Air

A water wand with a breaker head mixes air with irrigation water just before applying.

A water wand with an air breaker head oxygenates water and splits it into many streams.
Use a filter with drip systems!
Spaghetti tubing is anchored in the

growing medium with a spike. A stream of nutrient solution Hows out the tubing and percolates down through the growing medium.

(40-100 L) of water per week. Water weighs eight pounds a gallon (1 kg per L). That's a lot of containers to fill, lift, and spill. Carrying water in containers from the bathroom sink to the garden is okay when plants are small, but when they are large, it is a big, sloppy, regular job. Running a hose into the garden saves much labor and mess. A lightweight, half-inch hose is easy to handle and is less likely to damage the plants. If the water source has hot and cold water running out of the same tap, and it is equipped with threads, attach a hose and irrigate with tepid water. Use a dishwasher coupling if the faucet has no threads. The hose should have an on/off valve at the outlet, so water flow can be controlled while watering. A rigid water wand will save many broken branches while leaning over to water in tight quarters. Buy a water wand at the nursery or construct one from plastic PVC pipe. Do not leave water under pressure in the hose for more than a few minutes. Garden hoses are designed to transport water, not hold it under pressure, which may cause it to rupture.

To make a siphon or gravity-fed water system, place a barrel, at least four feet high, in the g'ow room. Make sure it has a lid to reduce the evaporation arid the humidity. If the grow room is too small for the barrel, move it to another room. The attic is a good place because it promotes good pressure. Place a siphon hose in the top cf the tank, or install a PVC on/off valve near the bottom of the barrel. It is easy to walk off and let the barrel overflow. An inexpensive device that measures the gallons of water added to the barrel is available at most hardware stores. You can also install a float valve in the barrel to meter out the water and retain a constant supply.

Drip systems deliver nutrient solution one drop at a time or in low volume, via a low-pressure plastic pipe with friction fittings. Water flows down the pipe and out the emitter one drop at a time or at a very slow rate. The emitters that are attached to the main hose are either spaghetti tubes or a nozzle dripper actually emitting from the main hose. Drip irrigation kits are available at garden stores and building centers. You can also construct your own drip system from component parts.

Drip systems offer several advantages. Once set up, drip systems lower watering maintenance. Fertilizer may also be injected into the irrigation system (fertigation); naturally, this facilitates fertilization but gives the same amount of water and nutrient to each plant. If setting up a drip system, make sure the growing medium drains freely to prevent soggy soil or salt buildup. If you are growing clones that are all the same age and size, a drip system would work very well. However, if you are growing many different varieties of plants, they may need different fertilizer regimens.

I interviewed several growers that loved the convenience and constant feeding-ability of their drip systems. All the growers irrigated (fertigated) with mild nutrient solution. They mixed the nutrient solution in a reservoir and pumped it through plastic feeder hoses. They also grew clones in smaller containers and kept root growth to a minimum by keeping the nutrients and the water in constant supply.

A drip system attached to a timer disperses nutrient solution at regular intervals. If using such a system, check the soil for water application daily. Check several pots daily to ensure they are watered evenly and that all the soil gets wet. Drip systems are very convenient and indispensable when you have to be away for a few days. However, do not leave a drip system on its own for more than four consecutive days, or you could return to a surprise!

Drip systems cost a few dollars to set up, but with the consistency they add to a garden, their expense is often paid off by a bountiful yield. Be careful! Such an automated system could promote negligence. Remember that gardens need daily care. If everything is automated, the garden still needs monitoring. All the vital signs: moisture, pH, ventilation, humidity, etc., still need to be checked and adjusted daily. Automation, when applied properly, adds consistency, uniformity, and usually a higher yield.

One indoor grower I met was out nf town for five consecutive days every week. He watered and fertilized his plants. He put containerized plants in a tray with 2-inch-tall (6 cm) sides and watered the plants from above until the tray was full of water. He left for five days, and the plants needed no watering while he was gone. He used regular potting soil and added about 10 percent perlite. His plants needed maintenance when he returned, but the plants grew quite well.

Growing Soilless

Growing Soilless

This is an easy-to-follow, step-by-step guide to growing organic, healthy vegetable, herbs and house plants without soil. Clearly illustrated with black and white line drawings, the book covers every aspect of home hydroponic gardening.

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