Trial: Wick-irrigation systems for growing vegesThis is a trial - trying to see what works (and what does not)
I am trialing a gardening system. It is for people with injured knees or sore back. Those who cannot bend as well as they used to be able to. It is also for busy city folk who have little time or limited space for a garden. This system is for those who need to leave their garden for five days to go on a trip or to hospital.
This is what I up to so far.
Next, it must be mostly self-watering. I have decided to explore watering by capillary action. In my capillary action trial, the water travels along inside a rope to the plant.
I’m conducting my trial system on our deck because I like the view while I work.
It gets really hot on the deck and the plants need to self-water.
Capillary action draws water up the rope. I decided to focus my trial efforts using a water supply in adjacent reservoirs (in this case, used plastic containers).
I trialed some cheap nylon rope to see if water moved through it. It worked perfectly so I did not test out other ropes.
I recommend using non-rotting fiber such as synthetic yarn, acrylic or nylon venitian blind cord, or strips of nylon stocking.
Capillary action pumps the water.
Do not be concerned about the height of the water. The wick will enable the water to travel upwards and down wards. Heights do not matter. It is drawn by capillary action, not a siphon or gravity.
I discovered I can water two plants from each milk bottle. Two wicks from each bottle.
I’ve learnt that plants can be watered by a water bottle buried next to them. The wick can come out the top of the bottle and across to the plant.
A loose weave rope draws more water.
If my plant needs more water, I can double it by using two wicks. This doubles the flow and quantity.
The wick must be long enough to reach the bottom of the reservoir.
I have also learned to soak the wick in a little detergent water first. The detergent acts as a wetting agent and increases capillary action.
Nutrients can travel to the plant up the cord. I have yet to learn if this will block the cord later on. Tell me if you know.
I fill the reservoir through the large top hole. I’m experimenting with a small side hole close to the top for the wick to see if this will make filling easier.
I learned more here.
How we made this simple system
You will need:
- Used flute-board
- Old milk container
- Nylon rope
- A nail
* Thanks to Simeon, my 17 year old son, for demonstrating how to make it.
Measure your rope.
It must reach the bottom of the bottle, exit the top of the bottle then be long enough to reach deep into the potting mix around your plant.
Cut your flute-board into several strips.
Height = taller than your bottle.
Width = just wide enough to fit into your bottle.
Dismantle it. Pull out the nail. Remove the flute-board.
Next you want the above configuration with two wicks (rope lengths) in the slit. As follows:
Re-insert the lock-nail.
Now both wicks reach the bottom of the bottle. They cannot curl upwards.
3 days later…
This was unexpected. I thought the flow would be too small. However, it flowed out at 300 ml over 2 days. That’s 150 ml per plant per day. This is too much water for the little seedlings. They require about 80 ml per day. So I have to throttle back the flow somehow.
Next day …
This is how I will try to reduce the flow. I could use a thinner woven cord which would be more constant in resultant flow. This is really cheap rope from The Clearance Shed at The Base.
I chose to bind the wick with something to reduce the flow a little. Results to plants may vary. Perhaps it will stop it altogether. Not the best of ideas. Still, I’ll see how this goes.
A day later…
I accidentally pushed one nail too low. Instead of exiting the bottle the point entered into the handle cavity. This is much improved as there is no sharp protruding nail to scratch myself on.
I will do this from now on!
One week later …
Overwatering. My plants are getting too much water.
I am going to change the system so it waters from below.
The wick needs to enter from the base.
Currently I think this needs to be even simpler. To use less materials.
The basic wicking system might be able to be made with hose. Water, under very low pressure, flows up the hose past each planter bag. The wicks can run from the hose and up into each planter bag from the base.
Could a rubber seal around the wick prevent water leaking from the hose. Foam rubber stuffed in the hole around each wick.
Any ideas anyone?
Water flow height control
It has not worked out perfectly. Some plants preferred less constant water. Some developed root rot. It is a partial solution. Good for short term. This still needs more work to be a success.