Capillary Mats watering under grow lights

kes_cor(Z5 Chicago, IL)January 9, 2007

My fall cuttings have gotten very large and are requiring watering every 3 days. I don't have the room to move them up from large 6 packs "seed starting" bulk pots. Anyone have any experience with watering using capillary mats?

Here is my idea..

I have 2 - 2' x 4' shelves with two florescent fixtures per shelf. I want to convert to a capillary wicking watering system.

I'm thinking of creating water reservoirs on the sides of the shelves using say plastic gutters. I would cover the shelf with plastic to protect it, install the mats over it and let is hang into the gutter to pick up the water and place the plants right on top.

I'm thinking I'll only need one gutter of water and put the plants which require less water farther away from the water source.

Sound feasible? Anyone with experience? My cuttings have come so far, can afford to lose them so close to spring...

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watergal(z6/7 Westminster, MD)

Sounds like it should work. I've used the cap mats with seed staring systems and love how it works. I've considered setting up something like that for my plants under lights too. At work, we use cap mats inside "window box" sized planter boxes that are attached to the top of office cubicle partitions and they work well there too.

I saw directions once where you could use a large tray full of water and put the end of the mat into the tray, then wrap it over the top of a styrofoam block or whatever else you can use to raise the pots several inches. This is how my seed starting system is designed - see Gardener's Supply Company APS seed starting system pictures and you'll get an idea of what I mean.

Here is a link that might be useful: APS diagram

    Bookmark   January 9, 2007 at 5:43PM
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ralleia(z5 Omaha, NE)

What kind of 6 packs do you have? Are they the kind with the small drainage holes cut into the bottom edges?

If so, it will be slightly challenging, though not impossible to convert. Probably well worth trying in any case.

The capillary mat works only by direct contact with the growing medium. If the holes in the cell packs are too small, there is little or no contact with the growing medium, so the cells don't take up water. For best results, you should carefully cut out the bottoms so that there is direct contact. When you set the plants onto the capillary mat, gently compress each cell down to ensure good contact. I think that will be easier than creating a small wick for each cell.

Besedes that, I think it'll work fine and that you'll be very pleased. Just remember to lift the cell packs periodically or the roots will start to grow into the capillary matting.

-Kris, proud owner of a 100' roll of Capmat II

    Bookmark   January 9, 2007 at 6:05PM
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ralleia(z5 Omaha, NE)

You might also consider shelf liners as a more permanent solution.

Thank you for the idea of converting a whole shelf for use with the capillary mat. I've only been using them in individual trays up to now, and struggling with watering all the plants on my shelves. I didn't even consider doing the whole shelf. What a dunce!

    Bookmark   January 9, 2007 at 6:39PM
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kes_cor(Z5 Chicago, IL)

I have been looking for plastic containers which were the size of my shelves.. I don't think these are right, as my shelves are 48" x 20". I wish I could have a big plastic container that I could fill with water and drain a half hour later.

    Bookmark   January 9, 2007 at 7:38PM
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watergal(z6/7 Westminster, MD)

I got the large size boot tray for Xmas. We haven't had any snow, but it dawned on me that it would make a good plant tray. It's kind of flexible, I wouldn't want to carry it while full of water, but it would work well for the cap mat setup we are talking about. It comes in other sizes too.

Here is a link that might be useful: boot tray

    Bookmark   January 12, 2007 at 8:16AM
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maybe this is an ignorant question, BUT... whats the advantage of capillary mats vs. overhead 'misting?'
i'd think the overhead misting would be much easier to maintain.
the disadvantage would be that you couldn't use the clear plastic tops that most see starting kits provide.

re the mats, what kind of material are they made out of? i was thinking of the fiberglass wicks that are used in lamps and that if it is the same principle that buying a sheet of fiberglass might be more cost efficient. Comments?

    Bookmark   January 14, 2007 at 5:16PM
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watergal(z6/7 Westminster, MD)

Cap mats aren't messy. In the house, I don't want water spraying everywhere, especially with lights around. You just fill the thing with water every week, give or take, and ignore it the rest of the time. No nozzles to get clogged wither.

The mats are some kind of synthetic fiber, not unlike felt. Don't know about fiberglass so can't compare. If you look at some of the greenhouse supply companies geared towards wholesalers, the matting will be cheaper than at some of the fancy home garden supply companies.

    Bookmark   January 15, 2007 at 10:34AM
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Looking at all these messges I have a lot of seed starting trays, the kind with dome, seed tray, and then reservoir tray on bottom. I am thinking of buying a roll of capillary matting form Gardener's supply co. Do you think it will work with these seed trays? It sounds like the bottom of the seed tray would have to sit on the mat. Any ideas or should I just purchase some new APS trays?

    Bookmark   February 3, 2007 at 5:32PM
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geoforce(z7a SE PA)

I have several dozen rooted cuttings that are also getting very big, basically a jungle covering the entire shelf from front to back solidly. I WISH they only needed watering every 3 days.

I have them all in 3" square pots and they fit 18 per standard 10 X 20 tray. I cut 1.5" PVC pipe sections 1.5" long and place these in the pans, 6 per, with a sheet of eggcrate (Cover for flourescent light) plastic on these, then the wick mat with the pots on that. Wicks under pots soak it up from the pans. I put about 1/2 gallon of water per day in each pan.


    Bookmark   February 6, 2007 at 11:33AM
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nygardener(z6 New York)

kes_cor, you said, "I wish I could have a big plastic container that I could fill with water and drain a half hour later." These might do the job, though they might be slightly too long at 49" Ã 20".

You can buy a pre-cut piece of capillary mat with a square of eggcrate that fits standard trays. I'm using them with a second piece of eggcrate so that I can keep more water in the tray.

    Bookmark   April 9, 2007 at 4:28AM
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See the following study comparing overhead misting and capillary mat.

Here is a link that might be useful: Pima County Cooperative Extension Study

    Bookmark   May 23, 2009 at 12:17PM
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