Capillary Watering - anyone used this out in the greenhouse?

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#1
Hello,
I am new here. As you can see by my handle I am up in Canada in a 6a growing zone. I have three little greenhouses. One Palram 6x8 and two 6x4. I keep plants in them all summer long and in the spring crowd other seedlings in there which will later be planted out in the gardens. I do not run the greenhouses after December 1st or before about April fools.

I have been experimenting with using capillary matting for watering my indoor area plants in a 30 SF area and am greatly impressed. I already have low flow irrigation for my little greenhouses outside but was thinking of switching, this spring, some plants to using capillary irrigation. I realise that water containers would need to be screened to keep out mosquitoes etc but am curious if anyone else uses this method and can share their experience.

Has anyone here tried this outside?

many thanks
Lori
 

waretrop

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#2
Hi Lori, I have used this method to water my violets for years. I am not set up for it at the moment but will be in a few weeks. I use trays with mats on 2 levels that flow into each other. I don't even have to water when it is going correctly. My greenhouse has it's own watering system and I trickle one outlet into the top level every few days depending on the season.

Welcome to our green world.
 

MoonShadows

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#3
88.gif

Nice to have you with us Lori! I guess I have to get with it! I am still watering my seedlings with an old plastic soda bottle with holes punched into the cap and a watering can once they have a little bit more of growth. Nothing automated here....just yet.
 
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#5
Thank you @waretrop that would be nice to see.

@MoonShadows I read a lot about this type of watering and there are many studies that prove that the amount of water use is vastly decreased. Believe it was 71% - course that only works with pots. And pots are all I have in my greenhouses. :)

I'm going to test using some paper towelling on top of my indoor matting and placing my soil blocks on the towelling. If the roots don't poke through the toweling, I can really go to town with this!

I'm also trying to curb myself. I have a tendency to overwater and this type of system keeps me under control ;)
 

MoonShadows

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Thank you @waretrop that would be nice to see.

@MoonShadows I read a lot about this type of watering and there are many studies that prove that the amount of water use is vastly decreased. Believe it was 71% - course that only works with pots. And pots are all I have in my greenhouses. :)

I'm going to test using some paper towelling on top of my indoor matting and placing my soil blocks on the towelling. If the roots don't poke through the toweling, I can really go to town with this!

I'm also trying to curb myself. I have a tendency to overwater and this type of system keeps me under control ;)
I am not too concerned with the amount of water used by the plants. Perhaps I should be?
 
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#7
Well, yes. Throwing away water is not nice. Conservation is key to being good custodians of our immediate footprint. And I think gardeners are at the front line on all counts. We are the front line of oxygen producers... after Mother Nature that is.

Im not at all concerned with the needs of the various plants. They should have what they need to flourish. I'm talking about an easy way to stop dunces like me from torturing plants through near drownings and wasting water to boot. :)
 

MoonShadows

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#8
I guess my view is if it came from the earth and is returned to the earth, it's not wasteful...maybe a strange way of looking at it for other folks. I must look more into this capillary matting watering. Is the plant constantly sitting in water?
 
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#9
I'm not worried about the amount of water I use, just how much the plants make use of. I find that the matting has worked marvellously inside.

I've decided to test using it in one of the small greenhouses in the spring. If it works to my satisfaction in there, I'll expand it to the others.

My hanging plants will of course still be watered by the low flow system. This is a pic from long ago when I had bubble wrap - it is the only pic I have that clearly shows the present watering system and I don't believe I had it connected and running when I took this picture very early one spring.
GH Almost spring 2015 (6).JPG
 
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#11
I've tried it before, but never could get things just right. My mat would either dry out or it would be covered with mold depending on the amount of water I added. It's just hot and humid in my neck of the woods. I eventually went back to sprouting seeds in tiny pots, then transplanting as needed. You seem much more successful, CanadianLori. I'm glad you shared. I love reading first hand accounts about different growing practices.
 

waretrop

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First thing your mat can not get dirty or it will mold. I am trying to find my little matting system with overflows to show you. Maybe I can do that soon. Your mats should never never get near dry or they won't work without you watering the plant again. Your soil in the botton of the pot must stay wet along with the mat. That's how it works.
 
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#13
Ive been successfully using matting in my indoor set up. Was just wondering if anyone has tried it outside and how it worked out. I can see a little more water being used due to more evaporation? Or the mat drying too fast on a hot day? Or...
 
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#14
I was talking about outdoors. I've tried it both in my greenhouse and outside on the carport. I'm going to try again this spring to see if temperature makes a difference.
 

waretrop

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#16
mat system1a.jpg
Plastic plant trays or cheap metal roasting pans from the dollar store will work. mat system1.jpg

So you need to put a 3/16 hole in the corner about 1/4th inch from the floor of the tray. Now the hole in the corner should be exactly the same size as the airline tubing you will be using. I line them up tightly right in a row or double row. You can even have 2 shelves, one above the other.
mat system3a.jpg mat system4.jpg
If you heat it a little with a hair dryer it should straighten out. You need to cut some airline about 1 inch pieces then you will put these airline elbows in the end of the 1 inch pieces. Now you squeeze the tubing through the hole in the tray with the elbow being on the outside of the tray. It has to be a tight fit to work nicely, so careful how big your hole in the side of the tray is. It's like putting a wet sock on, getting it through the hole. So you can do this many different ways but this is the best way to tell you.
mat system2.jpg

I use felt from the yard good store. I cut it so it fills the floor of the tray, without folds or ripples. Now you have to attach some airline to the other end of the elbow and allow the correct length to run it to the trays below or to a bucket on the floor or just to run out onto the floor or ground. If you use 2 levels the upper level must feed into each of the lower level trays. Again use a blow dryer to get it to hand straight.

v2.jpg

So this is not set up like that yet but it will look like this when you are done. I put my tubing toward the back.

So when you first start the wicking mat, the mat must be saturated and have water standing over it just a little. Then your pot that you are putting in, can be round or square, just be really watered. Once you have that then your pots should stay wet all the time. any over watering will just run off to 1/4 inch from the floor of the tray.

If you manual water you need to leave a spot or empty pot where it is convient to water. If you have a watering system you will must need to leave a trickler on the upper level and it will take care of the whole deal. If set up right you can use this system for years.

I found a pic of my old trays. You can see some of the tubing.
next 021.jpg
I probably used this system for 15 years. cleaning the trays and matting once a year.
 
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#17
@waretrop that is really interesting. Thank you for sharing the pictures and the detailed explanation of the various components.

I've been using the capillary watering for dummies system. Just having a container of water slightly lower than the surface where larger matting and the plants sit then running a tongue of matting from the container up under the plant area. Inside so far, I've had to top up the container about every 36 hours. The water level can go down to 4 inches below the watering surface before the action stops.

I was thinking of doing this.
Making a "cradle" for a bladder or containers to sit in. Then adding tiles which will have matting on them along the top and running the tongue from the water source up to the tile matting surface. Of course with the containers being out in the greenhouse, I figured I'd have insect screen running along their surfaces to keep mosquitoes from using them for breeding grounds.

I thought I might use the low flow irrigation which I have in there already to fill the containers. Just maybe remove the little sprinkler heads so that the water runs faster. I'm leaning toward making a big bladder to lay in the cradle so that I have one massive reservoir. Was looking up how to notch wood for making the cradle. I believe I have a chisel downstairs and I do have my own circular saw so I might make my cradle that way. Also I have one rain barrel usually situated just outside the greenhouse and am thinking about adding a solar pump to run the water from the rain barrel to the bladder/containers when there is rainwater available. So, a continuous bladder would certainly look a lot wiser. I think...

Yes, I had bought the "real" capillary matting from Lee Valley but then experimented with some leftover fabric store felt I have and discovered it is just as efficient as the "real" deal at 1/4 the price!

Thanks again for taking the time to show and tell your great system. Was there any specific reason you stopped using it?
 

waretrop

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#19
Yes, I had 600 over 6 years ago but I let my greenhouse go for a few years. Now I am trying to get back what I lost, LOL, so to speak. I will be repoting, splitting, putting up more leaves and counting them soon. They are all named, sanctioned by the violet associations and I keep them in alphabetical order. Plants in one area and leaf starts in another area.