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Interiorscape Forum / Scaper Talk Discussion Forum / Plants / sub-irrigation & root rot
Posted:  09 Mar 2011 17:38  
Hi:  My techs don't want to use any kind of sub-irrigation because they think it will cause root rot.  Is there a way to explain this to my techs?
Thanks, Sonja
Posted:  09 Mar 2011 18:08  
Try doing it after you explain to them that if they drive straight toward the horizon, they will NOT fall off the edge of the earth...

Seriously, though...any unfamiliar technology is liable to cause some angst among people who are new at it.  Do your techs use watering machines?  If so, they may have been a bit anxious about them leaking or spraying water all over their accounts or rocketing out the back door of their vehicle while driving, until they achieved some comfort with the thing.

Subirrigation is not a mysterious technology.  If anyone has ever wicked a plant, they are already familiar with subirrigation.  If anyone has ever watered an African Violet or a Cyclamen by sitting it in a saucer of water to soak up from below, they've subirrigated plants.  The issue lies with which system you choose to use (and we strive to find one system that works best for us and stick with it, because multiple systems mean multiple learning curves and multiple opportunities for operator error).

CWI is very sexy because of its elegant design and "idiot-proof" self-regulating sensor device.  We love 'em.  For plants in inaccessible spaces or areas where high water use presents problems, they are golden.  But some techs look at them as though they were some sort of medieval torture instrument.  The key lies in training...the CWI Field Manual (downloadable on the Planter Technology website) gives a good, simple, graphic overview of how to install and maintain plants in the system, along with troubleshooting tips.  Properly installed, they work great...however, if the tech doesn't "trust his instruments" as pilots say, he/she will make some fatal errors with it.  But that's NOT the fault of the system.

Wicks are simple subirrigation systems, but they require fairly large amounts of open, standing water that can become contaminated with soil and other substances and thereby transform into an open sewer, complete with fungus gnat swarms, foul odors, etc.  Not pretty, but they can be effective and are cheap to install.

Joey Pouches are a newer system that requires some faith on the part of the tech and the owner, because the idea of submerging a plant "diapered" in foam fabric in several inches of water and hoping it doesn't immediately rot and die requires a leap of faith that some people simply cannot manage.  They do work (I have tested them for a couple of years right in my office, trust me), so you might consider them as another option.  Again, proper installation and following the maintenance instructions from the manufacturer is key.

So subirrigation isn't black magic, and it's not going to ruin all your plants...IF you do it correctly.  It will save you time and money in replacement costs, because many tropical plants like constant, even moisture without extremes of wet and dry soil, and subirrigation will provide that for them.  It's not for every plant or every situation, but it will work for 90% of your plants in 90% of your accounts and pay dividends for many years after it's paid for its initial cost.

Posted:  29 Mar 2011 17:15  
Thank You.

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