Many people have the desire to learn about hydroponics, but many times they are intimidated by all of the pumps, timers, and equipment associated with the hobby. Here’s a spotlight on one of the systems we feel is a great starting point for automation without needing to have a full understanding of hydroponics.
The Autopot is one of our favorites because it is so easy to maintain. Unlike other growing systems, the Autopot does not require electrical power, making it reliable and easy just about anywhere, from greenhouses to warehouses. The system consists of a reservoir, pot(s), a tray for the pot(s), a copper root guard pad to keep the roots in the pot, and a special water controlling device called the Aquavalve, which is the key component to the Autopot. Unlike other float valves, the Aquavalve allows all the water to be sucked up by the plant and media before it allows more water into the tray. This prevents the plant from drowning.
The Autopot system can contain as little as one pot, or as many as you can fit comfortably in a given space. We’ve seen one-pot setups with a 5 gallon bucket as a reservoir, as well as 30 pot setups with a 55 gallon drum. There are 2 pot sizes; the 3.9 gallon and the 6.6 gallon for larger plants. Our best selling system is the 4 Pot Complete w/ a 12 gallon reservoir.
Many of our customers like the versatility of the Autopot. There are many types of growing media that can be used as well as nutrients. Coco Coir on its own or mixed with perlite, pumice, or rice hulls has proven to work great. Mineral based nutrients like Canna, General Hydroponics, or Emerald Harvest work well if you prefer the hydroponic approach. We have had customers use their own super soil mix (soil that has high organic nutrient/biology content), which allowed them to just use water in the reservoir throughout the entire growing cycle. Since this system does not recirculate the water and nutrients, there is not much need to monitor the pH or EC (nutrient concentration) after initial mixing and adjusting. These are great things to consider if you want a system that you can leave alone for several days at a time.
One of my favorite uses of the Autopot is for housing stock or “mother plants”. These are the plants that we choose to take cuttings from for future harvests. Taking care of your stock plants is just as important as anything that happens your bloom space. Without good stock plants and the ability to take healthy cuttings from them, your harvest cycle could be delayed. Because a bloom room is typically larger than the stock/grow room, it tends to get all of the attention, leaving the mother plants to “just wait one more day” for water and nutrients. The Autopot eliminates this unnecessary stress and frees the grower up to focus on things like pruning and inspecting for pests (important things!).
Some of our gardeners are starting to use the Easy2Go Kit to water their collection of plants on a deck or patio. The valve can be used to water an entire tray of plants, which is great for the middle of summer when you want to go on a short vacation and not come home to dry or dead plants. With the proper water filtration, these trays could be watered from a rain barrel or a typical reservoir.
We like to plant up our Autopot system with all sorts of flowers and vegetables. Below is a photo of young Thai Peppers growing in 100% coco coir in Asheville. The blue Wall-E looking device in the bottom of the tray is the Aquavalve. In the past, we’ve grown basil, tomatoes, and dwarf sunflowers. In the future, we plan to grow cucumbers, melons, and pumpkins suspended in a trellis net. There’s nothing wrong with a little experimentation!
The one thing that the system relies on for success is to keep it clean. The float valve has 2 yellow neoprenes that plug the water when the tray is full or empty. It is extremely important to keep these parts clean. We also suggest removing the Aquavalve from the tray, unplugging the ¼ inch tubing, and checking for debris that may cause clogging. These cleanings can often happen after harvesting or put on a schedule to inspect every couple of months. If you follow these steps, your Autopot will perform beautifully!