Fertigation

Fertilising can be hard work. As you know, I make a lot of our fertilizers here at Ligaya Garden. Mixing brewing, bubbling and distributing the stuff all takes time and effort.

A lovely brew - now automatically distributed!
A lovely brew – now automatically distributed!

Spreading it around the garden is the hardest part. I mix my brew of choice with water, then spread it around with watering cans – very labour intensive!

A while ago, I tried to fertilise with the dripper system but it wasn’t very successful. I found that the distribution wasn’t very even and I needed two reservoirs of liquid fertiliser it was all very cumbersome and awkward.

Today I got to thinking…’I’ve done all that hanrdwork redesigning and simplifying the dripper system and the low pressure sprinklers that run off of it, why don’t I give it another try’?

Of late, I’ve joined the drippers in the front garden into one system for the garden and one for the plants in pots. The garden lines have taps to separate them if we need. I’ve also reduced the number of drippers by about 8 and taken out one of the sprinklers. ‘Maybe the pressure will be enough’? I thought. ‘Maybe the balancing of the flow will work for method time’?

And it did!

The key to the system is the venturi, a little device that uses the Venturi Effect. That’s when a fluid flowing in a pipe will draw in fluid from a smaller pipe as it passes by. It’s an elegant solution, up there with the siphon for pure genius.

The venturi is the heart of the system
The venturi is the heart of the system.

What held me up last time I tried was that the venturi limits the flow to the drippers, capping it at a certain level. This wasn’t enough to ensure adequate distribution in the previous setup and certainly not enough to run drippers us sprinklers. With the new, streamlined setup, it does though. The sprinklers are at minimum though but still distribute dilute fertiliser over a few square metres around each of them – much better than nothing!

Another other thing I tried was to use a larger diameter hose from the fertiliser reservoir and the Venturi – that seems to have helped.

Also holding me up on the last try was the fact that I was trying to install a permanent reservoir. That looked ugly and took up space. This tome, I’ve gone for a longer hose and a portable reservoir (aka a 60 litre bin) . That means I can stash the bin or use it for other things when I’m not fertilising.

One more thing I thought of this time was to let the dripper system run for a while before switching in the venturi. That allows water to fill the lines and moisten the soil before the fertilizer flows. I also ran the system without the venturi for 10 minutes after the fertilizer was finished. That dilutes things a little more and cleans out the irrigation lines.

It worked fine this time. I’ve still got to experiment with concentrations, flow rates and time but I’m on a definite winner. Now to work it into the system for the pots… always something to do!

It takes 1 hour to empty out the 60 litre bin of liquid fertilizer plus 10 minutes to flush the lines. That’s labour free – it used to take me 20 watering cans of liquid to do a similar job. I save water and time in the mixing up of multiple small batches and watering them in too.

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