Building A Plant Propagation Bed – Part 3
Building A Plant Propagation Bed – Part 3 is the third and final part of my Building a Plant Propagation Bed series. Please see the links below for parts 1 and 2.
Click on this link for: Building A Plant Propagation Bed – Pt1
Click on this link for: Building A Plant Propagation Bed – Part 2
In part 1 and 2 of the series “Building a Plant Propagation Bed”, I covered how to make a plant propagation bed that will keep deer, dogs, feral cats, squirrels, rabbits, and ground hogs out of the bed. (Ground hogs can still tunnel into the beds.) If you build a bed as described in parts 1 and 2 you are good to go with winter hardwood cuttings. You are NOT good to go for summer softwood or semi-softwood cuttings though. You will need to shade your plants and to keep them moist so they don’t dry out from the hot summer sun. Part 3 of this series will cover how to turn the winter bed from parts 1 and 2 into a thriving summer plant propagation system.
There are two problems with summer propagation beds that you don’t have in the winter propagation beds. First, the summer sun will beat down and cook or sunburn your plants. In the winter the sun is low in the sky and you don’t have to worry about sunburn (in northern hemisphere temperate climates at least). Second, the leaves on the plants will “perspire” and dry the plants out in the summer. The second issue is exacerbated by the hot summer heat. In the winter, deciduous trees do not have leaves so the perspiration factor is a non-issue.
Building A Plant Propagation Bed – Part 3 – The Solution
So how do we solve the two problems above? We provide shade and moisture. There problem solved. 🙂 This article will talk about these two issues and show you how to solve the issues in detail.
In the picture below titled “Shade Cloth On” you see that I have a propagation bed that is protected from the full on afternoon sun and there is some plumbing shown. This is a 4′ x 8′ x 8″ bed with concrete sand in it. I planted softwood cuttings in the bed in early June. This picture was taken at the end of June. With softwood cuttings, they have leaves on them already. I will do another article in the future on exactly how to plant softwood vs. hardwood cuttings. In the picture titled “Shade Cloth Pulled Back” you can see the bed a little better. I pulled the shade cloth back only for the purpose of this photo, then I replaced it.
For the purposes of comparison, I have included two pictures below of the same be with winter hardwood cuttings in it. The first picture, titled “Hardwood Cuttings”, shows the cuttings in the bed. They are 1″ x 1″ apart. I found that this was too close, so I went 1″ x 2″ with the summer softwood cuttings. The issue I had with them being too close was not that the roots got tangled. That happened slightly, but they were easy enough to sepearte. The real issue was I was experimenting and each row had different plants in them. When I was digging them out, I kept getting the plants mixed up. This is unacceptable in the nursery business. So I now have the plants were spaced 1″ apart in a row and the rows are 2″ apart.
The next photo, titled “Hardwood Cuttings Covered”, shows the same hardwood cuttings covered with a frame that is covered by chicken wire. The frame legs are about 18″ high giving 10″ above the top of the propagation bed. The purpose of the cover was to keep my dogs, the squirrels, and feral cats out of the sand. This setup kept the critters out, but when the plants started growing in the spring, they quickly grew up into the chicken wire. It was not tall enough.
Another problem with the chicken wire is it was not strong enough to put shade cloth on. I sagged in the middle without shade cloth on it. With shade cloth, the center would have touched the sand. I made the cover the way I did so it would be easily removed when I wanted to access the plants inside. If I made it sturdier, it would have become a good bit heavier and it would have been difficult to lift off. I discovered that I had to go with a permanent structure in the summer that was higher off the ground and sturdy enough to put a shade cloth on. That is when I came up with the design pictured at the top of this article.
The permanent structure with shade cloth pictured above does everything I need, except keep the animals out. Since this is at my residence in suburbia, I don’t have to worry about deer and groundhogs. I do have to worry about my dogs, feral cats, and squirrels. What worked for me this summer was filling the bed up fully with plants and pots. That kept the dogs and feral cats out. The squirrels would still go into the bed, but the dogs running in the yard seem to keep the squirrels on the run and they didn’t mess with the bed this past year.
The above experiments were a wonderful lesson on what works and what doesn’t. Out at the farm, I have to worry about deer and groundhogs. My experiments in suburbia would not deter them. That is why I use the method demonstrated in part 1 and 2 of this series. It keeps the animals out, is strong enough to hold a shade cloth in the summer and is big enough for me to put a door on and to walk in to, so I do not need it to be a removable structure.
Building A Plant Propagation Bed – Part 3 -Shade Cloth
The shade cloth shown above is 90% UV block shade cloth. That is too much. It worked for me, but it is recommended to use 50% shade cloth. If you’ll notice in the pictures above, my shade cloth only covers the top. The sides do allow sun to enter. This was good in my case because I have dappled sun from that angle. In a full sun situation, that much sun for any period of time is too much and could easily burn the plants.
Note: in the videos below I stated that the shade cloths were 70%. That is incorrect. I just checked my orders from amazon and they were for 90% UV block shad cloth.
Building A Plant Propagation Bed – Part 3 -Plumbing
Now for the plumbing. The plumbing for my system is mostly shown below in the picture titled “Plumbing Closeup”.
Shown in the picture are: a 3/4″ black hose coming in from the right hand side. That goes into a water filter. The water filter is used to filter out the chlorine from my public water system. At the farm I have well water so no chlorine. However, I will still use the filter to take out sediment and minerals that would clog my mist heads.
From the filter I go into a PVC T connector. The pipe in the up direction goes to a valve that is turned off and then a green sprinkler valve and into another hose. This section was planned for a second bed that I never put in, so the valve stayed off and it was not used at all this year.
The pipe coming out on the left side of the T connector goes to a green sprinkler valve. You can see on the green sprinkler valve that it has a solenoid with wires on it. The wires go off to a timer that opens the sprinkler valve from time to time. I’ll explain more on that later.
The picture below titled “Plumbing” shows the same setup from a different angle. Coming out of the sprinkler valve to the left, you will see a 4-foot section of PVC that has a valve on the end. The valve on the end is used so I can drain the water out of the pipe in the winter so the freezing weather won’t burst the pipe on me. The valve is kept in the closed position during normal use, as shown.
If you notice, about 8 inches to the left of the sprinkler valve, there is a small black tube coming out of the PVC. This tube goes over to the Dramm Stxx sprinkler head. The Dramm Stix is a misting type sprinkler head that is on top of wires that plug into the ground. The wires come in varying lengths. I believe mine are 30″.
To plumb the Dramm Stix, you drill a 3/8″ hole into the PVC and the black tube fits snugly into the hole in the PVC. The theory is that the tube is snug enough to hold the tube in the pipe. That didn’t work for me. I had too much water pressure. So I added a 25PSI water regulator to the setup hoping to solve the issue. The water regulator is pictured in the pictures “25lb PSI Regulator” and “Water Regulator”.
The water regulator did not solve the issue. It only prolonged the time in between the time that I shot the black tube out of the PVC and created a gieser.
I ultimately ended up using electrical tape and taping the black tube into the PVC. I did figure “8s” around the tube and the PVC. Once I did this it held like a champ for the reminder of the summer.
I included a picture below with the electrical tape holding the black tube into the PVC. Imagine that you are going to make a figure-8 around the black tube and the black tube is the center of the figure-8. I also used electrical tape to tie the black tube and the PVC together about 6-inches away from the point that I did figure-8s. This is to relieve any pressure on the joint where the figure-8 is from movement of the tube caused by wind or anything else.
Building A Plant Propagation Bed – Part 3 – Sprinkler Valve
The whole goal of the intermittent mist system is to be fully automatic. You do not want a system that you will have to interact with constantly. The system described here will be fully automatic and mist the plants for ten seconds at ten minute intervals. And it will only do it during the heat of the day. You do not want to water your plants all night long or you will risk causing disease and other problems. Generally you want the system to start watering around sunrise and to stop watering around sunset.
In order to automatically control the water flow you need to add a sprinkler valve. I used the orbit product lines for both the sprinkler valve and the wire to the sprinkler valve. They are depicted in the pictures “Sprinkler Valve” and “Sprinkler Wire”.
The sprinkler valve is controlled by a black solenoid on top of the sprinkler valve. The solenoid is kind of an electrical switch that opens and closes when electricity is applied. We will use a wire to connect the sprinkler valve to a controller unit. We will talk about the controller unit a little later in this article.
The sprinkler valve has has 3/4-inch female ends on both sides of the device. I went to the local hardware store and picked up some fittings that would covert each end to 3/4-inch PVC. The fittings that I added are shown in the photo titled “Sprinkler Valve PVC”.
This allowed me to glue a 3/4-inch PVC pipe to the fitting and then I could make the pipe as long as I needed. Then I drill into the PVC pipe and hook up the black tube to the Dramm Stix at the point I needed.
For a single bed, the PVC does not need to be that long, but when you are doing large beds or multiple beds, you will likely want longer pipes.
If all of the mist heads are going to be running for the same amount of time and you have enough water pressure to run many mist heads, you can use just one sprinkler valve to run many mist heads plugged into the same PVC.
I used the sprinkler wire shown in the picture titled “Sprinkler Wire” and the wire nuts shown in the picture titled “Waterproof Wire Nuts”. The wire is designed to be run outside and can tolerate rain, being put underground, or in direct sunlight. The wirenuts are designed to be used outside and have a jell in them to protect the electrical connections from the elements.
The sprinkler wire shown here is multiple conductor so if you do need to program multiple different sprinkler valves for some reason, then you can run all of the connections in one single cable.
The majority of the products talked about here came from either the local hardware store or from Amazon. I’ve included web links below to most products talked about on this post.
Building A Plant Propagation Bed – Part 3 – Indoor Irrigation and Propagation Seconds Operation Controller
The piece that really makes that fully automatic for you is the Indoor Irrigation and Propagation Seconds Operation Controller. The unit that I have and the unit depicted is the “Galcon 8056S AC-6S 6-Station Indoor Irrigation and Propagation Seconds Operation Controller”. It is shown in the picture titled “Galcon”.
There are many different types shown online at Amazon. This is the model that they have used at two different propagation classes that I have been to and I like the unit. The video below shows you how to program this unit and may or may not work for other units.
This particular unit will allow you to individually program 6 different sprinkler valves with different settings. It lets you program for each day of the week, allows you to control when a program starts, now or in the future, and lets you program based on time of day.
I have mine set up to give a 10-second burst of water to the mist head. It will do this every 10 minutes from 6AM to 9PM. These times are approximately my summer solstice sunrise and sunset times. You may need to vary these times based on how far north you are. You may also have to program more than a 10-second burst if you are in a much hotter climate and you may need to adjust the 10-minutes based on how quickly the water evaporates off of the leaves. Basically, you do not want the leaves to fully dry out.
Building A Plant Propagation Bed – Part 3 – YouTube Videos
Below are several YouTube videos. The first shows what I plan to do in order to make my propagation beds ready for summer. The second shows the plumbing system put together at my Maryland residence. The third shows how to program the Galcon controller.
Building A Plant Propagation Bed – Part 3 – Shade Cloth
Building A Plant Propagation Bed – Part 3 – Plumbing
Building A Plant Propagation Bed – Part 3 – Galcon Programming
Building A Plant Propagation Bed – Part 3 – Product Links
Below are links to online sources to purchase the above equipment. I do get a small referral fee if you purchase the Amazon products and it helps support this blog. It does not cost you any more to purchase from these links.
(Note: I did not buy the below shade cloth. I plan on buying the below shade cloth and will give a report on it in 2016.)
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