Monday, May 26, 2008

Expanding the AutoPot system

I've added four additional pots (two pairs of pots) to the original AutoPot system (see the previous post). I've learned a lot, and I think I have some interesting things to report for anyone else thinking of expanding the system. One thing you should know right away is that it may require more water pressure than you expect to reach the third pair of AutoPots.

Previously, I filled the main reservoir with 5 gallons of water (a little less than half full). This did not provide enough water pressure to reach the third AutoPot- at least not enough to achieve the water level needed to water the plants. I had to fill the main reservoir with 10 gallons of water before enough pressure was achieved. This means that I will need to use more nutrient in the main reservoir than I wanted (in case I need to change the water). It also means that I need to pay attention to the amount of water that is in the main reservoir more frequently. This defeats the advantage of the AutoPot watering itself. So, I'll probably get another reservoir eventually.

The other option would be to raise the main reservoir much higher than the AutoPots. However, I neither have an attractive enough base support for the main reservoir nor a sturdy enough support to do this.

Required tools:
  • Something with which to cut the tubing

  • A level

  • Shims

  • Tube clamps (see below)

To see how to assemble the AQUAvalve into the AutoPot assembly, review the previous post. One change in the expansion kit (from the previous kit) is that the tubing comes packaged with both ends of the tube pre-attached to the 6mm T-fitting. This creates a problem; because, you need to insert one end of the 6mm tube through the yellow screw-on collar. However, the end of the tube has been deformed due to shipping attached to the end of the T-fitting. Therefore, the first thing you have to due is cut off about 1/4-inch (about 0.6 cm) from the end of the 6mm tube. Otherwise, you cannot get the tube through the hole in the yellow collar.

In the photo below, you can see how the tubes arrive in the package. The manufacturer needs to change this packaging practice to keep the ends of the tubes from deforming.

In the photo below, you can see that the tube will not fit through the collar.

I used a pair of wire cutters to cut off the end tube. Make sure that you do not cut at an angle. If you do, cut again or use a knife to cut the tube.

Your next challenge is figure out how to connect all of the various systems together. The instructions show you how the system should be connected once you're finished, but it doesn't show you how to get there. It also doesn't tell you how to connect more than one expansion AutoPot to an original AutoPot system. This may be on purpose, as I discovered. It seems that two expansion kits added to a single reservoir is one more than ideal.

To connect even one expansion kit, you must cut the tube for AutoPot #1 and insert the T-fitting between the tubes as shown below (A). Next, connect the tube from AutoPot #2 to the remaining barb on the T-fitting (B).

In order to connect three AutoPot pairs to one reservoir, you must also cut the tube for for AutoPot kit #2 (B). Cut off a short amount of tubing from tube #2 and use it to connect both T-fittings together as shown below. I chose to cut tube #2 fairly close to AutoPot #2. The figure below does not show this well. The next image shows this better.

Unless you empty all of the water from your main reservoir, you will need to clamp closed the tube from the main reservoir. I used some office-supply paper clamps that are commonly available.

As previously mentioned, I needed to fill the main reservoir with about 10 gallons of water (nearly to the top) to achieve enough water pressure to reach AutoPot #3 with sufficient water.

Using a permanent marker, I marked the inside of the reservoir at the 5 gallon and 10 gallon mark.

After you've got water flowing to the system, I recommend making sure all of the AutoPots are level. If your pots are leaning one direction, one pot could be getting more water than the other. If the AutoPot is tilted front to back, the float may not activate correctly.

Use some common shims from the hardware store to shim up the AutoPots until they are level.


Burrito Bandit said...

great blog. can you tell me where you got your autopots?

Derek said...

Thanks for the Blog
Just one Question: do you use only clay pellets in your pots or do you have to mix them with some other more absorbent filler.