Greenhouse Watering Systems
When we built our DIY Greenhouse, we anticipated many hours and days of pleasure, enjoying in planting, seeding and harvesting our favorite plants and vegetables. Like most, we underestimated how much work it takes to keep plants alive and thriving. Just watering the plants during the warmer months can take hours, as most plants need to be watered twice a day. Not too many people can afford to devote that much time to their greenhouse. Fortunately, there are all sorts of timesaving devices available to a DIYer. One of the most important and most valued of those is an automatic watering system.
The type of watering system you should install in your greenhouse depends primarily on the kind, and number of plants you plan to grow. The next important consideration is, as always, the budget.
Saving Time and Improving Growth
The concept behind automatic watering system is simple enough; the plants will get all the water they need without you being there to take care of them. Just how automatic you want this process to be is up to you and your budget.
Some people prefer to monitor each plant as it grows, and the best time to do it is during daily watering chores. That is the time to check plants for aphids, common greenhouse pests, or any other plant problems. But, experience shows that good watering system may improve your plant’s growth by up to 70% as they will routinely receive their “life blood”. Life can tend to get in the way, and it is easy to forget, or simply not have the time to properly water the plants.
Drip Irrigation Systems
Drip irrigation for watering systems is by far the most popular type for greenhouses. Water is delivered to plants directly to the roots, through a system of pipes and nozzles imbedded in each pot, growing bed or tray. The system is extremely efficient as no water gets wasted and nothing besides plants gets wet.
Drip irrigation pipes can be laid on the soil level, throughout the greenhouse, or they can hang over the plant’s soil and release water to each pot by gravity.
Some drip irrigation systems are connected to the garden hose or a home’s water supply. Others have separate containers filled with water, which can be sufficient for one pot, or for an entire line of plants. It is up to you to make sure that the container is filled regularly. If you are particularly eco friendly, you may be able to set up a cistern system where rainwater is collected off your greenhouse’s roof and collected into rain barrels.
Most drip irrigation systems are automated by using a timer, which regulates intervals at which the plants will be watered. You can also control the pressure of the water, adjusting it accordingly for how much water your plants need for proper growth. It may take you some time to get the settings “just right”. Avoid overwatering as this may hurt or kill your plants.
More modern automatic systems use water sensors, which detect how dry the soil is and whether the plants need more water or not. They can even be programmed to sense the needs of each individual plant they are connected to. This is not as complicated or expensive as you might think, but the fact is that there is a computer involved in the system, while extremely efficient and effective, requires some degree of technical knowledge.
When you purchase your drip irrigation system, you can start small, just the number of drip points for the pots or trays you have, and easily add more “taps” when your needs or number of plants increases. With the exception of an electronic system, drip irrigation is easy to install and can come in a kit that includes all you need.
Misting Irrigation Systems
Misting irrigation systems work to imitate rain by providing water to plants in light or coarse mist, similar to what they get in nature. Misting systems are best installed about six feet above the ground, below the greenhouse roof. Its disadvantage is that it makes not only plants wet, but everything else inside your space, including benches, your gardening gloves and the greenhouse floor. One great advantage is that the mist also adds humidity to the greenhouse and also provides a cooling effect. Misting systems can also be automated with a sensor that regulates intervals between watering.
Capillary Matting is a system that is based on the principle of osmosis – special mats, placed below pots and trays are soaked in water. Soil absorbs the water by osmosis, delivering it to plant roots. Mats can be kept wet or by hand, or can be connected to a container attached to the bench or greenhouse wall.
Although not automatic, capillary mats are very efficient way of watering plants. Mats are made of thick cotton/polyester fabric that is highly absorbing. If you are using a water reservoir to replenish water in your mats, make sure that it is hanging about four inches below the soil level, otherwise the water will flow constantly, over-watering the mat and your plants.
Any of the mentioned watering systems can also be used to deliver fertilizer to plants at regular intervals with very few changes.
Drip irrigation system is by far the most commonly used system for greenhouse watering because its of its versatility, ease of installation and water saving. Even if you do not want to completely automate watering of your plants and prefer to stick to a simple timer, drip irrigation will save you a lot of time, will provide your plants with all the water they need, and your DIY Greenhouse will not have catastrophic consequences if you have to go on a sudden trip and are unable to water your plants.