Test build 3
Key changes in this rather short lived build were few more buckets to hold even more plants and not just peppers, but also strawberries to see how they enjoy such style of growing. Step of adding more buckets also asked for more surface to be used – this was still all horizontal, simply scaling up. Piping was a bit more difficult, but manageable and the buckets were connected with glued pipes as before, some were in a chain so the water flew from one bucket to next one. Simple and effective but still allowed for some water retention. After cutting all holes with my blade i decided to buy a wide cutting bit for my drill and simply make hole with this. For some wonderful reason I did not take any photos of this build.
Test build 4
This was so far longest time spent thinking on the side as well as testing possible solutions. And also where things got interesting. My goals were:
- Go more vertical by stacking the buckets up
- Use more of the surface of the buckets – not just the top area, but also side
- Provide sufficient space for roots to grow without competing
- Watering mechanism inside of the buckets therefore decreasing options for growth of algae
- Decrease amount of water witholdment in the system
- Simplify irrigation loops and test the water height that pump can actually push up
- Make solution more scalable (so i could add/remove buckets or plants over time without making big impact
At first my worry was how to utilize the sides of buckets, the idea of adding holes was obvious but how would i keep the flowers or the pots in there… One idea that came to my mind was with heat gun. First you cut a hole, then you heat up the material and then with help of something solid you help the material change the shape a bit. I used different glass bottles, but the outcome was a bit random. Sometime the angle would not be sufficient to keep things in. Sometime i would stretch the opening far too much and nothing would hold… First test bucket was a complete disaster (looked like horrible disfigured Frankenstein bucket and i had to carry it to garbage under the veil of night). Second bucket was a stepup but still not perfect. Third bucket started to resemble something useful but then the material that was pushed in was also in way for water that would drip inside. This was not a good solution.
Then it dawned – why not remove/forget the pots that are usually used (little mesh pots that prevent the plants from falling through and down to the bucket) and simply use the foam and its natural desire to expand. I have tried a few and after a gently stressing trip to shop (stressful as they did not really have any useful foam) alternative of kitchen cleaning foam patches came around. They are relatively cheap, they can hold water but also allow for excess water to exit. Key trick was to position the foam so that the water drips inside of the bucket, outside drips meant loss of water and also new home for algae. This game enough courage to start the build. I put everything apart, cleaned it, drained the old water from system as it was a quite infested with algae. Putting this together was a bit of a nightmare, the hoses and actually all parts except for buckets were a bit stip as the O rings were dry. Really dry so force was needed to put things together. Putting small hose with drippers was straight forward – the holes wouldn’t change so I precisely guessed (see the joke there? precisely guessed…) and cut the hose in correct length. connected them with drippers and finnished the loop with ending dripper to save the more expensive T shaped dripper. The the supply pipe (bit wider hose) to connect between the bucket T joints and also down to the pump, which was sitting in 10 liter bucket now. On top of the very top bucket was lid with cutout for 2 pots/plants.
As this is vertical solution (or attempt to learn more about such) it was indeed less space to provide home to more plants. Bottom bucket was without plants, only to allow for draining or if there was too much water to retain it for a moment without having water sit too long on the roots. Bucket lid had most of the area cut open to allow for water to go down, but some mass was kept to support the next bucket, but this time it carried plants. This 1st floor had also lid with hole in middle to carry one more bucket. On top of this was previously mentioned lid with 2 holes.
The small and more flexible hose would then from this high point follow down to the remainder of previous build – bucket with 7 chilli peppers on it. One reason was my uncertainty if this will work (will my cheap pump really push the water so high? If yes, will i have enough of flow to support all drippers? ) and also I was running out of time – it was sunday evening when I started and finnished around 1.30 in the monday morning… I have checked all plants. All buckets. All connections. Main bucket that hold water and pump. Nothing lookes suspicious so i connected the pump to electricity. And after few seconds of rumbling i have noticed water drops falling on the table. Some of the foams were not fitted correctly and hence were dripping water, but it meant that water is going around the system! After few minutes of adjusting (and almost knocking down the whole thing) the drops were all inside the buckets and part of the system. My relief and fatigue from all this gave me deep and restful sleep that night. But just few days after I started to dream of next build, improvements…And I have also used this for my strawberries to see how they like it!