Sunday, June 27, 2010

“Babylon HRP5” – Hanging Rotating Planter – Project Update by Gardener Dave

For some of you, this will be the first report on my 2010 spring project. The project is nearly complete.  The solar panel was added the week of June14th and the planter is now rotating exclusively on solar power.  It starts its rotation at ~1.5RPH when the solar panel output exceeds 15V.  Full sunshine directly on the panel produces approx. 21-22V, which I regulate to 12V, then route to the motor. More details are available on earlier reports.
Watering is done via the same steel “pole” that the solar panel is mounted on. Auto-spray occurs at 6 min. intervals, 6 times during one revolution of the planter in the morning. The spray timer runs from 115Vac house power. I find that some manual watering is necessary when the plants grow to the point that their leaves overlap the pots, i.e. the spray runs off.

The planter has room for 48 pots total. There are 4 rows of 12 positions each. 6” pots are used in the top row ( in narrower spaces) and 8” pots are used in all the other rows.  All pots are green plastic. The planting medium is commercial (Miracle Grow) potting soil. The planter inner core is galvanized 1/2” wire mesh, covered with coco fiber. The coco fiber provides some additional humidity and protects the pots from strong winds. Perhaps a short description for this project is:  A teepee-shaped planter that rotates to give equal sun exposure on all sides and allows “vertical gardening” with a relatively small footprint of space. Also, flower grooming is easier with most pots placed at a convenient height.
 The above photo shows the relative placement of the solar and watering pole to the HRP5. The actual distance between them is about 7 feet. The HRP5 legs are set level on the concrete patio.
The canvas cover for the power head on top remains in place at all times. There are 2 circular “shelves” in the power head, one for the motor and speed reduction assy. plus the weight-supporting thrust ball bearing, the other is reserved for some possible auxiliary components, TBD at a later time.

The cone-shaped planter is suspended and supported by 3 steel pipe legs.

The solar power panel and its steel pole mount is shown at the right (Approx. 9”x12”).

A few other details… the mounting of the solar panel is shown below.
The panel is mounted to the crossed PVC frame via an aluminum channel and hose clamps.  The panel was provided with only two small mounting holes in its aluminum frame as it came out of the box.  The cross frame of PVC pipe and fittings is “screwed and glued to suit”, and braced outward from the mounting vertical at the bottom to the desired angle.

The spray head is at the right of the vertical.  The water supply comes up the inside of the pipe and operates at a reduced pressure of about 25psi when the timed valve in the “Control Box” opens.

The Control Box (below) contains the water timer, water valve and 12V voltage regulator for solar motor power. The voltage regulator is mounted in a metal box that has input connectors and monitoring test points for the panel output and regulator output. Needless to say – the watering components must not leak!  The Control Box cover is an inverted transparent storage box, held in place by an ingeniously padded and placed BRICK.  (Ahhhh, technology!)  The box will be mostly hidden by nearby daylily foliage.

Here’s to a successful project – so far anyway.  It has been fun, time consuming, and somewhat expensive. But Hey, it’s only Time and Money, right?  While we’re at it, no jokes about “rotating my crops” please – thank you!  Your other comments and questions  are welcome, however.

I tried to pick plants which would not grow out of bounds for their pots or become “viney” and entangled.  Time will tell if I succeeded

I am still thinking of ways it could be enhanced, such as having soft music coming from under the canvas top cover while the planter is rotating.  I would probably employ an iPod or MP3 player or equivalent with small auxiliary speaker(s).  Hopefully, it will also run from the solar source, so it would be good if it could run on 12V. I would like to have it play relaxing music with a garden or nature theme. It would have to resume playing after a power-down state.

Gardener Dave