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I travel too much, and, honestly I don't really have a green thumb plants. Still, I like them and would be happy to keep some resilient plants if could get geeky about it :)

I was trying to figure how to automatically irrigate plants with simple mechanism and interesting designs (after all, plants in my case, are for decoration only).

I wanted some that was:

  • Simple and low maintenance
  • Interesting design (I probably mean geeky here)
  • Somewhat configurable. Specifically in terms of how much water it drips for the different plants

I have experimented with IV tubes I bought in a pharmacy but that small flow control is not precise enough to set the drip rate so low.

I have seen a few commercial products around, but they all seem to assume the person buying will be on top of the maintenance or they have some sort of lame camouflage to hide it within the plants. Well, I guess both points are fair enough, but neither is my case :)

Have any of you guys figured something alike?

[EDIT] I guess I should mention this is for small plants kept inside the house - nothing fancy, really.

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What is your climate like (or where do you live)? What plants are you watering? The design constraints around your irrigation system will vary depending on these factors. –  bstpierre May 23 '12 at 11:31
    
Uh.. really? I will choose the plants that fits better the system rather than making a system to my plans (I don't have any at the moment). How could the climate would interfere in such simple design? Anyways.. I plan to have plants in Brasil and Spain. –  filippo May 23 '12 at 11:54
    
I know Brasil is large, but I don't think about it being arid... Spain does have semiarid areas... In Spain I would look for things like olives and pistachios and pomegranates for trees, maybe agave and interesting cactus for shrubs... –  Grady Player May 23 '12 at 13:03
    
Man... The question really wasn't about plants or planting. I just want to know of interesting and simple dripping system designs. Could we go back to that? :) –  filippo May 23 '12 at 13:26
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Yes, seriously. Before your question could have been about any indoor/outdoor plant. Now you've mentioned houseplants in flowerpots, which are the critical pieces of information that were missing before. Thanks for the update. –  bstpierre May 23 '12 at 21:11
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3 Answers

These seem trendy. They are glass bulbs that you fill with water, then stick in the soil. They'll slowly drain over a few days:

enter image description here

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A simple and cheap method is to take a 2 liter bottle and poke a very small hole in the top, then put the bottle upside down in your soil. You can regulate the flow of water by making the hole larger or smaller.

This may not work if you are gone for a very long period, but would probably work well if you are only gone for a few days. It also doesn't look very good, but you might be able to disguise them.

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I have already tried it but it dint work. Because when you hang the bottle upside down, sir dint pass in so water dint come out. This is the concept used in hospitals too. So I made another hole opposite site which increased water flow drastically. –  articlestack Feb 16 '13 at 3:27
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I also travel frequently and use the "Hydrospike". Basically it siphons water up from a container into a clay spike, which slowly diffuses the water. The flow can be "regulated" by the number of spikes you use ;-) The physics doesn't quite make sense to me, but against all odds, it seems to work quite well. The longest trip I've used it for was 10 days, with outdoor plants in warm weather, and my plants were all healthy when I came back.

The downsides I've faced are

  • size (this is too big for really tiny pots)
  • arranging the water reservoir. The water tube needs to drape down into the reservoir, which must be below the spike. Unfortunately, the water tube is only so long, so you may need to do some furniture arrangement to get the water up high enough, but not too high. I've seen other products on Amazon that come with some reservoirs designed to attach to the side of pots, and I tried one once, but it didn't fit my arrangement.
  • constant moistness (I don't leave this going for too long, but I imagine if you did, you might start to have fungus or soil bug problems.

The arrangement I use is an Ikea side table holding some paint buckets full of water, with many Hydrospike tubes feeding two yard-long elevated planters. I made some clear plexiglass lids with small gaps for the tubes, to limit evaporation and bug invasion, but allows me to check the water level.

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