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Posted:  02 Oct 2011 03:38  
We have been asked to install plants into a lobby already outfitted with rows of pots sitting in holes cut into marine plywood and drip irrigation about to be installed. I think it is the unfortunate situation of the exterior landscaper being put in charge of the design and is now ready to make it the interior landscaper’s job to make it work. The facility manager believes it will be a main hose from a control panel with the spaghetti tubes going to each pot but knows little about it other than it is a Mr. Drip system. As far as I can tell from Mr. Drip’s online information, they are not sophisticated systems and among other things, do not have pressure release valves on the emitters.  There are 3 rows of 21” pots in which I figure we would install 14” grow pots. The lighting is not the same along the rows (windows at one end, overhead and uplighting at the other) so water use is going to vary widely to begin with.   I know the system will not water the pots as precisely as individual subirrigation pots or manual watering. Do we use the system to deliver a minimum amount of water and then augment for the pots that need more? If the drip system does not work well, could I just run a solid hose in the same place (under top dressing of river rock) and use it to water manually?
I plan to ask the exterior landscaper questions about the system but does anyone have some advice about the potential problems of drip irrigation, which I am sure there will be? It is a job that we don’t want to pass up but not if it is destined to be nothing but headaches.
Posted:  02 Oct 2011 18:32  
You have already pretty much answered your own questions!  Obviously, you have a combination of experience and know-how and horticultural knowledge that tells you this is NOT a good setup for the application at hand.  Your instincts about the system's shortcomings in this situation tell you to opt out of using it, lest you incur high replacement rates and maintenance headaches as a result of this "inherited" design.

That said, your client has obviously incurred some expense for the installation of this system already, so you need to use a gentle yet firm hand in guiding them to the correct solution, one that will work for them and for you as the interiorscape contractor in charge of the maintenance phase of the project.  I'd opt to use CWI, dropping the units into the pre-existing holes in the plywood (being sure to verify that there is enough support beneath the plywood decking to hold the weight of the plants and the water-filled CWI containers).  If necessary, use the original "socket" containers for which the holes were cut, and drop in the largest CWI that will fit into them to accommodate your plants.

You can use the existing water supply hookup and adapt it for a garden hose that you can use to fill the CWI units.  The controller won't be needed, but you can leave it in place to avoid needless plumbing retrofitting that might upset the client.  Once you have been working for them for some time, they will come to trust your judgments in doing the right thing by them. 

Posted:  03 Oct 2011 14:21  
Thank you so much for confirming my reservations and possible approach. In fact, I just talked to the manager yesterday and tried to be part of the solution for him, rather than a naysayer. I wrote in an email and followed up with a phone call, saying that we could do A, B and C to try to work with their planned system but they would have to bear the cost of replacements. And then introduced the idea of the CWIs. He seemed to respond to our positive approach, understand our reasoning and said he would check out the website for Planter Technology. I see that they have added an Automatic Fill system which may appeal to the manager.
Thanks again for the support and refinement of how we can work with what they have already done but make it work for us.
Posted:  03 Oct 2011 17:58  
"Problem-solver"...that's the REAL name for what we do...we provide solutions for our clients, be they plant-based, container-based, accessory-based, service-based, whatever it takes to make a client happy.  Congratulations!  You qualify as a Master Interiorscaper in my eyes based on what you've told me about the way you approach your business.

Posted:  04 Oct 2011 15:01  
Thanks, Clem! You have made my day!

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