northern hemisphere at this time of year?

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