This circuit is intended to signal when a plant needs water. A LED flashes at a low rate when the ground in the flower-pot is too dry, turning off when the moisture level is increasing. Adjusting R2 will allow the user to adapt the sensitivity of the circuit for different grounds, pots and probe types.
This little gadget encountered a long lasting success amongst electronics enthusiasts since its first appearance on this website in 1999. Nevertheless, in the correspondence exchanged during all these years with many amateurs, some suggestions and also criticism prompted me to revise thoroughly the circuit, making some improvements requiring the addition of four resistors, two capacitors and one transistor.
This resulted in a more stable and easy to setup device, featuring a more visible flashing indicator with no resort to ultra bright LED devices. Extensive tests were also carried out with different flower-pots and probes. Although, as can be easily imagined, differences from various pots and probe types proved to be exceedingly high, typical resistance values across two 60mm long probes driven fully into the pot's ground about 50mm apart measured around 500 to 1000 Ohm with a high water content and about 3000 - 5000 Ohm when the ground was dry.
IC1A and related components R1 and C1 form a 2KHz square wave oscillator feeding one gate input of IC1B through the voltage divider R2/R3 made variable by adjusting the Trimmer R2. If the resistance across the probes is low (as when there is a sufficient quantity of water into the pot) C2 diverts the square wave to ground, IC1B is blocked and its output will go steady hight. IC1C inverts the high status to low, thus keeping IC1D blocked: the LED is off. When the ground in the flower-pot is becoming too dry the resistance across the probes will increase and C2 will be no longer able to divert the square wave to ground.
Therefore, IC1B output begins to transfer the 2kHz signal to IC1C which, in turn, passes it to the oscillator built around IC1D. No longer disabled by a low level on its input, the IC1D oscillator slowly pulses Q1 base low causing the LED to flash, signalling the necessity to water the plant.
The short low pulse driving the base of Q1 is actually a burst of 2kHz pulses and therefore the LED flickers about 2,000 times per second - appearing to the human eye as if the LED was steadily on for the entire duration of the pulse.
The total cost is USD ($6.00-, included tax). It is easy to make. If you make this, you should use super bright green LED. If not that, you could not know the time when is watering on time. Because is just the led was dimmed light. So, I have replaced 5mm red led by 5mm super bright green led. (You should consider that you have to place into the case, too).
In additionally, I use 3 volt lithium battery (CR2032) and its holder. It is cheap and small size. I had made this 2 weeks ago. There was no problem until now. I have been watering 5 days or so. R2(VR) setting tip: If you done to make, purring the water on the plant and then turn the R2 in order to led is off. It is easy and the end of making. That is all. P.S: I recommend the lead-free soldering for plant.