Having got my new greenhouse installed and kitting it out so that I could make the best use of the space, now came the fun part of setting up my Autopot System and getting everything growing. I first came across the Autopot System when I was looking for my greenhouse from Edenlite Glasshouses and it really appealed to me for many reasons:
- it is a gravity fed watering system that is simple and easy to use
- it means that I don’t have to water the plants every day – suiting a busy lifestyle
- I can go away on holiday without my plants dying or needing to get someone to come in frequently (and they just have to top up the tanks if they do)
- nutrients are mixed into the water so that the plants get regular feeding
- the smart valve set-up allows the plants to get the water they need but without getting ‘wet feet’
- the inventor is using his technology for social and environmental good
The Autopot Starter Kit is a great way to get set up initially. The kit comes with a 35 litre water tank and a double hydrotray with all the valves, pipes and taps you need, along with nutrients, vermiculite/perlite growing medium and instructions! One water tank will service 3 or 4 units (depending on the water needs of your plants) so then you can just add extra units as you need them. They have large single hydrotrays, medium-sized double hydrotrays and the window box units with 4 small pots that all come with a smart valve inside an internal reservoir and requisite plumbing to connect them up to the system. I have a selection of different sizes for my various orchids and other plants.
When I was kitting out my greenhouse, I had to make sure that I got stands that raised the water tanks as high as I possibly could to allow sufficient pressure for the water to get to the plants. I have 3 water tanks now that I hope will be enough to service all the pots I can fit in the greenhouse – thankfully my orchids aren’t ‘heavy drinkers’ so that means each tank can support more autopots (or last longer before requiring re-filling). The smart valve allows the reservoir in each hydrotray to fill to a certain level, then allow it to be used up completely letting the plants have some time without water before re-filling.
My orchids absolutely love the autopots! Within a week of being in them, they were sending up new shoots – both flowers and leaves. Even though they were in pretty poor shape from their previous maltreatment (and I divided some) they still put on a magnificent display for me over quite a period of time. And I visited the NZ Orchid Society Show to purchase some more orchids – I couldn’t resist!
As well as the various hydrotrays I mentioned above, I saw that they also made some hanging basket units with the smart valve and reservoir inside (connecting to a water tank) and some stand-alone Smart Pots where you manually fill the reservoir. Although Edenlite Glasshouses don’t yet stock these pots, owner Tony very kindly brought some of each back from Australia for me.
I wanted to use the hanging baskets to make maximum use of all the space in my greenhouse by hanging these from hooks from the roof. There was only one hitch: in order to work the water tank must be higher than the pots. I have solved this dilemma by buying a couple of 10 litre jerry cans, fitting grommets and piping, and hanging them up near the peak of the roof – just above the level of the hanging baskets. Hopefully my Streptocarpus will thrive with plentiful food and water.
I was also given a pitcher plant as a birthday present (thank you Darja!) which would also be perfect in a hanging basket but I wasn’t sure whether feeding it the nutrient solution was going to be a good idea as they are usually in nutrient-starved conditions but survive by catching insects in their pitchers. I have been thinking about putting up insect screens in the glasshouse that might make that a bit difficult, and yet another job of collecting insects to feed my pitcher plant didn’t really appeal. So I decided that I would give it a go – and so far it is looking healthy. I pinched the tip out to make it bush out more and there are new shoots appearing everywhere, although no new pitchers yet.
I want to plant my Moth Orchids in the Smart Pots but think I might have to wait until they stop flowering before I do that. Hopefully they will benefit from a constant supply of nutrients and the right amount of water.
It is really nice to work inside the greenhouse when it is cold and wet outside – now I’m wishing my greenhouse was bigger …