Drains for poly drip pans + gritty mix?

redshirtcat(6a MO StL)May 28, 2011

Over the winter I put quite a few plants into the gritty mix. All of these plants overwinter indoors - some in an unfinished basement, some in finished areas of the house. The plants in the finished area all require drip pans. The problem I had was whenever I went to water I always had quite a bit of water go right through the mix (the whole point, no perched water). However eventually the water would build up in the pan and would overflow unless I could get in there with a syringe and suck it out. This became time consuming. Many of the plants are too heavy to lift every time I want to drain the excess water.

What I've decided to try to do is build little drains with shutoff valves into the poly drip pans and either connect them all together or just use a bucket and open the valve when I need to drain them. The problem is that I can't seem to find a fitting that will lay basically flat against the inside of the drain pan (as flat as can be on the curved surface, I will put silicone in behind it). Does anyone know of anything that might work? I need something with a *very* small profile on the inside of the pan since almost all of my pots use the built-in drip pans that just barely fit. Then I need a way to connect the grommet or flange-type-thing to 1/4" tubing.

So far these look like my best bet:



Even that grommet doesn't look like it will be thin enough on the inside - not to mention it's about 2$ per pot with the valve...


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There isn't really any cost effective way of doing this, because what you'd need is a bulkhead of some sort. Problem is, I don't know that they make them that small, and they aren't cheap. What I do is use a 5 gallon bucket. For the large pots, which are obviously heavy, I just place it right on top of the bucket if it fits without falling in. I then water, and the waste just goes into the bucket. For smaller pots, I'll just set them in the sink and water, or use the 5 gallon bucket with a piece of egg crate over the bucket. Then, I use the waste water in the garden somewhere. I find that watering with the gritty mix can be a challenge, but one that is worth the benefits. I am looking for a way to make sure all of the mix gets wet, because the water drains out well before the mix is wet enough. Oh, and a note on the 1/4" tubing: due to the small internal diameter of the tubing, you may find that it won't drain because the air won't beable to be displaced fast enough. Unless the tubing runs straight down quite a bit, to allow gravity to push the water, you will get an airlock in the tubing. Although a good thought, I suspect you'll end up buying materials to make these little drains, and find yourself disappointed.

This spring I built a custom deluxe rain collection system where water collects from a resin tabletop places over a rubbermaid tub. This ensures clean water, as the water from the roof has too many contaminates for my indoor plants. Anyway, I popped a 1/2" drain hole in the bottom of tub, with a 5/8" hose barb fitting to connect a standard hose. The other end of the hose goes to a barb fitting and valve, that goes though the wall into the basement, where I ran PVC pipe to a bucket that has a bulkhead through the bottom, where I attach a coffee filter before that drains into my 55 gallon barrel for storage. All I have to do is open a valve in the basement to drain the rubbermaid tub on the deck into my storage barrel. Anyway, the rubbermaid tub, even when full, did not have enough pressure to force the water through the hose and into the basement. It basically got airlocked, so I had to add a vent pipe to allow the air pressure to relieve. Mind you this is 1/2" ID pipe and hose, and this problem is WAY worse in 1/4" tubing. So, the short answer, go the route of the 5 gallon bucket instead.


    Bookmark   May 29, 2011 at 12:37AM
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redshirtcat(6a MO StL)

The 5-gallon buckets aren't really an option for me, though I appreciate the suggestion. Some of the pots are far too heavy to be lifting at every watering and in the case of the 8-10' tall citrus trees they are already basically hitting the ceiling so I have no room to lift them up and into a bucket unless I want to cut off another foot of growth. I suppose I could if absolutely necessary but that will be a last resort.

Could you explain more about the vent pipe you created? Is there some way I could make a little miniature one with the 1/4" tubing?

Do you think it might work, for example, to put a 1/4" T with the open leg facing up so that there was air pressure "above" the water?

    Bookmark   May 29, 2011 at 12:46AM
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The T thing is how I made the vent for my rain water system. It just has to have the stack pipe be above the height of what the water is draining from. How high up will these catch trays be? If they are set directly on the floor, you won't beable to drain them. You could always get something different instead of poly trays. Something that holds more water, so you don't have overflows. Shallow tupperwares, cookie sheets, or rubbermaid tote lids are a few things that come to mind. Sometimes, to prevent waste, I'll use a turkey baster to suck up the water from the trays, and keep running it through the gritty mix. If you MUST do the drain thing, then I would get a threaded barb fitting for the tubing, drill a hole that makes the threads a tight fight, and use RTV silicone caulk to seal it in good.


    Bookmark   May 29, 2011 at 1:05AM
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redshirtcat(6a MO StL)

The height varies. Some are 2-4 feet off the ground on plant stands others (the large trees) are only a few inches off the ground on rollers.

Last winter I used a turkey baster and a giant syringe for quite awhile every day. Some of the trees are in 24" planters. To get that much gritty mix wet it takes a good deal of water. I had them on slightly larger clay catch basins and would use the baster when they were about to overflow. There are so many pots that I really would like to try another way this year. In the basement I can just let the excess go into the floor drain but in the finished areas I have to find something that looks halfway decent to deal with the water (I can't put them all into a huge basin or etc).

I will give the threaded fittings a try. I have a lot of time to find a solution so I will try it a few ways and see if I can make it work. Thanks for the help!

    Bookmark   May 29, 2011 at 2:44AM
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Use a Wet Vac to remove the excess water.....it's even useful for the dead leaves, spiders and spilled soil.....

    Bookmark   May 29, 2011 at 9:11PM
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greenman28 NorCal 7b/8a

In my situation, I water slowly with a fine "rain" nozzle.
I have saucers beneath many plants, but they have shallow lips.


    Bookmark   May 30, 2011 at 12:42PM
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Here's a simple method I used after quite a bit of trial and error.

For 1/4" dripline:
I drill a small 1/8" inch hole and then grind the hole bigger using a spike nail. This gives the hole a taper. Then cut the 1/4" tube at a slant and pull through. Never had a leak with this and have used with hard and soft plastics.

for 0.600" poly tubing:
You need to be more careful for these ones. I first drill a small 1/4" hole. Then I use a stone grinder attachment for the drill to drill the hole bigger. The grinder heats up the plastic and partially melts it. This prevents the plastic from cracking. If you just use a big drill bit, it will crack the plastic from pots and tubs (rubbermaid plastic garbage cans don't crack though). Make the hole significantly smaller than the 0.600" tubing (or whatever tubing you use.
Make 4 1" long slices in the end of the tubing with a razor knife. This makes it easier to insert into the hole.
Then heat the tubing by holding it against a 100 watt bulb for about 30 seconds, this makes it more flexible. Then insert the tube into the hole.

This makes a nice waterproof connection without grommets or bulkheads.

When I first did this I didn't heat the tubing and had to make the hole bigger to push it through, this caused leaks.

In this picture you can see the stone grinder tool I used.

I plan to post a complete description later.


    Bookmark   May 30, 2011 at 2:12PM
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Interesting system you have there. So your pots are draining via the tubes, down to the ground I presume? How do you know when you've watered enough, not being able to see the draining water? I think this is your answer redshirtcat.


    Bookmark   May 30, 2011 at 2:28PM
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redshirtcat(6a MO StL)

Thanks guys. I've found wet vacs to be very helpful in the past (I used one early this spring when I was fixing my lawn irrigation - cut the main, vac out the fluid) - but in this case I don't think I would be able to get in there with the vac without replacing all of the saucers. Most of my plants are in cheap poly planters similar to this one: http://www.planter.com/products/detail.aspx?ProductId=1015&SubFamilyId=14&FamilyId=13&LineId=12

That was obviously a mistake as you can see the drip pan is built in and there is no room to really get in there and get at the overflow (which is why I had to use a syringe last season more than the turkey baster).

Emgardener's tubing suggestion looks like it might be perfect for me.

The pictures above are interesting. They look like homemade SWCs (with the 2 buckets inside of each other)? I understand that even if you're making SWCs I can use the same principle (I will try next weekend) but what IS going on in the pic?

Josh: do you use that fine spray mister indoors? In finished areas of the house? If so do you have a specific product that you suggest? I can't have any overspray onto the wood floors and curtains etc. I'll probably have to build in the drains anyway since at some point they will likely fill up over the course of the winter but an indoor fine sprayer would certainly help with watering the gritty mix.

    Bookmark   May 30, 2011 at 5:34PM
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The double buckets are for drainage only out to the yard. I didn't want the pots draining onto a wood deck.

I've installed drip lines to each tub that go off on a timer. So some water overflows.

Probably take more pictures tomorrow on the whole setup.

    Bookmark   May 30, 2011 at 11:01PM
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Maybe add a larger pan underneath, and then wetvac that? I use a little siphon made from some airline tubing and a water bottle to soak up the water. Lol, I actually used to use a turkey baster as well... I'm glad I'm not the only one in this predicament. I'm looking into better solutions, but I haven't found anything simple yet.

Another thought, if you don't mind the look, is to get one of those underbed storage containers - there often labeled as shoe storage. Large area but relatively short walls. You could easily fit several of your pots in one.

    Bookmark   May 31, 2011 at 12:50AM
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Wait, maybe I'm missing something (I'm still a beginner to DIYing, to some extent)... but why can't you just drill a hole, put in the tubing, and caulk it with silicone? I've done this many times in other contexts, and never had a problem.

    Bookmark   May 31, 2011 at 1:07AM
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greenman28 NorCal 7b/8a

Hey, Redshirt!
I use a Haws brand watering can with a rose tip for my indoor plants.
It provides a nice, slow watering that doesn't splash everywhere or disturb soil.
I think there are quite a few other brands, though, that provide the same product.


    Bookmark   May 31, 2011 at 10:35AM
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redshirtcat(6a MO StL)

I might be able to use the simple hole with silicone solution - that is basically what emgardener suggested and what I will try. In my case I need valves on each one (or on sets of connected drains anyway) since they are in finished areas and I don't want visible drip pans anywhere.

It looks like he has quite a drop to some area below and Joe's point was that drains require some kind of atmospheric pressure to function properly so in addition to a valve I might have to add a T connection with one end facing up and a little pipe going up above the water level so that the drains will function properly (you have vents in the plumbing in your house for this reason as well). With a large enough pipe diameter venting wouldn't be such a big deal but using 1/4" pipe it might be difficult. I will know soon if it will work the pipe should be here sometime this week.

And Josh: thanks for the tip. I didn't even know such things as "roses" existed. I learn so much on these forums. I ordered one of their plastic outdoor models from Amazon so that should help significantly. Maybe over the winter when there aren't so many plants to buy I will spring for one of the really nice metal versions... they look so tempting.

    Bookmark   May 31, 2011 at 12:18PM
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