Tips for Using an AutoPot Watering System for Hydroponics
AutoPots can save plenty of time and hassle by ensuring your plants receive the proper amount of water and nutrients throughout the day, but have you ever wondered how they work, what sort of maintenance they require, and the best way to use them? When kept in good working order, AutoPots are easy to use and can be left to do their job with less work and oversight by you the grower. Every system has pros and cons, but most of the cons with AutoPots can be overcome with a little elbow grease and know-how. To help you get started, here are some tips for using an AutoPot watering system for hydroponics.
What Are AutoPots?
That’s an excellent question for the purpose of this post. AutoPots are plant-driven, gravity-powered, automated watering systems for plant cultivation. They require no power, timers, or pumps and utilize bottom-feeding methods to allow your plants to feed themselves whenever they want, however much they want. No more daily watering in your future with the simple yet highly effective power of AutoPots. AutoPots consist of a reservoir connected to a series of planting modules filled with growing media from which the plants can wick nutrient solution through the bottom of each pot. Gravity brings the solution down from the tank, into the trays, and up through the bottom of each pot. AQUAvalves ensure your plants are kept happy by effortlessly controlling the water level so a wet/dry cycle is completed with each fill. This means less watering and monitoring for you as the grower. From small-scale closet gardening to commercial cultivation facilities, AutoPots streamline your processes saving you time, money, and labor costs. There are also additional benefits of AutoPots in your hydroponics system as described below:
- No more daily watering
- Can be left unattended for weeks
- Easily extended in minutes
- No power/timers/mains water required
- Simply gravity-fed from a tank/water barrel
- Saves water, and no water is ever wasted
- Environmentally friendly
It’s All Good
As a very simple system, AutoPots are incredibly easy to maintain. Smaller sets are easy to set up since it’s mostly easily fit together tubing, fittings, and aquavalves, and there are plenty of unboxing and assembly videos online that can walk you through the setup. You also have the added convenience of just keeping the tank filled, so you aren’t required to do any extra plumbing work to attach it to a water source. There’s no electricity needed either, so you can stay off the grid! Furthermore, after harvest, AutoPot systems are easy to clean by flushing them with water and an irrigation additive. This will remove algae, mineral deposits and other things that can block the pipes. It’s important to properly maintain your AutoPot system and clean it regularly to achieve peak performance.
On the Other Hand
AutoPots are great for any grower who is looking to save time and money, but if you want to expand, make sure you know what you’re getting into as far as the upfront costs. A basic AutoPot setup can cost under a hundred dollars, but as the set grows, so does the price. Larger multi-pot setups can cost thousands of dollars so while the system will pay for itself over time through saved money from inputs such as electricity and labor, there are significant initial costs.
What’s the Right Approach?
Naturally, every AutoPot system comes with instructions and grow guides, but you should supplement these with on and offline reading and the abundance of instructional videos out there. But here are a few extra tips and tricks to keep in mind as you delve deeper into the subject.
Think of the Little Ones!
For one thing, getting started with AutoPots is not a matter of turning on the system and walking away. Young plants require some TLC. After you set up your system and place the plants, take the next 7 to 14 days (depending on pot size) to hand water your plants and check on them regularly. The roots need to establish themselves before you turn the system on, so make sure you are patient!
A Happy Medium (or Media)
AutoPots can accommodate several kinds of growing media and nutrients, oftentimes blended with a pH stable, inert material such as perlite or clay pebbles. This is done to keep your media aerated and prevents it from becoming oversaturated. We suggest coco coir and perlite or soil and perlite. These are our two favorite mixed media blends for AutoPots. Whatever inert material you use, add a drainage layer at the bottom of each pot. For example, clay pebbles can be used to properly aerate your media, and adding a layer at the base of the pots can improve drainage. However, it’s important that the clay pebbles are pH-stable, otherwise you may cause fluctuations in your pH. Gravel is another choice for the base layer, but if you use gravel it’s imperative to make sure it’s clean!
Keep It Clean
Earlier, this post mentioned the importance of occasionally cleaning out your system. Make that step even easier by choosing what’s going through the pipes. With the release of the new AQUAvalve5, you can now run liquid organics in AutoPots! The system requires a few extra steps to allow that to happen, which will be shared in an upcoming post. As mentioned above, when cleaning out the system, use a proper line cleaner that removes and prevents mineral deposits left behind by tap water and stems algae growth.
Location, Location, Location
As the film title says, some like it hot, but plants most definitely like the temperature to stay high. Be sure to never set an AutoPot tray on a cold surface. Concrete floors are the worst, because they make the water and nutrient solution colder, which causes the plant’s cells to freeze up, keeping it from getting its nutrition. Also, make sure your AutoPot trays are on level ground at all times! This is very important and keeps your AQUAvalve flowing properly. Finally, make sure to have your reservoir at least 6 inches above your trays to give an extra push of gravity and increase the flow rate through your lines.
Mix It Up
After whipping up a nutrient-rich mixture, experts recommend mixing it with a small flow water pump. Water pumps provide a nice even blending of substances, which enables your plants to drink it easily. Small flow pumps are recommended over an airstone in your reservoir, which will oxygenate your water and potentially cause the pH to fluctuate.
Drain It and Flush It
Here’s the last of our tips for using an AutoPot watering system for hydroponics. Every two weeks, open your inline valve at the ends of your tubing and drain off one to two liters of nutrient solution. This prevents sediment build-up in the lines and ensures no clogs occur. Flushing in AutoPots is done according to the normal timeline. Fill your reservoir with pH-balanced water a few days to two weeks before harvest. AutoPots flush residual salts up instead of down. In some cases, you will see salt flakes on the top of your media! Residual salts are flushed upwards into an unusable area of the root zone where the media stays dry. This zone is where you want your salts to be. They will not affect the taste or flavor of your flowers.