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    Thread: Dripper systems explained.....

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      Default Dripper systems explained.....

      There are many different ways of growing hydroponically and each person has their favored method, for me though it's the good old dripper system. In this thread I would like to talk and explain a little bit about dripper systems and the irrigation cycles that best suit different media's.......

      Firstly there are 2 different ways of running a drip system.

      Run-to-waste systerm:

      A run to waste system is where there are either 2 nutrient tanks; one to hold stock nutrient solution, and one to collect the excess run-off. Or the other way is where the run off drains directly away to a drain in the floor. The second method of run to waste is the best system, as there is no collection tank to be emptied each time the stock tank is empty, but this is not always an option for some peoples situation.

      Run to waste systems are easy to maintain as there is usually not much ph/ec adjustment that needs to be done, due to the fact you are not re-circulating nutrients but simply using them once then letting the waste collect seperatly thus having no effect on the stock solution.
      So basically once the stock tank is full and the nutrient ec/ph has stabilised, you can simply set the pump on a timer (see feeding cycles below) and forget about it.......well till the tank is empty anyway! Which is why when using run to waste I would reccomend to use as large a size resevoir as possible, so as to cut down on the frequency of re-filling the stock tank with fresh nutrients. If using a collection tank for the run off always make sure that is the same capacity as the feed tank; so that when the feed tank is empty the collection tank is full.

      Re-circulating system:

      The other way of running a drip system is by re-circulating the nutrient in the same stock tank. To do this you need to have your run-off draining back into the same tank as it is delivered from. Re-circulating systems are the most popular IMO as you don't use as much nutrient (due to the fact that it is re-cycled/circulated) as with run to waste.
      With a re-circulating system you will need to keep an eye on the nutrient solution and maintain it as and when needed, because as solution is pumped through the media, it picks up dissolved salt levels, and differing ph levels that ultimatly effect the solutions TDS and PH. In healthy systems the ph usually always rises gradually; the EC can increase or decrease depending on how the plants are using nutrients at the time, or if water has evaporated from the tank.

      In the case of PH most growers running recirc. systems choose to set it at the lowest exceptable point (ph 5.5) and then allow it to rise gradually over the space of a few days to a maximum of ph 6.2, before reseting it back to 5.5 again.

      The EC level; if it goes up higher than it was set then water has most probably evaporated from the tank leaving the same amount of feed but in a smaller body of water, thus raising the dilution level (or the plants are taking up just water). Either way you should add ph'ed water to the tank until the EC reads what it did before. If the EC/ppm lowers in the tank then this is usually a sign that the plants are using the nutrient's efficiently and should be met by adding extra base feed (eg Grow A+B or Bloom A+B) to the tank to raise the level back to normal. if you are in bloom and using base foods and a boost (eg Big bud or PK 13/14 ETC) then alternate between topping up with base feed and boost to even out the ratio between the two.
      The nutrient solution in a re-circulating system should be changed EVERY week so as to maintain the correct spectrum of nutrients for the plants. They do not take up all nutrient salts evenly, but instead take what they need at the time, so at the end of a weeks recirculating the stock solution will be out of spectrum, with some of the micro nutrients unavalable or in small quantitys. The same is with us humans, we will eat all the nice food in the pantry, before venturing into the microwaveable ming meals as a last resort!!

      So there are the 2 types of systems and their requirements to run correctly. Now I will go into feeding cycles and timings for pumps.

      Coco-coir (various mixes), Rockwool (Slabs, Granulate ,Cubes etc), Vermiculite and other water-holding media:

      The basic idea is to allow a 10-20% run-off from the bottom of each pot/slab on each drip cycle. Or another way I find that works with pots is to water with 1/3 the pots volume. eg if the pot is 6 litres then you should water with 2L solution which should give a 10-20% run-off.
      To determine how much water/feed you are delivering to each plant you should take an empty bottle and place a dripper from the system into it. Next run the drippers for 1 minute, then measure the amount of feed/water collected in the bottle. This will then tell you how much fluid is pumped from 1 dripper in 1 minute, and you can work out from this information how long to feed for to get a 20% run-off or to deliver the required amount of nutrient/water.
      Programmable Minute timers are the best for operating dripper system pumps and can be set to do 1 minute feeds if neccesary. You tend to find that 15 minutes (from a 15minute timer) is sometimes a bit too much/long for media like coco or rockwool as they can hold a lot of moisture for a long time.

      In veg I always try to keep the media slightly on the dryer side, so as to encourage a good initial root production from the plant; so for this stage I would feed just once or twice a day (as all the above mentioned medias have moisture holding ability). Always wait until the lights have been on for 2 hours or more before you let the plants have their first feed, so as to let the root zone warm up first and get active. Then you can give them their first drip till run-off occurs after which the pump stops. The media should be monitered throughout the first day running the system, after the first feed, and at the point where you feel the media is drying out a bit the next drip cycle should start (for the same period of time as the first) until run off occurs again (make sure you do not feed any later than 2 hours before the lights go out as you do not want the media to be saturated during the night cycle).

      In many cases (escpecially with small un-established clones/seedlings) you will not need to re-drip the media after the first time, and 1 cycle per day should suffice until the plants get larger with a larger root system to process feed with. As plants grow the frequency of drip cycles can be steadily increased to compensate for the plants increasing water/nutrient uptake.
      You can have anywhere from 1-6 feeds per day in bloom, again depending on plant size root system, container size etc but as a rule I would'nt feed any more frequent than 1 drip cycle every 2 hours (unless using heavily drained media such as clay pebbles, perlite or hydro rox etc see below). I feed 3 times a day in bloom using 6.5L pots of coco/perlite, 50/50 for 2 minutes each time, the first feed is 2 hours after the lights come on the next is 4 hours after that, and the last is 4 hours after that (2 hours before the lights go off).........9am, 1pm & 5pm. Each feed giving a 10-20% run-off.

      Clay pebbles, Perlite, and other WELL drained media:

      For Clay pebbles, Perlite and other well drained media ther is 2 ways of dripping. The first and easyist way is plain and simple constant drip, where the pumps run continuously throughout the day cycle and just run once every 2-4 hours during the night. Most new growers set up with this system as it is easy and you can't really fuck up as clay just drains away any excess feed water. If you are going to run constant drip then I would reccomend using the restricted drippers that only allow 2 litres per hour or so to flow through them, as they will keep the clay just constantly moist instead of using a flood dripper stake. The GHE waterfarm and aquafarm use this constant drip technique through a dripper ring....
      The alternative to constant feeding is to obviously time the drip cycles again. Unlike the coco/rockwool systems you can use a 15 minute timer for these medias and have 15 minute feeds at a time, you just have to remember that with clay, perlite etc it will dry out a lot quicker when not being irrigated as opposed to the coco/rockwool system, so the frequency of feedings will be greater. I belive that timing the dripper pump in clay is better than constant (escpecially in VEG growth) as it encourages good root growth during the OFF time, when roots will search for moisture/food. Of course you can time the pump in VEG and then once youre in week 3 of flower (when root production decreases) when they really start to suck up the juice, you can simply switch over to constant feed and give em all they'll take!
      I personally reccomend people with WELL drained media to feed once for 15 minutes every 1-3 hours in VEG; and 15 minutes every 1-2 hours in flower.

      Well thats that for dripper systems, i hope that this guide helps people to use their drip systems to there full potential, as some very good results can be had with these simple conventional systems.


      Last edited by pistils; 13th February 2006 at 07:38 PM.
      Any posts made by me are purely fictional in nature and by no means is anything I say to be taken seriously. I do not grow or condone the growing of anything not legal. Any and all pictures I post are pictures widley available on the internet and any discussions I am involved in are purely hypothetical or are commentary in nature and should not constitute advice or be considered advice to assist in activities that are deemed illegal.

    2. Thanks crazydip, Snozzle, dormant account.. thanked for this post

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