Drain to waste in coco coir. Automated watering systems anyone?

Discussion in 'Hydroponics / Aeroponics' started by cocodreams, Jul 24, 2011.


    cocodreams Member

    I've become a huge fan of drain to waste in coco. (For the skeptical, drain to waste does not have to be wasteful. In fact I find it saves water if done properly.)

    Here's the setup...

    6, 5 gallon smartpots in a bathtub, filled with coco coir.

    Clones started in coco coir, and transplanted into the smartpots.

    GH maxi series + Botanicare cal+mag, pH at 5.8

    My reservoir has a circulation pump, and a feeding pump.

    The feeding pump turns on once per day, and feeds the plants through home made drip rings. I use 3/4 inch vinyl tubing and a barbed T to create a loop, and drill 6 1/8 inch holes in the bottom of the ring. This sits around the base of the plant and feeds the plants, until solution just starts to trickle out of the smartpot, in about 5 minutes. I find these home made drip rings clog less than driplines, and are more suited to creating a slow stream of solution.

    Here's my question. Coco is commonly hand-watered, which is a wonderful way to spend some quality time with your ladies each day, but doesn't allow for watering when you are busy or away. Does anyone have a good automatic watering system that they like? I've been using the drip rings on a timer for quite some time now, and I like them, but the accuracy isn't exactly where I want it to be. Its hard to dial it in to the exact amount of time it takes the media to run to waste. Usually I have the timer set to "off" and I manually turn it on an off each day, monitoring when the runoff starts. I only use the automated setting when I'm not home.

    Any ideas?
    714steadyeddie likes this.

    veen Active Member

    BUMP, I am looking for the exact same info guy. Hopefully we can get some good ideas;)
    714steadyeddie likes this.

    PLANT. Member

    HAve you heard of a bluemat? it feeds via drip only the plant that needs feeding only when they need it and just the right amount.
    totally automatic, no power or batteries.
    i think it uses capillary technology, people are using them they're on the market

    Bezy Active Member

    you could try the restrictors they have, put a gal per hr one and let it run 30 min, boom you have exactly half a gal. Just put them inline before your rings. That way it will allow your timer to be set longer and your plants will get an exact measured amount of water. i know this is what Gorilla growers use for their drip systems.
    If you want to water more put a larger restrictor in or let it run longer.

    cocodreams Member

    I've been looking into the tropf blumats and they do seem promising.

    I see two caveats...

    Based on the way they work, i don't think that they would water enough to have waste come out the bottom. This would be amazing for water and nutrient saving, but would not create any runoff to facilitate the flushing activity that makes drain to waste so productive. This could easily be solved by hand flushing with a small additional amount of solution every week or so.

    The other problem I can see is that these may clog easily. The ceramic element is designed to accept only water. I wonder if this would become an issue. Anyone used these with coco and nutes? I've heard of people using them with soil grows with pure water.

    I might get a single unit to test it out.

    cocodreams Member

    I've ruled out the blumats. They seem promising, but I hear they can clog with nutes, and have a tendency to get stuck open. All it takes is one stuck open valve to waste my entire res while I'm gone for a weekend.

    I've tossed aside the idea of restrictors because they clog easily, especially with the dry nutes that I use. (I love dry nutes for many reasons, and I don't plan on switching soon.)

    Homemade drip rings have been my choice for a while now. The only problem is that when you slow the stream to a trickle, the nutes only come out one hole. What I've found though, is that in coco, this is not really an issue.

    In most top feed systems, dispersing the water evenly across the top of the media. In hydroton for example, if you only have on drip tube, the water will create a narrow "channel" and leave the rest of the root zone devoid of nutrients.

    I find that because of the intense capillary action in coco, this is not as much as a problem. If you place a basket of slightly moist coco in shallow water, the top of the coco farthest from the water will quickly become moist. I've found that you could water coco in just one location at the top of a large 5 gallon pot, and as long as you water moderately slowly, the capillary action will cause all the coco in the pot to become saturated. This makes a dispersed top feed system unnecessary in coco-- you only need one drip sit for a large coco pot.

    One other problem i've found with some home made drip manifolds, is that if they are not running at full pressure, not all the plants receive equal amounts of nutrient solution. Then at best, each plant is being given the same amount of nutes.

    Here is my solution...

    Pump in the reservoir, 3/4 inch tubing, T'd off so some water returns to the reservoir and slightly reduces back pressure on the pump. Then it is T'd off to one 3/4 inch tube for each plant. The terminal end of each hose has a 3/4 inch inline valve. This solves the clogging problem-- if nutes build up scale in the valve, it simply needs to be opened slightly more, then cleaned at the end of the grow. Each plant receives the properly dialed amount of nutes. This also allows me to slow down the feeding to a drip that takes about 30-45 minutes to run to waste-- making it easier to time, and more precise.

    watchhowIdoit New Member

    Many of the new pumps have pressure/flow control built right into the pump. Controlling pressure is the first step in controlling amount of flow...

    watchhowIdoit New Member

    There flow rates are based on a certain pressure which is usually much higher than what our little pumps are capable of producing. And they can clog quite easily....

    cocodreams Member

    I forgot to add, that I flush once a week with home made compost tea, diluted and pH balanced. It adds trace micro-nutrients, inoculates the root zone with microorganisms, and helps flush out unwanted salt buildup.

    YaK just some guy

    how about a good cycle timer? I have one for my cloner that will run for increments as small as 2 seconds.

    I like your home made drip ring idea, and I am thinking of doing that in a drain to waste rockwool situation that i am trying to wrap my head around.

    I'm thinking a 10 gallon res with an automatic nutrient doser and auto PH... with a pump set to maybe 5 seconds full pressure watering every 2 hours or so, if that gives the rockwool time to dry out a bit and doesnt oversaturate. I see your post are from back in July... how have things been working for you? I do flood/drain and it is simple and easy, but drain to waste seems more logical, and even easier!

    Dudemankidson Active Member

    Hands down Tropf Blumats are your savior. I use them on my 5 gal coco girls under and led and they're great. I just check the res every day or three and that's all she need. I have an occasional run-away but as long as you have something to catch a little water under them you're good. I only use a 5 gal res so I never have to worry about more than 4.5 gals or so dumping. I have them in like little potting trays which I keep nearly empty and my tent surprisingly will hold like 3-4 gals of water before it starts to leak from corners.
    714steadyeddie likes this.

    visajoe1 Well-Known Member

    This entire discussion is the reason I switched from coco to DWC/waterfarm. It requires a more intricate setup to properly dial in a drip system than it does to fill up a bucket with nutes and an air stone. Plus DWC growth is way faster

    Bakersfield Well-Known Member

    It's also prone to disastrous root infections.
    I love coco and it's no slouch in the production department running a drip system drain to waste.

    Dudemankidson Active Member

    In my particular environment dwc is more difficult to manage. I have nearly no run-off and thus I fill a res once and let the girls drink up. As opposed to filling and then emptying a res or multiple if your not running a multi site container or rdwc. Ideally, in a different living space I'd prefer rdwc in a basement over coco dtw. But alas, currently there is no such suitable basement.
    714steadyeddie likes this.

    motoracer110 Well-Known Member

    If you ever do a coco dtw grow again you want to use small 1-2 gallon plastic pots. Don't use smart pots or any air pruning pots. You don't want to let your coco dry out or get dry spots. And using small pots you can do multiple feedings per day and get run off very fast. If you treat the coco like hydro and do multiple feedings per day with runoff you'll get hydro results. The first time I grew in coco my big mistake was using 5 gallon fabric pots. It would take insane amounts of nutrient solution to keep the coco moist and also get 20% runoff. I eventually just fed them without runoff then 2 times a week flush out the salts and nutrient build up ( a pain in the ass) . How I dialed in my feedings was get a cycle timer. Turn on the feed cycle and time it until you start seeing runoff then stop your timer. My setup was about 10-15 seconds (you now have a time set) then depending on plant size feed 3-4 times a day lights on. I also set all my feeding tubes in a measuring cup and turned on my feed cycle to see how much water was being used. I came up with just over a gallon. With that number you can calculate how long your reservoir will last.

    Niblixdark Well-Known Member

    I personally have done every style of growing possible and everyone likes something different but I firmly believe no style of growing is superior to another but after many years of growing I found RDWC to be the best system to grow with. Nothing too complicated but fairly straight forward and the yields ...

    Just my opinion that's all.
    Last edited: Mar 3, 2017

    Bakersfield Well-Known Member

    I agree with your post in general, but your pot size suggestion depends on the size of your plants, IMHO.
    I do appreciate your suggestion on the fabric pots. That makes a lot of sense. I almost placed an order on some of those, for a tree run, that I want to try.
    motoracer110 likes this.

    motoracer110 Well-Known Member

    Right on bro I would say pot size needs to be bigger if you want to grow trees, but one must keep in mind you can't feed as much in a big pot vs a small pot you can get overwatering issues witch can lead to root rot which takes away the treat like hydro multiple fee dings effect. This guy was getting 9 oz per plant in just 6.5 liter pots or about 2 gallon pots. I think his photos speak for themselves.

    Attached Files:


    Bakersfield Well-Known Member

    Impressive yields indeed but I know folks that run 20 gallon pots feeding 5 times daily @ 900ppm @.7 conversion DTW. That pull from 1 to 1.5 lbs per plant with a 4 week veg., and zero issues with root rot.
    Is root rot something you've personally experienced in coco with large pots?
    Coco will only get so wet unless something is impeading it's drainage path.
    motoracer110 likes this.

    motoracer110 Well-Known Member

    Naw, never had root rot with coco but without a root mass coco can be over watered and can act like soil. Drain to waste in a 20 gallon pot feeding 5 times a day! ( pretty hard to get the entire 20 pot saturated and fully flushed with runoff. Great yields but damn I would not want to throw that much nutrient solution at a plant. I made a major mistake with my first coco gro using 5 gallon pots 8 plants and to get a true 20% run off multiple times a day you are burning through your solution faster than you think. I had to stop getting any drainage when I fed to save my wallet and had to flush every week to offset the buildup. Saved money but a pain in the ass. I guess to each their own and everyone has their own style. I have since switched over to the flo n gro 14 pot hydro system and love everything about it. Very simple to get amazing yields off it and 55 gallons of solution last me 10 days there's no way to get 55 gallons to last 10 days with 14 pots of coco.
    visajoe1 and Bakersfield like this.

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