Monday, December 04, 2006

Playing with Advanced Gardening

Self-Watering Systems

Laypeople and experts can learn and play with an advanced gardening by employing a self-watering system. Such complex hydrology linked to the principles of life is called Unsaturated Hydraulic Flow first studied by Edgar Buckingham in 1907. People handling ornamental plants can have so much joy for science and gardening learning new ways to tender plants easier to have around. Science can be entertaining for those ones that admire simple miracles of nature when working with ornamental plants handling life forms so diverse from many kinds of environments molded by a a diversified creation of Nature. A constant water supply in the rooting media ensures that plants receive continuously water uptake and reduces the stress of regular watering operation cycle by wetting and drying processes. It reduces the risks of sometimes getting soggy for excessive watering or dry for lack of enough water as consequence of fast drying conditions. Self-sustaining systems are more independent allowing more units needing less attention.

During 10 years hundreds of experiments were carried out with around 3,000 prototypes undergoing meticulous evaluation regarding soil types, plant physiological response, and applied hydrology. It seems that all plants enjoy a luxurious water supply for continuous easy uptake, even those ones from arid climates like succulent types used to the scarcity of rigorous water recharge regimes. Historically, the hydrology of potted plants have not changed since man removed plants from the ground and started growing them on clay pots around 6,000 years ago in Babylon. Modern technology allows us to have ornamental plants easier to tend with an advanced hydrological functioning exploiting new conceptions in Hydrodynamics so long ignored on patenting affairs.

Soil-water-plant device is a very complex system able to continuously self-serve according to its water requirements accordingly always offering the same amount of water available in the rooting system for plant growth allowing a constant replacement of plant losses. As consequence plants may develop a sort of turgidity expanding stronger and larger the aerial part since a higher hydromechanical support endows an enhanced display of leaves and flowers.

Since the rooting system is constantly connected to the water compartment by a flexible porous interface capable of replacing water lost by evapotranspiration, the systems can offer to the plant a continuous luxurious water supply for easy uptake. Even cacti approves a self-watering system because of the ensured aeration in the rooting system providing oxygen for root metabolic respiration. As matter of fact, all succulent plants approves a luxurious water supply if the rooting system is unsaturated having plenty of air.

The amount of water and air in the rooting system varies according to the absorbing capacity of the rooting material determined by its granular texture. Usually soils have around 50% of solid on volumetric basis while the other 50% part is filled by interchangeable ratios of air and water. After attaining some balance assembled as self-watering system, usually clayey soils would have around 45% of water, while sandy soils about 32% and pure sand 22% on v/v basis when assembled in similar conditions like the potted plants in the pictures. Consequently, soils with smaller granulometry can have higher ratios of water for having smaller pores more connected and higher volumetric solid surface easier to retain unsaturated water. But, such outcome may not be that relevant since water in the deposit provides continuous supply to any demand. Perhaps there is no optimum condition when many variable ways can deliver excellent results.

The self-watering system becomes very practical because the watering operation becomes a simple routine of refilling the water deposit before it empties. Each refilling operation can last some weeks or months depending on the water deposit size employed and water loss regime by the plant attended. The water deposit needs to display the water level status in some extent noticeable so that users can refill it before drying out. It can be totally or partially transparent, or have a section, or detail that allows a visual perception of water status in the deposit to facilitate refilling operation when necessary.

To assemble such device the rooting media should have two holes in the bottom so that the cord ends are inserted downward to the holes like an upsided 'U' having two legs hanging long enough to reach the bottom continuously connecting to the water. This arrangement of the cord laying in the bottom of the upper part rooting compartment under the rooting material provides a safe connection to the rooting media for transfer of water continuously by unsaturated flow. Shaking or handling the device as disturbance always tend to improve the hydraulic functioning by settling down by gravity the rooting media over the cord improving contact among them.

Gardening rules suggest that besides the water regime the plants also require a good location where it can receive appropriate amount of light. A regular maintenance also suggests some attention to pests and disease that may appear once in a while. The nutrition requirement is lower than regular planting systems since there is no losses of nutrients by run off. Just some minerals are lost in the shed plant parts as organic material is regularly discarded as old leaves or flowers.

It is important to emphasize that African Violet are originated from the Usambara mountains of Tanzania of Africa around 5 degrees South latitude. It took place in the upper slopes between 1,000 and 2,000 meters of altitude providing a continuous fresh tropical climate at moderate temperatures. It means that such plants can bloom all year around due to the absence of seasonality effect and that they were used to grow at a bounty vegetation with some shadow under the big trees enjoying straight sun light in the early morning or late afternoon due to the terrain geometry. In their natural environment African Violets were used to grow under the canopy of larger trees.

The system can be built so simple that even children and laypeople can play at home using disposable bottles, but the complexity of water moving through the nylon cord porosity is technically described as Unsaturated Hydraulic Flow in Soil Physics as it was first mentioned in the Scientific Literature in 1907 by Edgard Buckingham. The expression 'Unsaturated Hydraulic Flow' was first mentioned at USPTO patents database search at US pat. 6,766,817 issued on Jul 27, 2004.

A simple home made self-watering system teach us some wisdom of coherent insights that life form flourish bounty when their basic requirement is carefully attended. As a PhD is Soil Science I learned so much working with disposable material understanding that simple principles can be found everywhere even in the trash the place I was a kind of disposed to simply because my dignity is non negotiable since a real science cannot depend on wealth or fame but a strong loyalty to nature functioning. Newton also saw important insights from a falling apple but he was a Sir while Lavoisier could apply economic theories to Alchemy not that hard coming from a noble family ancestry. Mr Nobel also had an easier adventure since selling WMD to governments is highly appealing as they enjoy helping nature by shrinking our numbers on mindless quarrels. I pray to Alberto Santos Dummont who invented the airplane but saw his invention taking off as an outstanding technological need from governments using human creativity to spread death from the sky during two world wars. He hang himself toward human misery to comprehend nature and work on more humane grounds. Initially his creative success gave tools to annihilate millions. He did not know that high power is committed at very short knowledge grounds because intelligence requires independence and loyalty to coherence.

Nature is very subtle on its principles since man wanted more food and now it cannot run away from it. Man wanted machinery for mechanical work and now is discovering that our muscles cannot be replaced. Slowly we are learning that betraying nature is the same as neglecting our existence toward the mold we came out. Denying our origins is the same as violating our goals toward a balanced life since our answers come from the past molding our inheritance.

Helpful Tips

1. When cutting plastic bottles use scissors as it allows straight cuttings and safe operation as well.

2. Hard plastic can be handcrafted using a very high speed hand-held drill. I use a drill that runs up to 25,000 rpm.

3. Test many kinds of synthetic cords before using them. Simple tests like a upsided 'U' over a glass working as Unsaturated Reversible Hydraulic Siphon can provide input about fluid transmissibility like on the right.

4. Algae growth making water green is not a problem, but can be cleaned by washing once in a while if necessary.

5. No need to wet the cord in advance since water can move upward through the cord porosity by itself any time as required. No need of priming the cord.

6. If the rooting media gets dry sometimes, watering on the top may help to rescue water connectivity and restore the hydraulic functioning.

7. Some special features like holes or fissures can be added to the device in order to facilitate water refilling operation important when having innumerous systems.

8. Recycling material like disposable bottles or containers can be used for building self-watering pots reducing cost and reusing disposable material.

9. Self-watering can be used to near all kinds all plants including succulents and edible plants, observing the potting dimensions and water requirements.

10. The self-watering pots can be hanging or standing. Hanging systems just need three insertion points to hold it hanging from ceiling or walls.

11. It is possible to make arrangements in order to have a self-watering pot or planter becoming auto-refilling by employing continuous water supply by piping straight o the water deposit which could be smaller in such cases.

12. Edible plants can be grown on self-watering pots for green gardening

13. Self-watering pots helps to curb the spread of diseases avoiding the proliferation of mosquitoes or other animals on platters of common pots.

14. During wintertime self-watering systems can be used as humidifier and easily a water balance can predict the amount of water it evaporates to humidify the air.

15. Self-watering systems can be good options for science classes teaching students the dynamics of soil, water, and plants growing in a small device allowing them many studies like water and nutrient balance as well as plant physiological performance.

16. Another important option for a self-watering system employing the rooting media expanded like a tray is for growing green vegetables, or seedling, as well as for propagation during sprouting staying.

17. Losses of water by evaporation at the top of the rooting compartment can be reduced by adding some coarse granular material or pebbles. This prevent water to rise to the top surface for evaporation bringing minerals along in the unsaturated flow.

18. Sometimes colorful rocks on the top or even inside the water deposit can provide interesting alternatives for improving the display fashion and overall appearance.

19. Turgidity of leaves and flower provides a stronger plant parts for mechanical support and lasting longer as well as a larger spatial distribution of flower arrangement. Also, pots allow a higher devices since water deposit under the rooting system make the system larger than conventional flower pots.

1 comment:

Dennis Nilsson said...

I think this technology could be very useful in fortcoming "vertical farming"-project around the globe!

Why don't you get in touch with Dr. Dickson Despommier, Ph.D at Columbia University?