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Interiorscape Forum / Scaper Talk Discussion Forum / General Scaper Talk / To Sub-irrigate or not Sub-Irrigate that is the question?
Posted:  11 Jan 2011 23:06   Last Edited By: CaptKirk 
sometimes sub-irrigation is a no-brainer, but there are always costs to incorporating this strategy.

What do you all use besides wicks? MONA tanks, CWI systems, Everlife water discs.

Obviously there's Lechuza, but if I'm not using their pots what about foam inserts? I'm trying to lose fewer plants in 2011.
Posted:  12 Jan 2011 00:20  
CWI and Joey Pouches work well with almost everything IF properly installed and maintained.  As with any technology, there is a learning curve involved, and techs MUST buy into the process.  Try to keep your subirrigation to one or two systems so you don't over-complicate the lives of your technicians.  They will master the techniques of subirrigation must faster and better if they don't have four or five different systems to learn.

Posted:  12 Jan 2011 04:14  
I have used mona and cwi systems, i did not have good luck with lechuza with my orchids.
as i get older in this business i tend to get simpler, and use the wicks!
Posted:  12 Jan 2011 04:47  
I have tried all of the following:cwi,wicks,joey pouches, lechusa, mona, everlife, No-hole liners with foam inserts,and sippers.  All have their place if you take the time to learn which plants will tolerate which systems. I like the wicks and the no hole liners because of price and ease of use..Some plants are better off without sub irr systems...but there is no denying that sub irrs can save you from frequent replacements.
Posted:  13 Jan 2011 04:26  
I would agree with knowing which like/respond or not to varying techniques.  I've had customers that had sub irrigation already in place, and I weaned the plants off them.  They looked better in the long run.  I haven't tried the orchids in Lechuza yet...so you say they (looking for Phal input here) don't like it?  Broms like them.  6" size plant anyway.

Wicks and sippers have worked well in different locations/plants too. 

Many clients around here are looking at bottom line pricing right off the bat, so frequently they don't want to pay the extra costs of putting these items together.  I need to perhaps work on the sales pitch/have them see it's cost effective for them.  hmmmm.
Posted:  13 Jan 2011 17:53  
You need to look at subirrigation as an investment on YOUR part in saving YOU maintenance time and replacements...if you look at it as a cost upcharge to the client for the plants/containers/service charges, you will most likely inadvertantly and unnecessarily price yourself out of a sale.  YOU pay for the investment in materials and labor to subirrigate the plants and YOU put the savings in labor and replacement plants back into YOUR pocket down the road.

Posted:  14 Jan 2011 23:27  
Don't ignore the basics.

Make sure your sales staff are selling plants that are really appropriate for the locations specified. If a plant doesn't have adequate light, no irrigation system is going to save it.

Likewise, underpaid and improperly trained techs will cost you replacements regardless of the system in place.
Posted:  15 Jan 2011 18:27  
I use CWI for high or medium light plants that are not accessible every week and for high light plants in high light areas.  Everything else gets hand watered for the week only.  So many are in low light situations that they go two weeks without needing water.  Low light brings its own problems.  Are wicks and sippers the same?  If not, what are wick?
Posted:  15 Jan 2011 20:25   Last Edited By: Clem 
Listen, there seems to be some misunderstanding about subirrigation...it doesn't necessarily mean that the plant will always have the same soil moisture level.  With CWI, for instance, the depth at which you bury the sensor tip will determine the amount of time and the depth of drydown that each plant will experience between "refills" from the reservoir...bury the tip deeply, and your unit will not release more water until the medium dries down that far; bury it closer to the surface, and it will re-wet the medium more frequently and not dry down as far.  So you install the sensor depending on (a) plant variety and (b) growing condtions.

For example, a Dracaena 'Janet Craig' growing in a relatively dark corner could be very safely outfitted with CWI, but the sensor should be buried extra-deeply so that drydown is significant and watering intervals are very long (4 weeks or more is fine under low-light conditions).  Conversely, a Ficus benjamina growing in a sunny atrium should have its sensor pretty close to the surface of the medium (don't forget, Ficus can have very active feeder roots growing close to the surface of the medium; too much drydown and you will get flushes of yellowing foliage and leaf drop) so that drydown is only an inch or two (depending on the size of the pot) and the CWI will tend to release water at fairly short time intervals.

With "dumb" methods of subirrigation (i.e., wicks, Sippers, capmat, etc.), the main control the technician can exert over how the system waters is the refilling interval and amount of water added to the reservoir, because wick systems continuously "drink" as long as evapotranspiration rates are fairly steady, so the medium will retain about the same moisture levels at all times unless the reservoir is allowed to remain dry for a time.

That's why I favor choosing one method (or two at most) of subirrigation, learning how to master that method, and teaching only that method to your techs so it minimizes the learning curve and the potential for technician error in irrigating plants. 

Even a low-water-using plant in very low light can benefit from subirrigation technology, because these plants are usually the ones that eventually (sooner rather than later in many cases) succumb to the ravages of excess soil moisture more than other plants growing in more forgiving environments.  So what if your tech only needs to visit such plants once every month or two and doesn't have to replace that plant for years?  Sounds like money in your pocket, doesn't it?


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