Self watering bucket system (first year)

eeaieeaioh(6a)August 9, 2013

This year is my first attempt at using a self watering bucket system and it has been challenging. Here are a couple of the problems I encountered. Any suggestions on how I can remedy the problem for next year would be greatly appreciated.

FYI: I have a 20 bucket self watering system arranged in 5 parallel rows (4 buckets per row). All the buckets are attached using 1/2 inch tubing. Water flow is regulated with a float bucket that sits between the buckets and the reservoir which is a 55 gallon barrel.

At first everything was working great and the plants were flourishing but then I had a pumpkin plant mysteriously die and I uprooted it. Inside the bucket the soil was moist. Near the bottom of the bucket where the wicking cup is was probably too moist. That's problem number 1.

1: soil is water logged near wicking cup. I don't think my garden likes wet feet, especially my tomatoes. The leaves are rolled up on themselves and the plants look too leggy. I used a potting soil mix that was light and nutritious but next year I plan on mixing my own. Does anyone know how I can avoid this problem? Maybe not pack the wicking cup so tight? Or, mix a less absorbent potting soil? I'm grasping for straws here.

Next, after uprooting the pumpkin and removing the wicking cup I found that the roots actually grew down into the cup and even into the water. Some weeks later I noticed all my plants were wilting. I investigated the problem and found that the tomato plant in bucket #1 (which is directly attached to the float bucket) grew down through the wicking cup, into the water, through the 1/2 inch tubing, and into the float bucket!! The roots blocked the water for all the other buckets. That's problem number 2.

2: how can I stop the roots from invading the tubing? I covered the wicking cups with socks to help keep the soil in but the roots even grew through the socks. I imagine that any plant along the bucket system can grow through the cup and block the buckets downstream from getting water.

I have invested so much time and money (not a lot of money but money nonetheless) into this system. Giving up is not an option I have to use the system a least for a few years. Also, I have already drilled holes an bought grommets to make the system work with tubing so I can't change everything without getting new buckets. That's too wasteful. I need solutions that will work with the set-up I have now. Is that too much to ask? Idk. It may be, but I'm hoping that someone on here has some practical advice and that next year I'll have the most productive and ecologically efficient garden in the Northwest. Haha. Jk.

Thank you.

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gjshawk(6)

Use garden or weed matting, I'm not sure what it's called, to stop the roots from going down into the water. You can line the wick cups or the bottom of the planter. Also, you might need a larger air space between the water and the planter; I'm not sure what you have now. My tomatoes in grow boxes have sent roots down into the water reservoir, but that isn't hurting them any. I can see how they would clog up the system though.

I'm planning on something similar next year. Thanks for sharing your experiences. I'm looking into the rain gutter method.

Grant

    Bookmark   August 12, 2013 at 4:50PM
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eeaieeaioh(6a)

Excellent suggestion Grant. Thank you!

I do have about a two inch air space between the water level and the planter. There is about 3 inches of water in the reservoir but I realized I could do with much less. As long as there is standing water that can be absorbed and wicked (regardless of how deep) then it should work. This may help help with the water logged soil problem I'm having too. Lower water level lower wicking potential, does that sound right? I have no clue. I'm just trying to be smart. Haha. When I set up this system I was worried that there wouldn't be enough water but I've learned it only takes a little bit of water supplied consistently.

This is gonna work. I just know it!!

Thanks again

    Bookmark   August 13, 2013 at 2:09PM
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