Question for the folks with an automatic watering system

VAFisher

Omono
Messages
1,382
Reaction score
4,054
Location
Maidens, VA
USDA Zone
7a
I've been thinking about setting up some kind of watering system that will allow me to be away from home and take a trip here and there. Actually, my wife has informed me that it needs to happen for the sake of the marriage...

Anyway, I always hear that it's best not to water foliage to prevent fungal issues like needle cast on pines and anthracnose on maples. I always try to make sure that I only water the soil and keep the leaves dry, and so far, I've been pretty fungal free - knock on wood. My maples have been good. I do have one elm that gets black spot every year and I'm fighting needle cast on a scots pine but other than that, no big problems. I'm reluctant to change something that seems to be working, but there's that pesky marriage thing.

A drip type system doesn't seem like it would work very well in bonsai soil so some type of sprinkler system seems like the way to go. So, my question for the auto-waterers is, do you worry about it? Do you take special precautions? Is it really a big deal if the foliage has time to dry before nightfall?

I'm grateful for any advice on this topic.
 

Dav4

Drop Branch Murphy
Messages
10,321
Reaction score
18,153
Location
North Georgia/lived in MA until 2009
USDA Zone
7b
I've been thinking about setting up some kind of watering system that will allow me to be away from home and take a trip here and there. Actually, my wife has informed me that it needs to happen for the sake of the marriage...

Anyway, I always hear that it's best not to water foliage to prevent fungal issues like needle cast on pines and anthracnose on maples. I always try to make sure that I only water the soil and keep the leaves dry, and so far, I've been pretty fungal free - knock on wood. My maples have been good. I do have one elm that gets black spot every year and I'm fighting needle cast on a scots pine but other than that, no big problems. I'm reluctant to change something that seems to be working, but there's that pesky marriage thing.

A drip type system doesn't seem like it would work very well in bonsai soil so some type of sprinkler system seems like the way to go. So, my question for the auto-waterers is, do you worry about it? Do you take special precautions? Is it really a big deal if the foliage has time to dry before nightfall?

I'm grateful for any advice on this topic.
I experimented with drip irrigation and wouldn't recommend it for most potted trees.. As far as wet foliage goes, I think there's a sliding scale with risk of fungal disease vs watering safely and effectively. I haven't had issues with fungus that I can connect directly to watering the foliage. I suspect that timing is more of an issue, and if the foliage is dry by the time the sun is setting, you should be fine. My auto watering system is typically set to run for about 15 minutes at 7 am... foliage is dry by 10 am.
 

cbroad

Omono
Messages
1,260
Reaction score
1,246
Location
Richmond, VA
USDA Zone
7a
A couple years ago I set up an auto water system and instead of the regular drip emitters with separate stakes, I used the yellow stakes that you hook the drip line directly to. These stakes actually create a mist or spray depending on the length of main tube and water pressure and the spray is directed downwards. I think they were Rain Bird brand. I can get you pictures later when I get home if you want.

I had the same issue, knowing the drip emitters wouldn't completely cover the entire soil surface, but these yellow stakes/emitters worked perfectly and I could adjust where the spray was hitting.

I bought mine from the old John Deere landscape store off of Midlothian Turnpike (basically at route 6O and 288) near West Chester Commons, I think it is now called Site 1.
 

VAFisher

Omono
Messages
1,382
Reaction score
4,054
Location
Maidens, VA
USDA Zone
7a
A couple years ago I set up an auto water system and instead of the regular drip emitters with separate stakes, I used the yellow stakes that you hook the drip line directly to. These stakes actually create a mist or spray depending on the length of main tube and water pressure and the spray is directed downwards. I think they were Rain Bird brand. I can get you pictures later when I get home if you want.

I had the same issue, knowing the drip emitters wouldn't completely cover the entire soil surface, but these yellow stakes/emitters worked perfectly and I could adjust where the spray was hitting.

I bought mine from the old John Deere landscape store off of Midlothian Turnpike (basically at route 6O and 288) near West Chester Commons, I think it is now called Site 1.
Yeah, I would be interested in knowing more. Thanks man!
 

JudyB

Queen of the Nuts
Messages
11,884
Reaction score
16,198
Location
South East of Cols. OH
USDA Zone
5b
I have not had any issues and have been using overhead mister heads for years now. I do use a systemic that has a fungicide component, and I do a routine spray of daconil when the weather is cool and damp as I need. I would say that having a few fungal problems beat having dead trees or dead marriage....
 

River's Edge

Masterpiece
Messages
2,001
Reaction score
4,200
Location
Vancouver Island, British Columbia
USDA Zone
8b
I've been thinking about setting up some kind of watering system that will allow me to be away from home and take a trip here and there. Actually, my wife has informed me that it needs to happen for the sake of the marriage...

Anyway, I always hear that it's best not to water foliage to prevent fungal issues like needle cast on pines and anthracnose on maples. I always try to make sure that I only water the soil and keep the leaves dry, and so far, I've been pretty fungal free - knock on wood. My maples have been good. I do have one elm that gets black spot every year and I'm fighting needle cast on a scots pine but other than that, no big problems. I'm reluctant to change something that seems to be working, but there's that pesky marriage thing.

A drip type system doesn't seem like it would work very well in bonsai soil so some type of sprinkler system seems like the way to go. So, my question for the auto-waterers is, do you worry about it? Do you take special precautions? Is it really a big deal if the foliage has time to dry before nightfall?

I'm grateful for any advice on this topic.
I have used a variety over the past eight years in my automatic system. I have stopped the use of drip lines, prefer the use of stakes that spray outwards at 160 degree's. First the black or green that shoot out horizontally and the yellow that shoot out 60 degree downward. They both work well and are rated at 5gph i believe. My system operates on 25psi. I mount the stakes either in the pot or on uprights if spraying across a range of small pots. Each zone operates from two to five minutes. Early morning and mid afternoon. The stakes are easy to switch and move position. I have found it simple to change out the length of connecting hose. I ran 3/4 ID the full length of each bench, upper and lower levels and the length of each grow bed. The 3/4 poly runs off of manifolds created with 1 inch ID schedule 40 pipe for the longer runs to reduce pressure loss with distance. Potted plants get one or two stakes depending on size. ( Yellow or Green)The grow beds get stakes arranged to spray the full surface. (Black or Green ones) .I do not concern myself with wether the foliage gets wet, the trees are outside and there is lots of air movement. After all, it rains during the night, not just during the day. Fungal issues and root rot are often created by other management practises. Soil mix, drainage, air movement, surrounding habitat.
Most fungal issues seem to appear in protected areas that have little air movement.
Watering systems are most useful as a short term vacation solution. I do not advise depending on them 24/7. better results are obtained with hand watering due to the variability of plant needs and the oversight required with the mechanical systems,filters,timers,splitters etc.
 

watchndsky

Chumono
Messages
863
Reaction score
1,485
Location
North Carolina
USDA Zone
7a

VAFisher

Omono
Messages
1,382
Reaction score
4,054
Location
Maidens, VA
USDA Zone
7a
Thanks all. I've got some planning to do I guess.
 

GrimLore

Imperial Masterpiece
Messages
8,502
Reaction score
7,339
Location
South East PA
USDA Zone
6b
Thanks all. I've got some planning to do I guess.
Not a lot though :) I have done full auto at he old house on a LOT of plants in MANY configurations. Bottom line is I do not water foliage anymore unless I am blowing debris or dirt off or cooling off plants for our normal two week hell heat period here.

Buy a amount of ground dribblers suitable for your needs plus a few more if the price is better.
Buy enough tubing and a hose adapter.
Buy an inexpensive battery operated timer, the one I have now is easily set, waters however often I program it to for any length of time(30 USD most big box stores)
Set it all up and simply experiment with how long and often you need to set the timer for. I set mine normally for a 9AM and 4PM substrate drench during growing season, easy...
Setup and test for a week, adjust as wanted(they are yours plants in your climate) and turn fire it up when going away :)

Grimmy
 

cbroad

Omono
Messages
1,260
Reaction score
1,246
Location
Richmond, VA
USDA Zone
7a
@VAFisher
Here are the stakes that I use, turns out they're the Netafim brand.
1525119437714-1833286545.jpg
1525119618315857259007.jpg
The nipple is slotted to allow the water to come out and it has the sloped end to disperse the water. Not sure of the degree it sprays but it's probably 90° or 180°. These may be similar to what @Riversedgebonsai was talking about.
 

River's Edge

Masterpiece
Messages
2,001
Reaction score
4,200
Location
Vancouver Island, British Columbia
USDA Zone
8b

VAFisher

Omono
Messages
1,382
Reaction score
4,054
Location
Maidens, VA
USDA Zone
7a
After a trip to Home Depot, I believe I have a plan. I'm going with risers that adjust to 30" in height and attach to 1/2" pvc. I started laying out the pipe around my benches yesterday. I hope to finish up and be able to start testing this weekend. If it works, I'll bury the pvc and the only thing visible will be the risers.


2018-05-07 08.45.14.jpg

And I see that I left my coffee cup sitting on a bench this morning.
 
Last edited:

Bonsai Nut

Nuttier than your average Nut
Messages
8,363
Reaction score
14,213
Location
OC, CA
USDA Zone
10A
Watering foliage doesn't create fungal problems. Allowing foliage to STAY wet creates fungal problems. The key to reducing fungal risk is to allow the foliage to dry out between waterings, particularly if the foliage can be dry during the heat of the day. Dry foliage + sun + heat = reduced fungal problems.

Try to water in the early morning (dawn or just before). Water deeply and less frequently when possible. Consider a zoned system so you can water some trees (particularly those with smaller pots) more frequently.

I have a broadcast sprayer system and it has worked well for many years. However I think drip irrigators are superior for one main reason: if you have trees with thick foliage masses (like Japanese maples) it is often hard to get water to the soil because the leaf mass is just too thick. It is an annoyance with my setup, and it causes me to use more water and water longer than if I had a drip system. However I have never lost a tree due to water loss in many years.

Many pro growers here in Cal run an irrigation line down the middle of their tables with drip line outlets every 12" or so.

c8f46a_0f9b41b2049343f191c1c4a0b8c05463.jpg

They buy different sprinkler heads by the bag, and adjust the watering volume by using different drip rates. The drip irrigation heads are usually color coded by capacity. Get the mini-sprayers, not the true "drip" varieties or the bubbles, because the sprayers cover more of the soil area. Consider using grey pvc because it is (IMHO) a little less noticeable than the white.

Ed Clark (Round Valley Nursery) uses these:

spot-spitters-regular-1.jpg
 
Last edited:

River's Edge

Masterpiece
Messages
2,001
Reaction score
4,200
Location
Vancouver Island, British Columbia
USDA Zone
8b
Watering foliage doesn't create fungal problems. Allowing foliage to STAY wet creates fungal problems. The key to reducing fungal risk is to allow the foliage to dry out between waterings, particularly if the foliage can be dry during the heat of the day. Dry foliage + sun + heat = reduced fungal problems.

Try to water in the early morning (dawn or just before). Water deeply and less frequently when possible. Consider a zoned system so you can water some trees (particularly those with smaller pots) more frequently.

I have a broadcast sprayer system and it has worked well for many years. However I think drip irrigators are superior for one main reason: if you have trees with thick foliage masses (like Japanese maples) it is often hard to get water to the soil because the leaf mass is just too thick. It is an annoyance with my setup, and it causes me to use more water and water longer than if I had a drip system. However I have never lost a tree due to water loss in many years.

Many pro growers here in Cal run an irrigation line down the middle of their tables with drip line outlets every 12" or so.

View attachment 190914

They buy different sprinkler heads by the bag, and adjust the watering volume by using different drip rates. The drip irrigation heads are usually color coded by capacity. Get the mini-sprayers, not the true "drip" varieties or the bubbles, because the sprayers cover more of the soil area. Consider using grey pvc because it is (IMHO) a little less noticeable than the white.

Ed Clark (Round Valley Nursery) uses these:

View attachment 190913
I alternate the drip sprayers along the sides of my grow beds approx 6 inches above soil level, overlap spray patterns to cover the full area. Then on the benches use spray drip stakes in each pot, one or two depending on size. I run the bigger line along the backside of each bench and individual lines to the pots.
i have removed all drip lines, found them ineffective for bonsai, Sprinkler heads are used for back up. They use more water than i like and do not deliver water into the pot effectively in advanced trees. I agree with Bonsai Nut, perfectly fine for young stock, less foliage and branching.
We have to contend with water use restrictions that limit the amount and delivery systems. Sprinklers are severely limited by regulation, low pressure drip and spray irrigation systems are not restricted. I understand this is not a factor in all areas.
 

barrosinc

Masterpiece
Messages
3,932
Reaction score
4,209
Location
Santiago, Chile
USDA Zone
9b
I use a mix between c spray's and microjets.
No fungus but use only during summer.
 

Similar threads


Top Bottom