Archive for SWaRGGS

Gardening – Rain Gutter Grow System

Posted in Food, Gardening, Nature with tags , , , , , , , , , on 2016/10/31 by rmolby

Some time ago, probably about two or three years ago, I discovered Larry Hall’s Self Watering Rain Gutter Grow System!

I was impressed, and it filled a concept void in my mind, where something wasn’t right for my logic when it comes to aquaponic and hydroponic systems!

So, let me touch on this last thought process real quick. I need to define a few pieces of information for context here:

  1. Hydroponics – a method of growing plants in a non-soil grow medium like rock-wool and feeding them via the water submerged roots by adding essential nutrients to the water via chemicals.
  2. Aquaculture – a method of growing fish in a man-made pond system, feeding them a commercial diet of fish pellets and cleaning the water of wastes via mechanical and chemical means.
  3. Aquaponics – combining the above methods solves several issues in both systems, and can reduce the need for outside sources of feed and chemicals dramatically, because the plants absorb some of the waste produced by the fish, and some of the kitchen waste (i.e. lettuce cuttings) can be fed to the fish.

So, the problem I have with the systems above is that the plants didn’t evolve to grow in soil-less environments!

Then I discover Larry Hall’s ingenious Self Watering Rain Gutter Grow System! Go watch the video at the link to the left or visit his YouTube channel. I will wait 15 minutes while you watch the video, and when you come back here I will expand on my thought process.

[waiting…]

Alright, you are back? Excellent!

Basically, my beef is with the missing soil food web. You might ask, what the heck is that?

The soil food web is a compilation of organisms that live in the soil in harmony with the plant roots. The organisms feed the plants by converting minerals in soil particles to a plant usable state to be absorbed by the roots, and the plants in turn release nutrients, such as sugars, into the soil via the roots which the organisms live on. You can read in more detail at WikipediA and SoilFoodWeb.

Well, in a purely water based system, this soil-food-web environment is incomplete or non-existent, as in the hydroponic system. But what if we were to put soil back into the system?

The problem I was seeing was that soil submerged as in the ebb-and-flow beds or the floating raft beds of the aqua/hydro-ponic systems is that you create a swampy environment that goes anaerobic quickly and the roots rot in no time!

This is where Larry Hall’s bucket and rain gutter system filled the void. Since the grow buckets only absorb the amount of water that can wick up from the rain gutter through the wicking cup, and the plants will only grow roots as far down as they need to reach the water, we are re-creating the natural water flow of natural, healthy, loamy soils of fields and gardens.

In such environments, water will wick up from the soil substrata as needed to gain hydrostatic equilibrium of moisture in the soil – in other words, water will wick up as needed in order to compensate for water lost at the soil surface due to evaporation and from the plants consuming the water as needed.

In natural systems, this is very efficient and inefficient at the same time.

Efficient in the fact that if the soils both at the surface level and deep soils are moist they will transfer or wick water to dryer areas.

Inefficient in the fact that if the soils get too dry, the wicking action can stop, and then it takes along time for water to reabsorb into the sub-soils, causing saturation during rain sessions where the healthy top soil washes away.

Larry’s system solved all of this by containing the growing soil in buckets, keeping it in place, as well as supplying a continuous source of water simulating the sub-soils by using rain gutters and wicking pots, and if we combine this with aquaculture, we can even get the fish waste nutrients delivered to the plants through soil, and the soil organisms will gladly convert them into nutrients the plants can use.

I really believe that this will become the defacto standard for incorporating aquaculture and horticulture into an integrated food growing system.

With this in mind, I would like to define some new terms:

SWaRGGS – (Larry Hall’s) Self Watering Rain Gutter Grow System

I had another one in my head but my memory is failing me, but once I recall the other acronyms I will come back and edit this post.

I will be doing some additional posts regarding how I am implementing this system at my home.

Since we are going into winter, I am building a leant-to greenhouse on the west side of our house. I’ve wanted to do this for some time and now have the blessing from the wife to pursue this, so I am building this greenhouse with some flavor of SWaRGGS in mind.

I am also attempting to get starter tomato plants buy making my own SWaRGGS pots from small laundry baskets and training side shoots from my in-ground tomato plants through the holes in the baskets and then filling the baskets with soil.

Some of these tomatoes are already basically 3 years old since I have done this with some success with pots the last two winters. I lost a lot of tomato plants during the high heat and now the drought, but if they were inside a SWaRGGS system I doubt they would have croaked.

Anyway, I will post a few more times about this subject; the next project will be documenting my laundry basked pot system.

Catch you later.

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