Monday, March 11, 2013

Fluid mechanics in practice: Adding irrigation pipe to my planters

I've learned so much about flow in a pipe this quarter (hopefully), so its time to test out an old idea from the corn bin. I planned to install some sort of cheap below ground irrigation to make watering the plants easier. I bought some pre-cut 2 foot sections of 1/2" pipe and some fittings from the hardware store, about $5 per bin.
Irrigation materials
Simple PVC pipe
I plan to place the pipe about 3 inches below the surface of the soil, shallow enough to irrigate roots, but deep enough to not disturb the plant on the surface.

MS paint drawing of irrigation system
Pipe location within bin
Since the pipe is exactly the same length as the bin, I will have to drill 2 holes on the face of the bin to feed the pipe through. I had some ideas to link the pipes together, but then I remembered I had some leftover 1/2" tubing from building my fermenter airlocks that could be used. This way, I can make each bin modular, allowing each to operate either from one combined system with one water input, or have each bin operate independently from the others (each with its own water intake).
Connections in irrigation system
Red = 90 degree elbow; Brown = Tee joint; Orange = 90 degree eblow w/side outlet
I will implement ideas 2 and 3 simultaneously. That way, each bin can act as a standalone system from the others if needed. This is slightly more expensive, as all the extra joints add about $9 to my total cost. I decided that the standalone systems are not cost effective, so I returned my fittings to the store (and probably buy seed packets with that money instead).
Drilling holes in PVC
Drill those holes.
I first started by drilling holes in the pipe to be placed in the bin, 1 hole every 3 inches. Next I cleared out the bin and dug the soil deep enough (about 1 in) so I could see both ends of the bin. I drilled 2 1/2" holes into each bin and slid the pipes in, capped the ends, leveled them, and buried them under 1" of soil.
Assembly of piping
Prior to burying
Crude but effective irrigation
After burying/planting + funnel
After sawing myself a 4" section of pipe and attaching some fittings, the irrigation system for this bin is complete. I attached a pipe upward and added a funnel so watering can be done from one location. Soon I will have a system in each bin and all will be fed from the same inlet.
Bathtub testing the PVC
Skeletal structure
This should hopefully provide better irrigation for my plants, and make watering them easier. I do not know if they will grow any better from this, only time will tell.

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