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Automated irrigation or hand watering?

I have designed and deployed quite a few hydro systems, used many of the pre-built kits, but I always seem to go back to hand watering. When running a large facility, hand watering became quite a hindrance; but since returning to a small, boutique operation producing high-quality craft cannabis, I have also returned to hand watering. I find that when growing several cultivars with a limited plant count, staff and I are able to give full attention to each and every plant every day and provide each plant with specific nutritional requirements, pruning, pest and disease checks, etc. We also mix nutrients the day of watering or brew teas and use them immediately. This works for me, but it’s not for everyone, especially larger operations.

I know that hand-watering can be a pain (mostly in your lower back), but I also feel it has a place. What are the GNET @CAgrowopowners, @growopowners, @mastergrowers, @Caregivers thoughts on hand watering? Do you prefer automated irrigation? Why? Do you have a cool system you want to show off? We want to see it!

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Hand watering is a real pain. You can really manage it without spending a lot of hours.

A good compromise for small garden is to use stuff like the Blumat.

They are initially designed to help you saving water but this works really great and the plants really get what they want/need.

Basically you put a piece of ceramic into the soil and once this one get’s dry this absorbs the liquid into the ceramic piece and create a depression into it. This depression pull a membrane which unlock the water.
Once wet the depression is stopped and the membrane blocks again the water.

With that stuff your plant really get’s what she needs and this can be deadly efficient with a coco soil.

Cheers

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Nice! Thanks for that input! I know a lot of growers who have small grows who swear by the Blumat system. As a bonus, the Blumat box serves a cool way for English language speakers to learn some Austrian!

Cheers!

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All about those irrigation system :slight_smile: Not just because hand watering is a chore but I feel it necessary to utilize growth steering strategies and it is easier to control the Gift to Drain ratios with precision irrigation. Netafim has been a god send in that department. I’ve been doing irrigation since I was a teenager working on a commercial tree farm and I have yet to find better irrigation parts. We still hand water some stock coco plants that we don’t need to regulate growth on. Also watering Rockwool by hand is a trip and irrigation works better in the long run.

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For really small grows it doesn’t make much sense to spend a couple of thousand dollars on automation. I have used a 5 gallon bucket with some fittings to attach a hose and watering wand to and then let gravity do it’s thing. At least you don’t have to carry water to each plant that way. Much easier on the back.
For any commercial operation, hand watering is not only far more expensive than automation but leads to many more problems. I know of a tier 3 in WA that has dozens of employees that do nothing but hand water all day long. Not very cost effective when they could all easily be replaced by a simple injection system and drip irrigation. We run our entire facility off of 4 Dosatron injectors. There are 4 stock tanks and they get refilled about every three weeks. No one touches anything in between refills. The plants are always receiving exactly what they need and we don’t have to pay employees to walk around watering all day. The system pretty much paid for itself in the first month of operation and has saved hundreds of thousands of dollars in labor costs over the last few years.

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Hand watering is indeed a pain in your back. As well it eats your time relentlessly. Having said that I really do love it. Even before our transition to indoor and scaling down i would pick an area and once a week I would hand water that section. Like i said I do love it but it also gives a great opportunity for closer inspection and extra TLC

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I do both…
Obviously for large systems this can be a lot more work, I’m with you @Growernick, for boutique growers like myself, I find it keeps you honest and accountable with your system. . You just don’t want to think everything is ok. By being present, you get to really pay attention to your babies.

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i think a problem with many cannabis grow automated irrigation systems is that growers dont do things like set up lysimeters and soil conductivity sensors to get the same actionable feedback as one does when hand watering.

Hand watering is great cause it gets the growers out to every plant, picking up the pot, looking at the coco and the plant, etc. I feel like a lot of growers think of automated watering as a set it and forget it system when in fact it requires even more monitoring and attention, just in less time. With things like lysimeters, one could program the right amount of irrigation to different areas of the grow giving one the same “per plant basis” amount of irrigation that hand watering can do (in an ideal world). EC/moisture sensors can let you know when and in what way the plants dry out (top down, bottom up, sides to rootball) and/or help you determine the salt concentrations of the your media as the grow progresses. This could help the grower plan an ideal watering scheme with the right type of emitters for the media used or help plan watering and fertigation cycles to reduce waste and nutrient immobilization.

IMO, the future of commercial (not artisanal or boutique) production irrigation/fertigation is going to be automated. There is no reason why a system designed to emulate the necessary actions of whoever is in charge of watering wouldnt be designed for cannabis as there are already systems for other indoor crops. Besides the obvious savings in labor and overhead (after initial investment), automated systems also aggregate data so one could make conclusions about the water usages of particular plants, sections etcetc and optimize fertigation, ventilation, and nutrition. And automated systems are reliable. They arent going to miss that back section cause they were snapping or instagramming :slight_smile:
**edit i will note though that a huge disadvantage of making a complex irrigation system is trying to troubleshoot it when it doesnt work. that sucks. a lot. but the payoff is worth it imo

Lots of systems out on the market, would be great to see more being implemented. awesome topic!

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