What Is The Drip System?
The Drip system, also known as the Dutch bucket or bato bucket, is similar to the Deep Water Culture. However, the advantage of the Drip system is not having to fill the reservoir up as high with nutrient solution for the roots to reach. You can ultimately save on buying nutrients and limit water usage even further. This technique is used for larger, fruit-bearing crops and is especially popular among tomato vine growers.
Advantages of the drip system
These are taken from the Wikipedia page on drip irrigation. They're a bit more extensive than what we might need but I believe they sum it all up very well.
Fertilizer and nutrient loss is minimized due to the localized application and reduced leaching.
Water application efficiency is high if managed correctly.
Field leveling is not necessary.
Fields with irregular shapes are easily accommodated.
Recycled non-potable water can be safely used.
Moisture within the root zone can be maintained at field capacity.
Soil type plays a less important role in the frequency of irrigation.
Soil erosion is lessened.
Weed growth is lessened.
Water distribution is highly uniform, controlled by the output of each nozzle.
- Labor cost is less than other irrigation methods.
Variation in supply can be regulated by regulating the valves and drippers.
Fertigation can easily be included with minimal waste of fertilizers.
Foliage remains dry, reducing the risk of disease.
Usually operated at lower pressure than other types of pressurized irrigation, reducing energy costs.
The specifics of the Drip system are simple. The nutrient is pumped from the reservoir up through tubing to your plants, they're housed in individual buckets. The water and nutrients are distributed through drippers which are spaced evenly amongst of the buckets, it then filters through the growing medium and is absorbed via the roots. Excess water is collected in a run-off and is either directed back to the reservoir to be recycled once again or flows to waste. The former is called the recirculatory/recovery system and the latter is known as the non-rerecirculatory/non-recovery system.
The benefits of recycling your water are clear, you save money and it's more environmentally friendly, but it's trickier to maintain the correct balance of nutrients. During the life-cycle of your plants, their desire for certain ratios of essential nutrients changes. For instance, younger plants may require more nitrogen and fruiting crops may need higher concentrations of phosphorous.
This video is the best we've found for a step-by-step guide to creating your own drip system.
Everest uses a 30-gallon reservoir to store his nutrients, you don't have to use anything that big but you'll need to make sure there's enough volume to properly supply your plants. He's chosen the size he has because it'll work with the 2x4 feet grow tray his plant pots sit in. The larger the reservoir, the easier it is to maintain a balance in the nutrient concentrations. Any deviations from optimal concentrations must be a lot more to have a negative effect in large reservoirs compared to their smaller counterparts.
The reservoir must be underneath the grow tray to collect the run-off with help from that trustworthy thing we call gravity. Drill holes into the lowest point of your reservoir the same size as your tubing and place a drain filter into it. Note the great tip Everest gives - seal the hole with silicone sealant to avoid leakage.
The mainline tubing is thick and carries the nutrient solution until it reaches gaps and the flow diverts. After it's split, the flow is carried by thinner 1/8th of an inch dripline tubing (also known as spaghetti tubing) where it connects it to dripper stakes lodged into the growing medium. The flow must be evenly distributed so each plant can receive the same volume of nutrient solution and grow into their juiciest form. Create a ring of equal sized tubing in the middle of the grow tray and place the plant pots uniformly on the outside. To get the correct pump size, multiply the square feet of the grow tray by 20. Whatever this number comes out as you'll need a pump capable of moving at least this many gallons per hour (GPH).
Between the reservoir and the mainline tubing, Everest uses rigid piping to withstand the wear-and-tear of life as a high-pressure hydroponics system. As the water enters the ring, a T-piece directs it left and right before meeting the mainline tubing and running the length of the grow tray. The pressure's equalized when received by each plant, ensuring the same amount of nutrients are delivered.
Purchase a tool to puncture the mainline tubing, this'll allow you to insert a small plastic adaptor into it - one end is single-barbed, the other is double-barbed. Push the single-barb into the mainline tubing and then the sections of drip line tubing of the same lengths over the double-barbed end of the adaptor. Lastly, push the dripper stakes over the drip line tubing, push the stakes deep into the medium to prevent them coming loose, and you're good to go.
The number of times a day you'll set your timer to initiate the water pump depends on the medium you decide to grow your plants in. The more aerated the mixture, the more you can water the plants. For example, a material such as Rockwool may only need to be top-fed once every eight hours to keep it damp, whereas expanded clay balls will need near-continuous watering as they don't store any moisture for later. Each drip hydroponics system is different: the size of the system, the species grown, and the way your grow room operates including its relative humidity. All of these things must be taken into consideration and your approach adapted as the variables change.
If you want to know the total output of your system, measure the volume of water released by one dripper stake over 60 seconds and multiply that by the number of dripper stakes supplying all of your plants. Everest suggests turning the dripper on one hour after the lights first come on.
To complete the Drip System build, you'll also need a water pump, tubing, and valves. Let's not forget the buckets, a drill, net pots, growing medium, and plants.
It makes sense to add an airstone to oxygenate the nutrient solution which is then absorbed by the root system so the plants don’t suffocate. This shouldn't be a necessity though, your roots will have access to the air pockets within the growing medium.
The nutrient solution is dispersed amongst the plants from above through drip lines and onto their leaves or stem. Alternatively, dripper stakes are placed directly into the growing medium, a technique which benefits from avoiding surface evaporation. The solution subsequently continues to filter down, moistening the root zone where it's then absorbed.
If you aren’t growing many plants, it’s possible to have a lid on top of the reservoir with a net pot inserted into a drilled hole. The growing medium provides a base for the root system of your plants/seedlings to bind for support.
The excess nutrient solution which isn’t absorbed by the roots or growing media can fall directly back into the reservoir. And so the cycle continues.
If a lot of plants are being fed, a separate growing tray can sit adjacent to the reservoir with an opening at the bottom, this is essentially an overflow to direct the solution back to the tank.
Why Not Read Some More Of our Articles on hydroponics
The Basics Of Hydroponics | The Kratky Method | Types Of Hydroponics | Deep Water Culture | The Drip System | The Wick System | Lighting In Hydroponics | The Ebb And Flow System | Nutrient Film Technique | Nutrients For Plant Growth | Ventilation For Hydroponics | Growing Media Used In Hydroponics | Hydroponics | The Best Way To Cure Root Rot | How To Choose A Grow Tent | The Best LED Grow Lights | Everything You Need To Know About Nutrient Lockout | The Best Air Pumps For Hydroponics | The Best PH Meters For Hydroponics | What Mom Never Told You About The GH Dual Diaphragm Air Pump |