Growing with an irrigation system
As the description in the webshop indicates, this system offers you the opportunity to get acquainted with 3 different ways of growing with an irrigation system.
With a few simple interventions it can be used as drip irrigation, an ebb and flow or as a hydro system. In a youtube video we’ve made we demonstrate how easy it is to convert the system to another “modus operandi”.
Each mode has its own pros and cons and do’s and don’ts.
By testing and experimenting with the 3 in 1 systems in our showroom, we continuously gain new experiences. With these experiences we improve the system and we learn all kinds of tips & tricks that we want to share in this blog. Because it is an “ongoing process” it is wise to keep visiting this page regularly.
By turning the 8-arm manifold with the hoses and the drippers in the supply, the system becomes a drip irrigation system. The plug of the water pump is plugged into the timer that sets the number of waterings per 24 hours. The 2 effervescent stones of the air pump are placed inside the water tank and the air pump is plugged into the socket (no timer). When the water tank is filled with water and fertilizer, the nutrient solution now also receives the last important component for the plant,… oxygen.
The 8-armed manifold where the hoses with the droppers can be pushed on
A drip system is usually used for growing plants in pots with soil. So you could place 8 pots with plants in the small version of the 3 in 1 system. That seems a bit much for the 0.35 m2 growing surface. I would stick to a maximum of 4 plants and put 2 drippers per plant.
Growing plants in soil has many advantages. Compared to hydro growing, it is a much more natural way of growing. A good soil is a living thing that is brimming with enzymes, bacteria and other micro-organisms. These micro-organisms convert substances in the soil into nutrients that are important for the plant. These can be substances that are already present in the soil or that are added to the irrigation water.
When you use the system in hydro mode, the roots hang directly in the water and you administer the nutrients directly to the plant. So without the intervention of micro-organisms. In this case you are dependent on so-called mineral fertilizers. These are synthetic nutrients. Some find this a bad idea and for this reason prefer growing in soil.
In fact, almost every plant can be grown both hydroponically and on soil. For the plant you have chosen, it does not matter much whether you do this with a drip, ebb & flow or hydro system.
One of the great advantages of growing on soil is that soil has a good buffering effect against beginner mistakes. Fluctuating pH values, too much nutrition, too little nutrition, will have a less rapid and less severe impact on the development of the plant when grown on soil.
One of the biggest advantages I think is the simplicity. Today, powdered plant food is available on the market. In our webshop we sell Greenhouse Powder feeding. You do not mix this powder feed with the irrigation water, but sprinkle it over the soil once. So you don’t have to mix nutrients with water in the water tank. Dissolved nutrients often have a limited shelf life (max. 1 week). In addition, the nutrition in the water causes PH fluctuations, which can make certain essential nutritional elements inaccessible for a plant.
When using the the powder feed, you fill your water tank just with tap water. We don’t even acidify it. With every drip, nutrition seeps into the soil and all you have to do is keep the water tank filled with water.
Peppers with drip irrigation and Greenhouse Powder feeding……..,easy does it!
We have grown the peppers in the picture ourselves from seeds from a pepper from the supermarket. After the seeds have dried, we plant them in rock wool cubes, which we then place in a heated propagator.
As soon as the roots grow out of the cubes, they can be placed in the pots with soil. In this blog we use Guano Kalong soil. It’s quite an heavy fertilized soil. Because the young plants do not like this, we first plant them in wood fiber pots filled with lightly fertilized soil. When the roots grow through the wall of these wood fiber pots, we repot them to the 11 liter pots filled with Guano Kalong soil. The pepper plant can be planted in the soil including the wood fiber pot. The roots grow right through the wall and the pot will eventually perish in the soil.
As mentioned, the Guano Kalong soil is quite heavily fertilized. So I’ll wait a little longer before sprinkling the soil with Greenhouse Powder feeding. Also, I don’t set any watering in the time clock of the irrigation system yet. I switch on the pump manually once, until the soil feels reasonably moist. Now I don’t water anymore for the next few days (week). The soil will dry out, which will encourage the roots to grow faster in search of water.
The young plants are heated from below in a propagator and the lid ensures high humidity.
When the lid with the 5 plant holes is placed on the drip tray, the 3 in 1 system becomes a hydroponics system.
By switching on the pump permanently, a layer of water with nutrition is pumped into the drip tray. The overflow screwed into the drain of the system ensures that the tray does not overflow. The 8-arm manifold is screwed into the supply (the lead through connected to the pump). Not only does this provide extra circulation and oxygen uptake, but the manifold also functions as a safety valve. Should the power fail and the feed pump stops, not all of the water will flow back into the water tank underneath the table.
The drip tray of the 3 in 1 system
The lid with the 5 planting holes
On the left the 8-armed manifold in the supply and on the right the overflow in the return.
It is advisable to work with a higher water level in the drip tray at the beginning of the grow cycle. The most precarious phase of the cultivation is the moment when the roots start to grow out of the bottom of the net cups and have to make the “jump to the water” in the drip tray. Once the roots have reached the water, the PVC tube can be pulled out of the overflow. This lowers the water level in the drip tray by 1.5 cm.
When the roots have reached the water, the water level can be lowered by removing the PVC tube from the overflow.
View under the lid. The roots have reached the water. A good moment to lower the water level.
When using the 3 in 1 system as a drip or ebb & flow system, the small air stones are placed inside the water tank underneath the table. When using the system in hydro mode, the two taller air stones should be placed directly into the drip tray. This administers oxygen directly to the roots of the plant and will lead to an explosive increase in biomass.
In addition, this helps the plants through the difficult phase of the jump to the water. The rising air bubbles splash water against the underside of the net cups. As a result, the roots that grow from the bottom of the net cups do not dry out before they have reached the water.
The two 30cm long air stones must be placed in the drip tray when used in hydro mode.
The position of the air stones in relation to the planting holes.
The pump may be pumping water into the drip tray faster than it can run out through the overflow. In this case you can tune the supply with the tap under the drip tray. Just until there’s a nice quiet supply and discharge of water.
As you might have seen in the youtube film, the plants are placed in the “net cups” which are then filled with hydro granules. It is important that you choose a coarse hydro grain so that it does not fall through the mesh of the net cup. The granules could end up in the return line and clog it. You can guess the result.
You could stretch a piece of pantyhose or something else that acts like a sieve over the overflow just to be safe.
The granules must be washed carefully before they can be used. We also let them soak overnight so that they are full of water (ordinary tap water).
After the plants have been placed in the system, the most crucial phase begins. The phase in which the roots of the plants have to make the jump from the bottom of the net cup to the water in the drip tray.
If all goes well and your plants continue to grow well, they will soon need support. When they grow in pots with soil, you can simply stick a plant stick in the ground next to the plant and tie it to it. This is more difficult when the system is used in hydro mode. The most simple, efficient and cheapest way is to use a plant net. You can attach these to hooks that you screw into the aluminum profiles of the cabinet, as shown in the photo.
It is wise to hang the net immediately at the start of the cultivation. Depending on the type of plants you are going to grow, you determine the height at which the net should be hung. Your plants can grow through the net instead of the net having to be pulled over the plants, which often causes damage to your plants.
Moreover, a net has the advantage that you can easily attach side branches to it.
The net or other support is especially important when growing fruit-bearing plants. Without it, as the weight of the fruits increases, the plants will cling to each other and eventually topple over.
Chili peppers in the 3 in 1 system. The plant net will prevent the plants from falling over when peppers grow on it.
After about 3 months there are still 3 plants in the system. These completely fill the cabinet and produce a continuous flow of peppers.