Many people are aware of Bugweed's circulating bog setup that he has going on in one of his large pots; after I saw it I was convinced that I wanted to make something similar myself. About a year later I decided to get my butt in gear! Since I began working on this a week or two ago I've gone through a couple of revisions to perfect the system.
Before I start to tell my tale, I'll present some of the reasons why everybody should have a circulating water system:
-The moving water through the pots prevents stagnation and Cps such as Sarracenia, Darlingtonia are known to appreciate it.
-By allowing the water to fall out of the drainage holes in to a water reservoir, you are oxygenating your water which aids root growth, and helps keeps plants healthy by preventing stagnation and the risks that it entails.
-This system is pretty efficient since water that you put in to the pots is recycled instead of sitting on a tray where it just waits to be evaporated.
-The physical action of moving water can help keep substrates in good condition and help prevent fungus and other nasties from setting up shop.
-The moving water can help keep substrates healthy; helps prevent compaction of soil, prevents anaerobic respiration of bacteria in the soil (which can lead to sulfur production.)
It all began with a water pump I had from a small fountain set. Since I wasn't using the fountain (and haven't in a while) I searched and found the pump. It's pretty small, not very powerful (I suppose if someone really wants to know I could find out specifics about it, lemme know.) Next there was a big container (reservoir,) and empty pot, and a pot with my plants in them (bog pot.) Lastly, I took a bit of .5 inch tubing my father had extra from beet operations (he uses it to transfer beer from vat to bottle, etc.)
The setup is VERY simple: Put some water in to th reservoir container. Turn the empty pot upside-down and put it in to the water. Set your bog pot on top of the empty container. Have your fountain push water through the tubing and in to the pot. This very simple operation can be done on any number of scales, but most pumps would probably be overkill even for large pots if only 1 exit point is allowed.
Analysis of system 1:
-This system is simple to set up, easy to deal with, and pots can easily be rotated in or out.
-Can be overwhelming for a single pot if only one exit point in the tubing exists
--To overcome this problem, one can add a flow restricter to the end of the tubing such as ones found in irrigation; drip, spray, rotational, etc.
-This system can be made more complex easily by drilling holes in to the tube at interval and lining the tube around the circumference of the bog pot meaning that there is maximum movement of water through all parts of the pot and to prevent pressure issues.
Overall: System 1 was a good place to start; nice and simple. This could work great if you have a big bog pot or if you want to start small (it's good to ween your spouse in to the idea by starting small ).
System two was where things started to get a bit more complex, and quite a bit more dicey! The goal was to have multiple pots (4) on a single-pump, single-reservoir system. So I took a trip down to the brewery store and bought a couple of feet of .5 in tubing (about 25 cents per foot) along with the 3-way splitters. The part of the reservoir would be played by a seed flat, the support would be an old wooden mattress support. The idea was to slip the seed flat under the mattress support and position the pots such that the drainage holes would be over gaps between planks of wood on the support.
So things started to fall apart. I selected two large pots and two small pots to try this system out. 4 big pots wouldn't fit because the seed flat was only so big. I was able to position the large pots such that their drainage holes permitted water to fall back in to the reservoir unhindered, but this's where I had to start improvising: I put each of the smaller pots in to large ziplock bags and cut a hole in the corner so that I could direct the water back in to the reservoir without having to worry about having all four drainage holes off of the wood.
Once the setup was complete, more flaws began to show themselves. The pump couldn't provide ample water flow to all four pots, the water followed the path of least resistance due to low water pressure in the tubing causing some pots to get no water and others to overflow, it was very hard to get the system started because of the pressure issues, and I was losing a lot of water!
The Patches: These patches can be used in all systems and are good for anyone undertaking this project to keep in mind if they plan on setting up a system with multiple pots and exit points.
Here I began to use flow restricters to increase the pressure in the tubing to a) help each pot get a suitable amount of water (small need less, big need more) and b) prevent water from only following the path of least resistance since it's VERY hard to have the tubes set up just right to get it to flow the way you want. The fix is a simple one: all you need to do is add a small piece of irrigation lining in to the tubing and then (if more restriction is required) put a nozzle on to the end of the irrigation lining. For the smaller pots I used low flow, for the bigger pots I used higher flow rate nozzles. The real goal here is to creature pressure in the system to make sure that the water isn't "falling" down the most downward sloping track, but actually being pushed through the entire system.
Analysis of System 2- Probably the worst of the 3 systems.
-Even though the drainage holes were cleverly placed and the ziplock bags worked well, the wooden mattress frame simply didn't work: some water runs along the bottom of the pots, and more water splashes on to the wood when it falls from pot to reservoir So not only does the water on the wood wick away, but the wood was untreated and if persistently waterlogged would have rotted and/or harbored nasties.
-The water reservoir (seed tray) was far too flimsy, and while the idea of having the tray hidden sounded nice, it combined in to a big disaster.
-This was a good system for teaching me what to avoid!
System 3: The final incarnation (as of 2006-07-26)
This third and final system combined the best of all worlds. I went to my Orchard Hardware (OSH) and purchased a big plastic tub (the kind for storing things under beds works fine) to serve as reservoir Now all the exit points of the tubing had flow restricters such that each pot received the correct amount of water. All three bog pots are set on upside-down turned pots and the system is working out just peachy.
Building Your Own:
Building a circulating water bog is a fun experience, and doesn't have to be expensive! You may already have many of the materials lying around such as a large tupperware or other receptacle for a water reservoir, irrigation bits and pieces, empty pots, and so on. Your circulating water bog is limited by your own imagination.
For a simple and efficient set up, all you need is a pump, a reservoir, some tubing (that fits your pump,) and for some, something to use as a flow restricter. What you want to keep in mind for a simple set-up is just that the water falls after it leaves the pot and drips in to the water reservoir as this oxygenates the water (big plus.) You can purchase pumps online or in hardware stores and depending on the size you can run a small system, or with something like a pond pump, you could create an entire bog garden in a circulating system. Get out there and do something creative!
One danger to keep in mind is that of clogging. The media inside the pots (99.9% peat) I used is fairly old, and I'm not sure if a new mix would hold up quite as well as mine have. Easy ways to get around this include putting something in the bottom of the media to filter debris (eg charcoal or a layer of sand or a filter purchased for this purpose,) a filter external to the drainage holes (such as a layer or two of cheese cloth,) or a filter/barrier in front of the pump intake preventing clogs. I've got no barriers, and we'll see if there's any long-term clogging of the nozzles by fine debris. Bugweed, however, does have a filter on the bottom of his bog pot so I may on on the road to disaster.
Silly Diagram Pictures
Now in silly diagram 1 we seed the overall principle of a circulating water system. Terrible illustration, but it should get the point across.
As seen by silly diagram 2, we see how I set up my system such that water has 4 exits, and thus water can flow in to 4 different pots.
Real Picture of My Setup
An overall shot of system 3:
Here we see how one of the pots is raised above the waterline of the reservoir water and the resulting ripples after a splash of water dripping down out of the drainage holes of the pot:
This picture is of the smallest of the three pots in system 3. We can clearly see the water level, and at the end of the tube we can see the bit of irrigation lining (black) and the blue restricter nozzle screwed in (blue) at the end:
Conclusion: That's all folks! A lengthy post of my story, my setup. Based on these premise, anybody willing to get off of their bum should be able to make a circulating system of their own, if just a simple one. These systems can be as complex or straightforward as you decide to make them, but hopefully I've given folks some idea of the principles behind circulating water.
All questions, comments are welcome! Please PM me if you'd like to see something added, noticed a gross spelling error, or anything like that. If there's demand for a video explanation of how it all works, then I'd be more than happy to give it a try. Now: Discuss!