Ideas for Safety and Failsafes (“Holiday Mode”)

8:58 am in Uncategorized by Ingo Schommer

I’m just getting set up (no growing experience yet), but am wondering how you deal with your window farms when you’re away for longer periods of time. My plants should obviously survive that three week trip to Fiji (I wish…), and my kitchen floor shouldn’t be soaked either. Here’s where I see the most likely points of failure:

Water flow obstruction

There’s more water in the system than the top bottles can retain (less than the retainer bottle). So if the drip flow is obstructed ¬†through clay pieces or organic material, these bottles will overflow through the cut out plant hole at some point.

  1. Screw the bottle caps into the bottle below (as opposed to relying on tubes connecting them) = more diameter to work with.
  2. Screw more than one hole into the bottle cap (no single point of failure), ensure they’re wide enough that each hole can sustain the drips on it own.
  3. Cut up kitchen sponges into little 1.5cm filters and stuff them into the bottle ends to avoid anything clogging the drip holes. Clean those regularly.
  4. Place containers underneath the whole setup to catch any water going out of the system
  5. (Haven’t tried this one yet) Run a ~15cm piece of tube from one plant hole along the bottle outside to the next bottom plant hole. Thread cotton string through the tube, which should “suck out” the water once it gets high enough.

Water damange to pump

I’m using the T-Valve Airlift technique, which is prone to water flowing back through the air tube to the air pump, damaging the unit. A check valve can help to prevent this, but they’re not 100% fail proof (both of mine failed after a couple of hours already, no idea why…). The only safe way to place the pump is ABOVE the water level and let gravity work in your favour. I’d actually recommend 10-20cm above, to avoid smaller water bubbles being pushed back into the pump regardless of water levels (through rising air pressure in the air tube).

Electricity Shorts

Some of the setups on this site look rather dodgy in their mix of water and electricity. You don’t want to step in a puddle of electrified water that accumulated overnight. First of all: Ensure you have a safety circuit breaker in your home electricity (in German that’s called an “FI Schutzschalter”). Don’t place the pump on the floor, period. Hang the pump away from the water flow, and ensure there’s no direct “drip connection” (e.g. a water tube intertwined with the air pump cable above the sockets). Imagine where the whole system would fall when the suspension fails, and try to safeguard against that. If you’re using lights, don’t have any connecting points between the bottles+suspension and lamps+suspension.