Drip Emmiters for Gritty Mix - Any advice?

kernul1September 10, 2011

Hey guys,

I'm in the process of adding in a drip irrigation system to water all of my gritty mix containers. I think a few people are doing this and wanted to get advice on what type of emitters/setup you used for the containers.

As I understand it the gritty mix is a very fast soil medium and as such the water will not spread laterally as much. For those that are using drip irrigation what combination of emitters are you using?

- Drip emitters?

- Micro sprayers?

- Miro sprinklers?

- Foggers?

I'm thinking about using a 1/4" drip line with inline emitters spaced 6" apart that would circle around the container in a tornado/hurricane shape. It would have about 8 emitters for a 18" pot.

My other idea was to use a micro spinkler which I think would give better coverage. Just drying to avoid dry spots as I tend to really pack in my containers.

Thanks in advance for any advice!



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Drip emitters make a cone shaped pattern of moisture, the width of the cone dependent on the size of particles in the mix. You can set up a pot with just the mix you are using and a single emitter that will allow you to map the cone. I made a wooden box one foot cube with one side plexiglass so I could try different mixes. For my test I plug a emitter into a one gallon plastic milk jug. My gritty mixes I water by hand with a breaker to flood the mix. Let us know what you eventually use on yours. Al

    Bookmark   September 11, 2011 at 9:27AM
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My advice, Don't use emitters in a gritty mix.

I had 2 18 gallon tubs with gritty mix and 12 6" spaced emitters (in a spiral pattern). Didn't work well at all. One tub I redid and added 50% peat 3/4 of the way through the season.
The other tub (of peppers) are doing very poorly (partly b/c I totally gave up on them and haven't fertilized regularly).

Personally, I don't think microspayers, microsprinklers, or foggers will work well. The water will probably just find a certain path down the mix and not wet it entirely. But I have not tried this. Quick flooding with hand watering seems to be the best way.

Let us know what you try and the results. This is something I really want(ed) to do successfully. Right now I'm resigned to adding peat (or mud) to my mixes, just so I can keep automatic drip watering.

The other issue you'll have is fertilizing. For peppers & eggplants, heavy feeders, they seem to need constant fertilization in a gritty mix. Partly because with the drip system, you can't precisely control the amount of water drainage. So typically you get a fair amount of drainage with every watering, this will flush/waste a lot of the fertilizer. So the water will be flushing out under each emitter, but there will still be dry spots.

I would fertilize with FP right after the daily automatic watering so as to minimize the fertilizer flushing. With this system fertilizing every week or two was not enough.
Twice every week seemed to be what was needed.
But if you need to fertilize by hand twice a week, whats the point of having automatic watering? Ultimately I added CRFs, but even with these, I need to add FP about once a week to keep the pepper leaves green.

This is somewhat of a rant, but I had had such high expectations for my "automatic watering" & well-drained mix this year.

    Bookmark   September 11, 2011 at 6:20PM
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howelbama(7 NJ)

I would think microsprayers in a down pattern would be your best bet. Something that can be arranged to evenly saturate the entire surface of thr container rather than just dripping in multiple spots throughout the container.

    Bookmark   September 11, 2011 at 7:32PM
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You might try a product by Netafim called 'spray sticks', widely used by commercial nurseries on their 5 to 15 gallon containers. Most of us refer to them as 'spitters'. They connect by 1/8 inch tubing to the 1/2 inch distribution tubing and are a plastic stick about 6 inches long that is pushed into the mix. They spray or spit a stream of water right at mix level so its easy to tell when one gets plugged by simply walking by it. Several outputs are available, and I get mine from Harmony Farm Supply at www.harmonyfarm.com

    Bookmark   September 12, 2011 at 9:45AM
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Last summer I set up a Raindrip system for my deck containers to keep them alive while I went off camping in Yosemite. Some of my containers had gritty mix, and some had grower's mix. Everything did great during the summer and fall.

I mainly used adjustable full circle spray bubblers on stakes (plus a couple half-circle spray bubblers that came in the kit). For a rose bush in 20" terracotta pot in gritty mix, I think I used 2 stakes adjusted to full stream. For smaller pots with grower's mix, I adjusted the output of one bubbler down. I set the timer to water for 7 minutes every morning. I fertilized by hand every week or two.

During the winter, I got very sick for a couple months and paid no attention to the plants, so they continued to get Raindrip-watered for 7 minutes while temperatures dropped into the 50s and even on days we were flooded with downpours of rain. After months of so much water and cool temps, in the spring some of the plants weren't doing so well. I turned off the system and waited for the mixes to dry out...and waited...and waited...Temps stayed very cool this year in the spring and early summer. I thought even my gritty mix was never going to dry out.

I really think the plants do better watered by the long, gentle sprinkle of the spray emitters compared to the hose wand. Plus, I am a very lazy gardener, so I love the auto-watering. What I would like to try next is to add some CRF to some of the pots, maybe the roses and citrus which seem to be heavy feeders. This still won't address the pH of the water (mine is high pH), but my manual adjustments with vinegar haven't worked well either.

So overall I still have adjustments to work on, but I love the emitter system because it saves LOADS of time, and all my plants, pots, and mixes did great with it during the summer.

    Bookmark   September 12, 2011 at 10:21AM
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Thanks for all the great advice guys. I ordered ton of different emitters/sprayers/sprinklers/foggers and even the spray sticks that Al mentioned.

I tried them all out and I think the microsprayers are going to work best. I'm basically going to try using 2-3 360 microsprayers per container.

In my testing these worked real well as it had the best overall coverage. Once I get everything setup I'll post some pics and give an update on how it is working out.

I also installed a dosamatic fertilizer injector for the FP which should dramatically simplify things. I'm debating though if I can add FP and vinegar to the same holding container or if the mixture will go bad or something.

Anyone have experience with this?



    Bookmark   September 14, 2011 at 6:57PM
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howelbama(7 NJ)

Not sure about the fp and vinegar in the same unit, but just an fyi the fp on its own will lower the pH of your water. You may want to check the pH of your feed water with the fp in it and see if that alone is in your desired range.

    Bookmark   September 14, 2011 at 10:19PM
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I set up a drip system this year and used 1/4" drip line with emitters spaced 9" - as you suggested wrapped around the pot. I'm not sure off hand how many emitters per pot (my pot sizes varied, but I was using a variation on the gritty mix) but I tried to circle the pot once with little overlap. I also had an EZ-Flo injector in-line and the whole deal was timed to water twice a day for 10 minutes each time. I had no issues all summer - even during our three weeks of 95 deg. + in July. Best pepper crop I've ever had.

    Bookmark   September 15, 2011 at 12:05PM
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I'd recommend against combining fp and vinegar for any significant length of time. I'm not sure exactly what happened to mine, but after several months of the solution sitting (in sun in a clear bottle), it looks like some part of the solution precipitated out and now rests on the bottom of the jar, apparently stuck there. I'm reasonably sure the color of the diluted solution became less green as well.

It's possible this was actually due to the tap water I'm using (precipitation could be salts from acid + base reaction), but it's hard to say without more chemistry knowledge/equipment.

I'm willing to bet you'd be fine if you were cycling the solution out regularly though, as none of my plants have had any apparent nutrient deficiencies in the mean time before I noticed this effect.

    Bookmark   October 1, 2011 at 1:12AM
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I think it is a poor practice to mix any fertilizer/pesticide before I am ready to use it. Once mixed I plan on using it up in the next few days. A fertilizer exposed to the light will also grow algae which will tend to plug up any sprayer. Many combinations will form crystals which will be in the bottom of the container and be impossible to mix back into the solution. Al

    Bookmark   October 2, 2011 at 1:56PM
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Thanks guys. Appreciate all the input on this thread. Very valuable!

    Bookmark   October 3, 2011 at 11:42AM
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Just to confirm what calistoga said and follow up on my previous post, there were indeed tiny green crystals along with other sediments in the bottom of my jar of vinegar+FP. Finally got out the microscope and took a closer look.

    Bookmark   October 12, 2011 at 2:57PM
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