Wu-Tang for my Tomatoes

A crazy idea that was easier than I expected

Wu-Tang for my Tomatoes

I've been re-watching Mythbusters with my son, starting with some of the earlier seasons. It's pretty interesting to see them doing all the crazy and dangerous things that "influencers" do now, but before smartphones or social media had taken off. They were doing it before the likes existed. It is kind of hard to imagine Mark Rober without them.

Anyway, one of the funnier and more pedestrian myths they tested was whether talking to plants, or playing music for them, could affect their growth. The urban legend being that talking to your plants ( presumably positive things? ) would produce healthier, more vigorous growth.

almost 20 years ago

In their experiment they used recorded 'nice' and 'mean' voice tracks, as well as exposing the plants to music both "relaxing" (classical) and "stressful" (death metal). The plants listening to death metal were actually doing the best until their experiment was cut short by an irrigation failure.

The truth is, there is enough scientific research in the subject to indicate that there is more to be learned. I liked the following quote about why we should be open minded to this idea:

Plants are not passive organisms, though their sessile nature might make them appear to be static or unchanging. Though plants have an awe-inspiring impact on most life on earth, most people tend to underappreciate or not notice the plants living around them. Plants are alive, and like all things that are alive, they perceive many environmental and physiological signals, and through these, they perfect and modify their growth and development.

So, I was amused enough to pursue an idea I had been kicking around for a long time: a sound system for my garden.

"a tomato DJ bumping thick house beats for a lush garden party"

Tomato Hardening

When you start seeds indoors you have to introduce them to the outside world slowly. The temperature and humidity swings ( and the wind! ) can all be uncomfortable adjustments for young plants. At first just half an hour in the sun, then maybe an hour the next day, and so on until over the course of a week they're transitioned outdoors and heading towards the garden. This process is referred to as 'hardening'.

Obviously this is labor-intensive and error-prone, but forgetting to do it can mean your seedlings could be literally shocked to death by this transition. This is where I have an idea how to help toughen-up these soft little plants - it's straight out of 1993 and called "36 Chambers", the breakout album by the infamous Wu-Tang Clan.

Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers) - Wikipedia

My plan is to loop this album continuously 24/7 and see if helps my plants grow. I think listening to NPR constantly is giving them anxiety.

This MP3 board tho

I was surprised to learn this existed. Its paradoxically miniature and fully-featured. You can adjust the volume and navigate through 'tracks' ( MP3 files on the card ). I'll just be using it off-the-shelf as a 2W audio amplifier for my single 52-minute 17-second MP3 track which is the album.

Amazon's algorithm somehow knew I wanted this. A microSD-reading audio amp for MP3s

I couldn't find a datasheet on this breakout board anywhere, just a few Amazon reviews. I am curious about power consumption since I want to know if I can solar-power this.

I actually had some small 2W speakers laying around so I soldered one on. For reference that is about twice as powerful as a speakers used in headphones - this is all pretty small.

Wu-Tang Forever?

For the time being, while everything remains indoors, it's easiest to power this with a hard-wired power supply. If I want to move this experiment outside I'll need to explore some other options.


Having too much fun with AI-generated art. This guy is looking for water at Coachella

My best estimates are that this will draw somewhere between 400mA and 700mA . I have a 5V / 500mA panel that might work, but it will take a little thinking about how to regulate the power supply and whether browning-out will be an issue.

As a quick test I tried wiring the panel directly and taking it out into the late-afternoon sun. There was enough current to get things started ("Shaolin shadow-boxing, and a Wu-Tang sword style..." ), but ultimately not enough to keep it running once the beats really started. I might test a boost regulator vs a big capacitor to smooth things out.

One more for fun

C.R.E.A.M. , soup?

Stay tuned.