Noobwannb's Self Wicking Smartpot ghetto setup

Discussion in 'Growing Organic Marijuana' started by noob_wannaB, Dec 18, 2012.

  1. I'm a noob and readily admit it. Started growing in Feb. of this year and have been using Smartpots (not exclusively) since. I have a love/hate relationship with them and decided this past October to try to remedy some of the issues I have with them. I've learned a LOT in my short time growing, mainly because of the good folks here in this forum and would love to give something back. This thread is my feeble attempt.

    I'm using my own organic mix, and love the idea and results achieved with SIPs, but I'm a small time grower and need to keep my grows from achieving jungle status ;) I've been growing (gardening and houseplants) for over 30 yrs though so the health of the plants, and LIFE of the soil with a SIP appealed to me...the 5 gal buckets, not so much. I make no claim at 'inventing' this system. I borrowed some ideas from other systems (including sips, hempies, etc) but came up with this particular setup on my own....that's not to say it's NEVER been done before, just that I haven't seen it.

    I'll post the set up and photos in the next post. I have posted both in my journal and had hoped to be able to copy them here, but haven't figured that out yet. I encourage questions, even criticism, I would ask for all to be respectful though. Please feel free to post results/issues here at any time. Let's come up with a KILLER system! :wave:
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  2. #2 noob_wannaB, Dec 18, 2012
    Last edited by a moderator: Jul 2, 2013
    This method is especially effective with organic soil, and was designed with it in mind, but I see no reason that it wouldn't work with bagged soil. It does go against everything we've been taught about the wet/dry cycles, but with organic soil the benefit of keeping it evenly moist is huge. 
    I love the health and vigor I've witnessed with a SIP (self irrigating planter) system, but have no room for 5 gallon buckets in my grow room. Frankly I like to keep my plants smallish and love the benefits of fabric pots as well, so I went looking for something that would provide the evenly moist condition for the soil (the benefit) without using large self contained buckets full of soil and came up with this. It's also noob proof since one of the easiest (and deadliest) mistakes to make is overwatering and underwatering. Anyway, here's the method.
    1. You want a tray to hold the wicking material and water. Doesn't matter what size, kind, can use a plant saucer or a plastic swimming pool or anything in between. I started using seed flat trays and have moved up in size since. 
    More volume means more water/medium means less maintenance, but it's up to you. Also, the larger the tray the more pots you can fit inside.
    2. You need to fill the tray with wicking material. I use perlite and think this works best, but I've been told that lava rock, hydroton and the like works also. ROCKS, stones, and anything that is bio degradable will NOT work. The stones won't wick and you don't want to use something that will break down causing issues with mold, smells, etc
    3. Add water. I like to use an inverted water bottle so that I can gauge the water level but it's not necessary. The perlite will soak up the water so keep adding until it's at the level you want it which can be anything YOU want it to be, but I suggest at least an inch below the top of the perlite. The reason for this is you don't want your pots sitting directly in the water.
    Add your pots (simply set them down) to the top of the perlite. 
    -You WILL have roots growing out of the bottom and sides if using a smartie after awhile. This is normal, and they usually dry up after awhile. 
    -You MAY see white mold on top of the soil for a few days (Santa's beard) until the system regulates itself. This is a good thing and nothing to be alarmed about.
    -You may (probably will) see a slight discoloration of the top layer if using perlite. This is algae because of the damp conditions and high light. It won't hurt anything, but if it bothers you, you can either cover the top with landscape fabric, black plastic, whatever, but I don't suggest using anything between the perlite and the bottom of the pot. Either cut holes or drape it around the pot(s).
    *I now line my tray with weedblocker fabric before adding the perlite and leave a good amount of excess before cutting. After the perlite is added, I bring the excess up over the perlite and tuck it around the pots. It shades the perlite, and helps hold moisture in the tray as well....perfect.

    Once the roots start growing out the bottom, within a few days the growth up top will explode because the plant has a steady supply of good, moist living soil, and that's because the soil has a good steady supply of water. 

    * You CAN use hard pots, but smart pots work best. When you place hard pots make sure there are drain holes on the bottom of the pot, and push the pot down inside the perlite a bit so that it makes good contact with the soil through the drain holes. It's probably best to avoid moving hard pots much so that the wicking (via the drain holes) isn't interupted. You can move smart pots around as much as you like.
    * For teas and drenches, I suggest top watering outside of the tray..pull the pot out, water it with whatever and let it drain a bit before returning to the sip tray. I suggest this because imo pouring things into the res that have the potential to rot and smell doesn't appeal to me, but it is of course your choice. I found out the hard way using hydrolyzed fish ferts....not a pleasant clean up experience ;)
    * Works GREAT for seed starting and cloning as well.
    ADDED: Though a common reservour (fits more than one plant) is convenient and has it's benefits, I've found one disadvantage is in taking photos....if good pics matter to you, you may want to go with individual trays.
    I challenge you to try this even if on a small scale with one plant...especially if you like smart pots. You're gonna love it :)
    ADDED: It's worth noting here that a good FLUFFY (well aerated) mix will go a long way toward the success of this system. Wet compacted soil is NOT healthy for the root systems. I currently use 1/3 by volume aeration (perlite, rice hulls, etc) then add up to 1/4 MORE when I pot up. Works VERY well for me as you can see from my rootball post harvest  ;)

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  3. A post I made a few days ago that I thought relevant.

    There are 2 main advantages that I've seen so far using this method:

    #1 The soil is always moist, which provides the optimal environment for the soil organisms thus increasing not only the health of the living soil, but also benefiting the root system and the overall health of the plant.
    #2 The soil is always moist which eliminates the jostling of dry roots in the smart of the main reasons many ppl don't like using them. There's less reason to move them (for watering) but when you do (rotation, inspection, etc) the roots are moist and pliable rather than dry and compacted rubbing against a dry fabric. more dry spots. :)

    I admittedly have NOT used this system through summer's heat and readily admit tat adding more humidity to an already humid environment could definitely have disastrous results. I wonder if covering with plastic (like in a SIP) would resolve that issue. I also plan on trying hydroton, maybe with my next grow (no funds with this one).

    Unless I see a need or some traffic here I'm done posting. I think I've covered the basics and I really just wanted a thread to reference so that people didn't have to dig through my whole huge journal looking for specifics :D
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  4. Noob, you are still watering daily though?

  5. I am, because:

    I have 2 trays set up, one is a basic seed starter tray. Pretty shallow and only has room for 1-1/2" or so of perlite. I add water to soak the perlite and leave 1" or so standing. In this tray I have 2-#3 smarties.
    In the other I have a large cat litter pan with about 3-4" perlite, same set up but with about 2" standing water. Again, 2 #3 smarties.

    I have gone 2 days...both trays were empty of standing water but perlite was still damp as well as soil. That smaller tray has me paranoid, besides I'm in there every day anyway. ;) Some days the standing water is gone, some days I top it off, but I always bring it to my 'desired' level. Mind you, I probably don't have to.

    I'm personally only doing this for the health of my plants, and boy are they healthy! I'm home all day every day. For those interested in lower maintenance a deeper container, or even one plant per tray would help.

    I'm going to be revegging my Blue Widow (this girl is a killer pheno and me with no clone!:eek:) and my plan is to use a 5 gal bucket for the perlite, filling it up but drilling a hole hempy style and setting a #7 smartie on top. This should allow DAYS w/o watering, but I wouldn't want to try it with a really tall plant :D

    I'd love to hear more ideas...??
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  6. Thanks for the tutorial Noob! Lots of variations and options that you mentioned...lots of stuff to think about. I like the idea of setting a pot inside a larger pot. In my mind Im seeing a possibility of just taking a piece of rope and tying off the bottom pot to close off light to the perlite pot...does that make sense? Im thinking that I could set my 3 gallon smarts inside a 5 gallon or similar size, use a deeper "tub" like pan for more water and try it out??
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  7. Interested to see how this fares for you. I was under the notion it was good to let pots 'dry out a little' in between waterings, but I can see your concern with smart pots and dry spots. Having recently made the switch to smart-pot type containers myself, your idea is a novel concept.
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  8. Also, I'm curious. Will the perlite reservoir harbor undesirable micro-organisms? Or house the ones we like?
  9. Hey Noob'

    I use smart pots too and I live in a very dry environment. This technique interests me. How long have you been doing this (in case I missed it in your other posts)?

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  10. I think I know what you mean, with the rope. I thought about using 2 smarties but the same size. The bottom one would be filled with perlite and could sit in a bucket or pan of water, and the top one would contain the plant. There'd be no need to tie it off because the top one would cover the bottom. The advantage to this imo is the perlite would be completely contained and the water could be aerated if you wanted. Not sure there's really an advantage to that since the water has to pass through the perlite before it reaches the plant and is plenty aerated by the time it gets there, but you could...
  11. Dunno...I'm not a microbiologist ;) What I can tell you is the only issue I've run into is a slight discoloration of the top layer of perlite where exposed to the light. I think it was algae, but then again I'm not an expert in algae formations either. I took care of that by shading the perlite with weedblocker cloth.

    I doubt that anything would 'grow' or flourish in perlite that didn't appear in the reservoir of a guess is it would be less condusive, but again dunno.

    I started about in the middle of my current grow, in October. Pretty sure it was right before or just after I flipped to 12/12. Early October I believe. I put the girls in dry (they needed to be watered by could survive the night without it) because I wanted to be able to tell if the wicking was going to 'work'. By the next morning they were all wicked up (again equal to having been thoroughly watered and drained) and have stayed the same since. Within DAYS I had healthy white roots poking through the bottoms of the pots and dramatic growth!

    Thanks for stopping by! :)

  12. I see what you mean. I got caught up thinking about the purpose for possibly sewing the the rim of the bottom pot. I get it now. I really think that I could pull this off. I have some extra smart pots laying around and plenty of perlite. I leave for days at a time and I have to remind my wife to I think that this might be my answer. Thanks!
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  13. Way to go noob. When I'm filling my sips, I water until the bottom of the smartpots is sitting in water 1/4". It's usually sucked up within 12 hours. My thought is with the smartpots aireation is being provided to the root system. Therefore, making sure the air gap between the smartpots and support media is not fully necessary. But I let my SIP water level drop over a couple of days. Thoughts?

    Also my first SIP has started harvesting. I want to run this no-till but I'm worried about decaying roots (from the previous run) in the res.

  14. Just make sure whatever you use for the water there's a buffer between the water and the bottom of the plant pot (not sure how to say it so it makes sense). In other words, if you fill the water container be sure the plant pot doesn't actually sit in the water and you're golden!

    Let us know what you come up with and how it works out for you :wave:
    I know for me, unless there's an issue with summer growing after seeing the results I'll never go back to top watering ;)

  15. Thanks Sticky! :wave: And for stopping by.
    What kind of SIP system are you running?

    The only time I've let the water get to pot level was today...and just. So far the moisture level in the plants has been so consisent and the results so awesome that I'm afraid to mess with it ya know? Probably wouldn't be an issue short term, but I'm reeeeeeal close to harvesting some girls that are going to be primo smoke/pain relief so risks within my control (it's been such a warm winter here the temps in the growroom got up to 92F yesterday :eek:) are taken with extreme caution :laughing:

    I've killed enough house plants over the years (though admitedly not in smarties) by allowing contact with roots to water that the thought literally scares me. Old dog and all that. Let me know what your set up is...I'm. very interested!
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  16. I surely wil ma'am. I wont have to do my usual overthinking since you already laid out the blueprint for this I just gotta get on it.
  17. #18 noob_wannaB, Dec 19, 2012
    Last edited by a moderator: Dec 19, 2012
    Sh*t Sticky, I forgot that was you :rolleyes: I blame the morphine...sorry about that.
    These links never take me to the right posts because I don't use board default settings...hope you don't mind if I quote your post.

    And here's the pic since the system doesn't include it with the quote

    Thanks for puttin up with me ;)
  18. Hey sista, don't sweat it. If you copy and paste into a browser they should work. Quote away. It's just giving back to the GC blades and bladettes. They way I look at it "BadKitty got me here and the organic terrorists kept me here." My life and my medicine has changed drastically because of the people around here.
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  19. Amen, I feel the same way.
    I tell ya the things I forget are scary, and I'm not enough of a stoner to blame weed. I hate narcotics.

    Aaaaanyway...your plants are gorgeous!! That hydroton is obviously working for you. You don't keep a journal do you? Seems to me I looked before but then maybe that was someone else :laughing: Good thing I can laugh at myself at least.

    In all seriousness, if you don't keep a journal you should. We could all learn a lot from you ;)
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