I thought I'd post quickly about a project I'm trying to get set up, a community garden in my local area. This has mostly come about because I'm on tank water at home and we sadly had to let our veg die during this hot summer we've just had with no water. I've done some scouting around and have a tentative offer of some land behind a local church.
I have a background in horticulture (like most people from this area!), my parents ran a plant nursery while I was growing up and I've helped build plastic houses, lay pipes, water, fertilize, strike cuttings, pot up and all the rest as a teenager helping in a family business.
Being a software engineer/geek now however I'm really interested in automating and measuring many aspects of veggie gardening. One of the biggest issues I foresee with a community garden is regular watering, especially during summer. Watering has to happen every day, and multiple times when it's very hot and in a community garden it's hard to say who is responsible, all it takes is someone to forget and we'd lose months of hard work.
So I'm doing a lot of pre-planning for now, looking at hardware such as moisture sensors, solenoid valves and flow meters from adafruit.com which would, when connected to an arduino allow me to water parts of the garden on demand, and measure the amount of water going to each bed. I'd be really interested in using such a system to experiment with different yields by planting the same crop across beds which are programmed to be drier or wetter, and I'd want to have all of this data available via a website for people involved to access.
I realise all of this pre planning probably sounds fairly authoritarian but I'd like to have a basic plan to present to the community before I start, so when that time comes people can jump in, suggest crops and get planning/planting without having to worry about the setup and finer details.
If anyone has had any experience with a community garden, or automated watering I'd love to hear what you've done.