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Self-regulating capillary mat watering (with budgie waterer)

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Vinlander:


It's worth looking at this photo in Allotments 4 All Gallery User Galleries Vinlander Capillary watering - Indoor capillary system - because the description contains how to make it and I don't know how to link it into the post. The close-up is also in the gallery.

I prefer this watering method because it is easy to make and it is low-tech throughout - almost no maintenance - almost nothing to go wrong - even in hard water areas. It is also cheap - though good capillary mat is worth buying and will last a lifetime - even so, you can buy 10x more mat than you'll ever need for the price of a high tech pump and solar cell (that comes with 10x as many failure modes).

I mostly use capillary matting on platforms sitting in troughs because I want to get the maximum light to the maximum number of seedlings.

You can see the space for a second 5L bottle, and how the mat is covered by non-woven black 'weed suppressor' - you can also see it doesn't completely stop moss & algae!   This mat system extends over and down the gaps along the the long sides of the platform so you can't really see that it dips in the water the full length of the trough.

The big plant is a 'Tahiti Lime' that survives very well with just a 'frost-stat' keeping it at 3-4C all winter - mainly because the mat system works on-demand - so it is never too dry or too wet. Citrus hate both extremes. Capillary even helps take water OUT of the pot if you've watered/fertilised from above (worth doing very occasionally when Spring approaches and demand rockets). My attrition rate for Citrus has dropped about 90% since I started using capillary. NB. Thick clay pots don't make good contact on their own - best to have some capillary straps with one end bedded in the compost up through the holes and the other end resting on the main mat.

I will cover the budgie waterer in the next post. And then maybe the outdoor system.

I also need to do some revision on how you link photo descriptions into a post! I suppose I could just copy it into the text...  Here it is:

Description: This is made from two thin T&G planks screwed through their bottom edge to either side of a heavier base plank, with a stub of 4x2 to close off each end - making a trough about 8cm deep lined with damp-proof membrane. The mat is on a platform made of real and/or artificial slates over supporting offcuts of paving slab (anything rotproof will do), making it about 1cm below the trough edge. The base plank was chosen to match the slates' width.

Cheers.

Vinlander:
Here is the 5L budgie waterer holding 5kg of water above the clear 'trough' despite the hole clearly visible through the screwcap.



Description: Hopefully you can see the air space in the top of the 5L bottle showing that it is 90% full of water, with nothing coming out of the hole in the screwcap (until the level in the trough falls).

Here is a close up showing the water level - you can see that the water stopped coming out when the level in the trough covered the top of the upper hole (there is a lower hole in the other side of the cap).



Description: The bottle continues to hold all its water above the water level in the 'trough', but soon as the water in the trough is taken by plants the falling level will expose the upper hole to the air. It will immediately draw in air while releasing water from the other lower hole in the other side of the cap - and pushing the level back up. It's a demand-valve for water.

Here is a close-up showing 2 rusty nails through the 2 holes in the cap (each shows where the drill went right through the cap and the screw neck on that side but doesn't come out the other side of the cap).



Description: Note that one hole goes close to the top of the cap and the other goes close to the free edge of the cap. The height difference is crucial.

Keeping both holes within the cap makes it easier to hold them shut with finger & thumb when inverting a full bottle.

galina:
I use the good old Geoff Hamilton self watering table system.  Where would we be without it!  I have described it a couple of years ago:
http://www.allotments4all.co.uk/smf/index.php/topic,78443.msg794247.html#msg794247
Mine differs very slightly from yours Vinlander in that my bottle is open and rests on two pieces of wood with the opening an inch off the bottom of the tray.  A 5 gallon bottle lasts for 14 days or more, but at least for 10 if it is very hot. 

Have added a photo - apologies for all the algae, the bottle doesn't look very nice at the moment  :BangHead:

Vinlander:

--- Quote from: galina on March 20, 2016, 17:35:21 ---Mine differs very slightly from yours Vinlander in that my bottle is open and rests on two pieces of wood with the opening an inch off the bottom of the tray.  A 5 gallon bottle lasts for 14 days or more, but at least for 10 if it is very hot. 

--- End quote ---

Does "my bottle is open" mean that it is open above & below? so does that mean it is drip feed rather than on-demand?

Cheers.

galina:

--- Quote from: Vinlander on March 21, 2016, 08:54:34 ---
--- Quote from: galina on March 20, 2016, 17:35:21 ---Mine differs very slightly from yours Vinlander in that my bottle is open and rests on two pieces of wood with the opening an inch off the bottom of the tray.  A 5 gallon bottle lasts for 14 days or more, but at least for 10 if it is very hot. 

--- End quote ---

Does "my bottle is open" mean that it is open above & below? so does that mean it is drip feed rather than on-demand?

Cheers.

--- End quote ---
It is 'on demand':

I place the full bottle inside the tray onto the wooden blocks, with the stopper fully closed (it is very difficult to handle the heavy bottle with one hand over the neck to stop water gushing out when I invert it into the tray).  Then I unscrew the stopper in situ (there is just room enough to get my fingers in) until water can glug out of the bottle into the tray.  Doesn't have to be fully unscrewed.  There is no other opening in the bottle just the neck or water would flow continuously. The bottle is a standard camping water bottle or catering oil bottle with no modification. 

The water flow stops when the level in the tray rises above the neck of the bottle.  The 'tongue' in the capillary matting reaches to the bottom of the watering tray and takes up water on demand and transports it to plants on the table.  Capillary matting can transport water up to 4 inches to bridge the difference in height, and the drop from the table to the bottom of the gravel tray is less than 4 inches. 

When the plants use water and the water level inside the gravel tray falls to below the neck of the inverted bottle, air can get to the neck of the bottle.  This  causes another 'glug' of water to be released until no more air can get to the neck of the bottle, because it is now fully under water again.  No further air stops the water flow.  So it is an 'on demand' system rather than a dripper system.  During spring and autumn one bottle lasts two weeks and more, during the heat of summer the 5 gallons in the bottle only last 10 days.  :wave:

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