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lighting and watering ideas for indoor setups

Posted by greentoe357 7b NYC under lights (My Page) on
Sat, Apr 5, 14 at 2:38

I grow indoors on a multi-shelf plant stand (in addition to window sills), and I have some thoughts and questions about lighting and watering such setups. I posted in "Growing under Lights" (http://forums.gardenweb.com/forums/load/lights/msg0415562015139.html, please check it out and comment if you have suggestions), but some things are really specific to orchids, so I am putting those here.

I have a 2-bulb 4-foot fixture lighting up a 3x1 foot shelf underneath. Which orchid families is this light sufficient to reflower, and which ones I should'n bother getting? What about a 4-bulb fixture lighting the same area?

I've also been thinking about how to make watering orchids on such a setup relatively fast, easy, fool-proof and best for the plant's health. Because orchids need to be drenched at every watering, saucers easily overfill. Taking each plant to the sink takes a long time. I've found a compromise by giving plants multiple low-flow and stingy short showers from a soda bottle watering attachment I have, then waiting a few minutes after each sip, as others get their little showers. These wait times allow water to spread through the mix slowly without providing so much water that it will just overfill the saucer quickly without really wetting the medium thoroughly. That water sits under the roots. I find by next watering the water has not evaporated, so now as long as I am dumping that water into the sink, I might as well water the orchid in the sink. So this is how it turns out that I alternate watering in place and in the sink. What do you think and do you have other ideas?

I have not been using trays, but they sound like a good idea. You can water in place, water flows into a generous (hopefully) reservoir underneath the ridges to provide humidity and to evaporate by the next watering. What do you like or not like about keeping and watering plants on trays, right on their shelves? Which trays do you use and like? I think Perma Nest trays are overpriced at ~$8 a pop. Anybody use these $2.30 trays: http://www.amazon.com/Plant-Growing-Trays-Drain-Holes/dp/B0058PTK6M ? Just how bad/flimsy are they? Black color sort of makes me depressed.

With trays, how much of a problem is shared effluent when it comes to preventing the spread of parasites and diseases? My orchid collection is small and inexpensive, so I do not feel like I want/need to go to a great effort to isolate plants, but of course an infestation of anything will suck. How do you find the balance between your convenience and managing the risk?

And speaking of this risk - I've dunked multiple pots into a bowl of water to bottom-soak the mix. It soaks it up better and faster than top-watering, but it's gotta be such a great free trip for parasites between all my orchids that I stopped. Agreed? Or is anybody using bottom-watering?


Follow-Up Postings:

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RE: lighting and watering ideas for indoor setups

I built an elaborate watering set up for my late mother in her basement.The plants were on multiple levels similar to what you describe. Each level became a tray. A sheet of plastic for the bottom, the edge was a ring of 3/4" PVC pipe. Water tightness was achieved using silicon gel to seal the pipe to the floor. There was one 'T' (3/4" x 3/4" x 1/2") where the water could flow out. The half inch outflow is important as it raises the level of outflow and results in a residue of water. On top of the pipe sat the plastic light grid sold by HD (4' x 2').

The water would not drain completely leaving 1/2" residue after watering for humidity. All the various trays and shelves would drain into a 5 gallon bucket underneath. In there sat a sump pump which was activated as the water level rose and it pumped the accumulated water into a sink.

She could water as much as she liked, the water would drain and ended up in the sink at the same time leaving water in the trays for humidity. Worked well for her but there were some visible pipes. Since the light grid is not strong enough to support the plants, 3/4" pipes traversed every 6" to give the strength needed.

Having the Rube Goldberg gene helps in setting something like that up.

Nick


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RE: lighting and watering ideas for indoor setups

Thanks for sharing the details of this setup, Nick.

I am in a similar place with my window collection as Greentoe. Watering my collection thats way too much time, even with trays. I built my own trays with shallow rubber maid storage containers and eggcrate materials. I still find watering to be a pain. It does not help that I keep adding more orchids. I think the best thing for me would be to add drainage like Nick suggests. But I grow in windows and need to figure out where the water will go.

Greentoe - I am not 100% sure about your question related to disease/virus (i am guessing this is what you mean by parasites if not please correct me) transmission through shared watering. I have heard from hydroponic growers that shared watering is not a problem. I also have heard from some grower who are strongly against it. I don't purposely double water - water one plant with the water used in another. At the same time I dont panic if one plant drips on another.

Thoughts on creative watering solutions for window growers from other members? What about thoughts on shared watering?


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RE: lighting and watering ideas for indoor setups

Nick, that sounds like a great watering setup! Orchids are very different from most other plants in how they need to be watered (drench thoroughly with a lot of water needed, then let dry a bit or a lot) - which created all these challenges. Even other epiphytes like hoyas or bromeliads are not as complicated when it comes to watering because broms take water into the reservoirs and soil watering is less critical, and hoyas can be in a more water-retentive mix, and so they take more traditional watering with not a lot of overflow just fine.

> I think the best thing for me would be to add drainage like Nick suggests. But I grow in windows and need to figure out where the water will go.

Greencurls, I would look toward your air conditioning unit for that. In my building, a/c and heating is combined into this one built-into-the-wall unit, and there is a water tray right under the upward-facing vents. If I lead a tube out the plant tray, through the vents and into the a/c tray, then there's my drainage. It may never come to this though because my windows are relatively dark, and the fluorescent-lit light stand away from the windows (and from the a/c unit) is a much better place.

> Greentoe - I am not 100% sure about your question related to disease/virus (i am guessing this is what you mean by parasites if not please correct me) transmission through shared watering.

I meant anything harmful that can be passed through water - whatever orchids are affected by - root mealies, larvae of any pests, viruses if they get transmitted that way, whatever.

> Thoughts on creative watering solutions for window growers from other members?

I have several ideas that may be helpful.

(1) Dump the effluent out the window if safe and if there is no sink nearby.

(2) not only for the window sill - if watering on a tray, and if there is too much collected effluent, if removing all the plants is a pain, tilt the tray slightly to one side by putting something underneath the other side, take a thin hose or a flexible tube, hold one end of it submerged into the pooled effluent, the other pointed to a bucket under the tray. Take the bottom end, suck the air into your mouth forcefully (not kidding!), then quickly (and hopefully before you get a drink of what the orchids pissed out! haha) point the hose end into the bucket. With some practice, this is easy, and effluent will flow into the bucket and will stop once there is nothing more for the top end of the hose to suck away. There must exist some pumps to do this as well (auto-parts stores may have something, maybe to pump gas out of the tank?) But I just do it manually for now. I am getting a tray insert with holes in the bottom, so that you can lift that insert with all just-watered plants in it, dump the effluent out of the empty tray, then set the insert with the plants back till the next time.

(3) in order not to create too much effluent, water with wide but very gentle spray (use these: http://www.ebay.com/itm/5pcs-Plant-Watering-Attachment-For-Bottle-For-Soft-Drink-Bottle-/261211750842) rather than with narrow thick flow that a typical watering can creates.

(4) Water in several stingy steps rather than with one big gulp. Wet all the surface of the mix first, let it slowly percolate down and spread by contact between particles as you water other plants, then give the plant another small drink all over the surface (water still may not be flowing out the drain holes), then again and again after pauses of a few minuted as you make your watering rounds, till some water escapes through the drain holes. This wets the mix thoroughly but does not create a lot of effluent and saves the fertilizer solution as well.


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RE: lighting and watering ideas for indoor setups

I've been growing on an indoor cart and windowsills for 10-15 years. I have a 3 tiered cart, with 4 11"x22" trays sitting under each tier. When I water, I also carry a 5 gallon bucket and an @1 foot square piece of egg crate that can sit on top, and if the trays are too full, I water the orchid over the 5 gallon bucket. Dump the bucket when it gets close to full. It's been the easiest thing I figured out over the last few years. If I had auto-draining trays, I'd do something to try and keep 1/4" to 1/2" of water in the trays for the small amount of ambient humidity.

Sharing water is not good IMO.

Good luck,

Bob


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RE: lighting and watering ideas for indoor setups

I do the same as Bob and collect the water in a bucket. I use a pump sprayer to have control of the water flow and water each plant over the bucket. Where possible I put my finger on the drainage hole and fill the pot with water, hold for a few seconds and dump. I use the collected water for other house plants or in the garden.

Picking up every pot one by one takes some time, but it gives me a chance to look the plant over for growth or pests.


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RE: lighting and watering ideas for indoor setups

I take mine to the tub and spray with the shower head. It's quick, I haven't had any issues with rot, and I don't have hard water, so that's not an issue. The downside is that there is no real way to put fertilizer in, but I only fertilize during the summer anyway, when the plants get a watering can or rainwater anyway, so again, not an issue for me.

In the alternative,when my mother was plant sitting, she'd put them in an inch or 2 of water for a few hours and let them soak it up and then drain them off. That's only good if you have lots of moss in your mix to suck the water to the to though.


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RE: lighting and watering ideas for indoor setups

Here's what I do. Storage bins that are filled with pea gravel. I water in place. It catches the water well, never overflows and potential to raise humidity (I don't measure. I'm skeptical, but leave the possibility open that it does something since I put up reflective cardboard when I'm not watering).


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RE: lighting and watering ideas for indoor setups

  • Posted by arthurm Sydney, NSW AUST (My Page) on
    Thu, Apr 24, 14 at 2:05

There is a rule that there is never an empty orchid space, so those of us who have glasshouses and shadehouses have orchids above orchids above orchids so that water drips from orchids above to orchids below. Of course you will get bugs from time to time, so if you have the same situation indoors you have to be on the lookout for problems.

As far as indoors go. i have 12 Phalaenopsis that i cart to the kitchen sink a few times a week to water. That number is not really a problem.


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RE: lighting and watering ideas for indoor setups

this is from hoya forum, greenT.
am not sure if you've seen it - was a long time ago.
it's a neat drip system that can be used for orchids too.
and not hard to set up.
look towards the end for jul 22 post from mikedahms.
it certainly interested me, since my travels last a long time sometimes.

Here is a link that might be useful: indoor drip system


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RE: lighting and watering ideas for indoor setups

> i have 12 Phalaenopsis that i cart to the kitchen sink a few times a week to water. That number is not really a problem.

Ugh, you're a bigger man to your orchids than I am. I have 9 orchids in total, and I view watering in the sink a major pain - because I want to do it in steps, waiting for the mix to saturate, then water some more, wait again and water more, at least three times from different angles, to make sure there are no dry pockets. I do not mind the multi-step watering if I am making rounds around the plant stand or the window sills, but the sink capacity is way too small for all this waiting around.

Which reminds me - here is a setup that may be more efficient for sink watering.
2014-04-24 12.55.45

That is a dish rack, and in my case I also can put another to the other side of the sink, thus tripling the sink capacity. I've done this only a couple of times; hoping watering in place can work, but this is something to keep in mind as an option - which I am glad to share.

> this is from hoya forum, greenT. am not sure if you've seen it - was a long time ago.

I have not seen it, but it's amazing. Thanks for the link. I have mild control freak tendencies, so leaving on vacation would cause anxiety no matter whether I use something like this or not, but this should definitely be considered.


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RE: lighting and watering ideas for indoor setups

well, i train my willpower regularly: i usually go away after killing myself for 2 weeks to set it all up and then i am so pooped and tired of it all that i can't bear thinking about it until a few days before the return :).
why don't you just soak in solution for 10-15min? like in a shoe box? or some plastic tupperware? many or one. that's what i always done. it saturates the bark enough for 10 days, unless it's very hot. then you can just spritz lightly in-situ to keep top bark from totally drying up. it would save a lot of time. put a little peroxide in solution: 1tb per gallon - it won't hurt anything, but will disinfect the solution somewhat and increase oxygenation. so you can do sev in a show box quickly?


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RE: lighting and watering ideas for indoor setups

  • Posted by arthurm Sydney, NSW AUST (My Page) on
    Sat, Apr 26, 14 at 3:51

My apologies, there is a double sink in the kitchen!
Watering 12 Phals is easy with a bucket and a small watering can and I have enough room to let the plants drain before I cart them back to this room.
The main reason I posted was to try and get past the notion that you cannot have plants above plants.
The only reason the Phals are in the house is that you need a dedicated Phal. glass-house to grow them "outside here".
Extra Shading
Cooling in Summer + humidity controls
Warming in winter
=Expense

This post was edited by arthurm on Sat, Apr 26, 14 at 13:27


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RE: lighting and watering ideas for indoor setups

greenT,
i know you are running out of lights ;).
perhaps these octopus lamps in the living room can be a useful supplement.
jane is an experienced grower and they work for her.
some other people have been using them for citrus too.

Here is a link that might be useful: see lamps jane is using


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RE: lighting and watering ideas for indoor setups

> why don't you just soak in solution for 10-15min? like in a shoe box? or some plastic tupperware?

If I reuse the water (fertilizer solution really) from plant to plant, I am afraid of spreading bugs if they happen to be present in one plant. If I do not reuse the solution, then I'll be burning through my fertilizer at the speed of light. If I use one container, it's gonna take forever (10-15 min times the number of plants). If I use a big container for several plants, I need much more solution and then again the bug spreading concern is there. For all of these reasons, I do not do that - although I think soaking the bark like that is a really good thorough way to water. For those who soak pots like that, I'd love to hear what you think of the bug spreading and how you make it faster.

> My apologies, there is a double sink in the kitchen!

That helps, of course. Yesterday I just took the PermaNest tray with the plants down from the top shelf of the plant stand and watered right on the tray, on a table nearby. Then I did not drain the effluent (yeah, I'm a rebel! :-) ) and just put it back to evaporate slowly. I'll just try things and see practically what works best, I guess.

> i know you are running out of lights ;). perhaps these octopus lamps in the living room can be a useful supplement.

I don't like how they look, honestly. I am more of a plant stand kind of guy. But my windows are dark, and if the choice is not to use the windows at all or to supplement with the octopus lamps and be able to get more plants I like, then the octopus lamps may just win my heart.


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RE: lighting and watering ideas for indoor setups

I always let the water run through my plants and into my trays for a little added humidity???, once the trays get too full I then turn to watering over the bucket. I use a 1/2 gallon watering can for most things, mounties/bare-roots do get the pump sprayer treatment regularly.

Bob


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RE: lighting and watering ideas for indoor setups

greenT,
you'll still need to soak bark from time to time no matter what - otherwise it'll dry up too much and not re-wet, especially if it's new bark. may be once a mo? it can be just water, no fertilizer.
the link below has some interesting set-up with industrial lights and a cal. roseopicta that is just stunning - as a bonus:).

Here is a link that might be useful: some talk about watering bark


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RE: lighting and watering ideas for indoor setups

> you'll still need to soak bark from time to time no matter what - otherwise it'll dry up too much and not re-wet, especially if it's new bark.

I only have one orchid in pure bark, looks like Orchiata (*), the medium I bought it in. Most of the rest are in bark with some sphagnum and perlite mixed in, so that bark is getting (re)saturated from the moss all the time.

(*) By the way, it's hard to see when Orchiata is wet or drying out or dry. Any advice how to detect that?

I did not plan on soaking my pots, even those with pure bark (Orchiata manufacturer says not to soak, or you'll wash the dolomitic lime away), but I try to give all my plants a thorough shower every month or two - is that enough to re-hydrate the bark?

Great link, Petrushka!


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RE: lighting and watering ideas for indoor setups

IMO, the best way to tell if a pot with bark needs watered is by the weight. Some people use a wooden skewer in the pot and pull it out to test for moisture. With clear pots you can see the moisture on the inside walls of the pot.

Weight and experience works for me.

Good luck,

Bob


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RE: lighting and watering ideas for indoor setups

My finger works. I'm still not overly impressed with Orchiata. I do soak it despite what the company states.

Jane


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RE: lighting and watering ideas for indoor setups

orchiata bark:
i don't think you can truly hydrate coarse bark by just watering it to dampen sphag in it. overtime it will become bone dry and will completely shed water. unless you patiently douse it with a fine stream of water from pressure sprayer sev times over sev days - which takes quite some time. ..
not sure about shower - depends how leaves cover the surface of the bark, it's possible to shower leaves and not get much into bark...and the water will just pour thru like with reg. watering.
i did read posts about orchiata - saying it sheds water, hard to hydrate it.
if dolomitic lime is of such great importance - it can be sprinkled in top layer of bark from time to time - though usually it's mixed into medium. so i am not sure if light surface application is OK or not.

This post was edited by petrushka on Tue, May 6, 14 at 17:48


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RE: lighting and watering ideas for indoor setups

I don't get all this moaning and groaning about orchiata bark. If you want a chick magnet for the beach you get a Corvette, if you're taking 4 kids to soccer games a Suburban would be better.

Orchiata has become the bark of choice for many of us because it lasts a long time. It is hard and does not soak up water very well therefore one has to water more often. That's it in a nutshell. If you don't want to water more often don't get Orchiata bark.

Nick


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RE: lighting and watering ideas for indoor setups

does orchiata come in dif grades?
won't it depend on the grade? like the more coarse it is, the longer it takes to wet and the longer it lasts? and the more you need to water it?


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RE: lighting and watering ideas for indoor setups

I'm with Jane, I soak it overnight before use.
I buy mine pre-mixed with perlite, spagh, clay pellets and cork pieces. Been using it for 3-4 years, tried other stuff (cheaper and more $$$) , always come back to an Orchiata mix because it lasts and the 'kids seem to like it... It does come in different sizes.

Bob


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RE: lighting and watering ideas for indoor setups

> does orchiata come in dif grades?

Yes, it does, and of course you are right - finer bark holds moisture more.


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