Here's my experimental solution to the problem of avoiding severe wet/dry cycles in small containers in a dry Texas summer.
Wick Watering Blog Post
That sounds great! I want to do that in town using greywater; any reason that might not work?
I am considering using this method of watering my container plants at our property in Bayview. Since I don't live there, all plants have to be able to fend for themselves. The plan I have come up with is to use large plastic urns/olive jars as reservoirs and cover them with some sort of lid. Each container plant will be watered by an associated reservoir, which I hope will have enough water for a few months. I'll fill the reservoirs whenever I visit and will only use highly drought-tolerant plants like Desert Yaupon (Schaefferia cuneifolia) in the containers.
Great idea, Gerald. With the pipe you don't have the evaporation problem that you do with trenches. Glad you mentioned that you used nylon rope. drasaid, I don't see why you couldn't do that with your grey water. Why not use what we can.
From my brief experience, with highly drought-tolerant plants, consider that much smaller wicks might be sufficient and would make the water last longer. Old nylon shoelaces might be enough. But note carefully my observation that when the wick inside the container is lower than the water level in the reservoir, it appears to siphon, which just floods and runs out of the container. I suspect you will want the reservoirs below the plants.
This fall, I will play with a system to wick water an open built up row. The ground (gravelly here) will be tilled. Then a trench run down the center and the 4" reservoir pipe set into the trench with the fillers above ground. Wicks will be let into the top of he pipe and laid out both sides. The imported soil will be built up on top of that. It will be an onion, shallot, and leek run, 40 feet, like in the house. If I can come up with a larger diameter pipe cheap, I'll use it, because I expect this setup will suck more water.
I also built a wick watering installation in a horse trough. I'm monitoring the moisture meter and will post it with photos when I can say how it works.
Thank you for posting this. I've been wondering how the really hot water in the reservoir would affect the plants. It doesn't seem like it's a problem at all?!
Looks like a good solution for many pots. How long have you been doing it with these pots and would it make any difference if you put the wick higher on the pot?
Not long, about ten days, so it's an ongoing experiment. I do believe that the position of the wick makes a great deal of difference. But not to most wick watering setups, because most are arranged with the reservoir under the pot. The second set of pots had the wick lower in the pot, so it turned out to be slightly below the water level in the pipe. I began siphoning, soaking the soil and running water out the bottom of the pot. That stopped when I set those pots higher. Siphoning is really a powerful force, and it's relentless - it will keep on moving water until the water's gone or the water level drops enough.
As to where the wick should be as a matter of interaction between wick and soil, I suspect it's not too important. Soil wicks, too. But that's part of what I'm still learning, how efficiently the water disperses throughout the soil. I can tell you the first ones I put out, with the wick level about an inch higher than the water level, seem pretty right, as an average of moisture throughout the pot, and they seem to have stabilized, after an initial period of several days. I suspect there is just an equilibrium that gets established between the rate at which soil dries and gives up water to the plant and the wicking. But it is just possible that the present setup moves a bit to much water into the soil, and I may have to adjust by setting the pots considerably higher. We'll see how these starts do. They have enough water, which is just barely getting young tomatoes through 105-degree days in 30% shade. Everyone else is pretty happy.
Can you post a followup on your system? Sounds like a great system...wonder how it will work in sand?
I liked it so much I thumbed it up with stumble upon. You'd better get your patent application in soon! :-)