automatic watering systems

hairmetal4ever(Z7 MD)March 28, 2014

As I plan and brainstorm, I realize that this thing I have to do every day called a job means it will be hard to water plants in the heat of summer possibly when they actually need it. So I thought of automatic watering systems.

I know these exist, but are they worthwhile?

Can they be used for multiple types of plants and container sizes, that might all have different watering needs?

Are they timed, or do they use moisture sensors?

Are the sensors sensitive enough to sue in a very loose, well-drained mix like Al's 5-1-1 or gritty mix? I ask because my moisture meter ($16.99 Rapidtest) doesn't register anything even right after watering even in most peat-based soilless mixes, let alone bark-based. It only works in heavy soil in the ground. It doesn't seem sensitive enough to sense the moisture in a loose media.

Finally - can liquid fertilizers be added with them?

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Automating watering can be very simple, or extremely complex. Pretty much all the systems are the same as you would setup for automatic sprinklers - only the terminal delivery is drippers/micro sprayers.

On the simple end, you can have a battery operated timer valve hooked up to a hose faucet, a pressure reducer, then a hose to go to your plants, an adapter from the hose to drip irrigation hose, and then a series of drippers/sprayers to each container. The one I used for a while worked just fine. But you must check frequently and replace run down batteries.

A more standard automated system is to attach the drip line to a irrigation valve, and a irrigation timer, just as would be done with a sprinkler system. Some manufactures make valves specifically for drip, and they quickly assemble with a pressure reducer often needed for a drip/micro spray system. Typical household or irrigation supply pressure is higher than you want for drip.

Fertigation is definitely a possibility. And there are systems for both the simple hose bib attachment above, or complex systems. Aside from a venturi valve injector, most systems are rather spendy. Venturi valves cost less, but require more custom parts and titration work. The simpler pressurized systems (EZflow, etc) do have drawbacks in that they solution does not remain constant over time. Mid-line systems (dosamatic, dosatron about $350 or so) are nice options if one can afford it.

Plants can wait for a dose of fertilizer. They can't wait for a water when dry. You can always add in a fertilizer injector later on if you so desire. But I'd definitely recommend going with auto watering if the hosing running from pot to pot and the requisite budget fit your situation.

This post was edited by charina on Fri, Mar 28, 14 at 12:36

    Bookmark   March 28, 2014 at 12:31PM
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hairmetal4ever(Z7 MD)

So for plants with various container sizes, medium differences, or water needs, you basically just adjust the drip amount (or # of emitters) going into each pot?

    Bookmark   March 28, 2014 at 2:03PM
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Yes, one could adjust the number of emitters used for each pot/plant. However, emitters are commonly available in differing flows. 1/2 gph, 1 gph, and 2pgh are very common. Higher flow rates are also available from specialty sources. Some emitters are adjustable, such as flag emitters or the round multi-stream heads.

    Bookmark   March 28, 2014 at 2:12PM
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shazaam(NC 7B)

If you're thinking about installing an automated system for watering containers filled with a bark-based potting mix, then you'll probably get more even wetting with spray stakes rather than drip emitters.

    Bookmark   March 28, 2014 at 2:24PM
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nil13(z21 L.A., CA (Mt. Washington))

I use john deere spot spitter stakes and 1/8" polytube running to a 1/2" polytube mainline for containers. The great thing about the spot spitters is that they are insanely simple and don't clog and they have a plug on the end of the stake. That plug allows you to easily turn one container off by simply popping the emmitter off, turning it around, and sticking the plug end in the tube. Plus, you can get a punch tool for 1/8" line that allows you to punch a hole in the 1/2" poly and stick the 1/8" tube directly in the hole with no barb fitting. That saves a ton of money and time. The spot spitters work great for gritty, 511, mgb, pure pumice, whatever.

:edit: it looks like John Deere is just the distributor. They were made by Roberts, but they were bought out by Primerus last year.

Here is a link that might be useful: primerus spot spitters

This post was edited by nil13 on Sat, Mar 29, 14 at 11:47

    Bookmark   March 29, 2014 at 11:00AM
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hairmetal4ever(Z7 MD)

So, it seems that the only dependable options for a gritty or 5-1-1 type mix would be the spray types vs drip, due to the relative lack of capillary action on those that accurate?

    Bookmark   April 5, 2014 at 8:45AM
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nil13(z21 L.A., CA (Mt. Washington))

No, it's just that one or two sprays will cover a pot thoroughly and that makes it much cheaper. The spot spitters can be found for 14 cents each and come in flows that will work for 24"boxes. There's a reason they are very popular with wholesale nurseries.

You can use drip, you would just need to use higher flow rates and more emmitters. Or use a 1/4" soaker hose. There are all kinds of solutions. Which solution you choose depends on your goal.

This post was edited by nil13 on Sat, Apr 5, 14 at 12:50

    Bookmark   April 5, 2014 at 12:38PM
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