Irrigation Basics:Systems

Greenhouse Boom Irrigation

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Greenhouse Boom Irrigation Systems

Uniform watering is the one vital key to thriving plug and cell pack production. This cannot be achieved with hand watering or conventional overhead irrigation using nozzles with a circular pattern. Advances in boom irrigation technology give you a production tool that can be applied to your existing greenhouses or to new construction.


Types of Greenhouse Boom Irrigation Systems

A boom system is made out of one or more pipes with nozzles that apply water as the watering system moves over the vegetation. The boom system can be suspended from an overhead rail system.  It can also be attached to a cart that goes down the aisle.  A trailing hose supplies the water and gets its power from an electric supply cable or battery pack. 


DIY Greenhouse Boom Irrigation Systems

Grower-built systems are the simplest. A tobacco farmer in Connecticut produced the first boom irrigation system. He constructed it by putting seedlings in cell trays. He used a lawnmower frame with a folding, double boom supported above the plants. The cart was guided down the center aisle by the arm riding on a pipe attached to the floor.

This cart was moved by an electric winch mounted on the cart. In operation, the winch cable was unwound and attached to a hook at the opposite end wall. When activated, the winch pulled the cart at an even speed from one end of the greenhouse to the other. A micro-switch halted the cart when it reached the end of the aisle.

This boom cart could be easily moved between greenhouses which was a substantial advantage. With the double boom, the first set of nozzles wet the surface with about one-third the necessary water, and the second set with larger nozzles gave a heavier application.


Hand-Pulled Greenhouse Boom Irrigation Systems

Boom irrigation systems that are hand-held consist of a boom supported by a frame with a trailing hose. These types of systems are popular and have been developed by several successful growers. They can be mounted to an overhead conveyor track system or supported on the ground with bicycle wheels. Although the operation is not as uniform as with a power unit, the savings in time and the more uniform watering offer some advantages.


Commercial Greenhouse Boom Irrigation

Commercial units run about $4,000.  These units can be adapted to work in most gutter-connected and free-standing greenhouses. The widths available go up to 70 ft. For beds and benches 400 feet or less, they can be watered with only one setting. If you have several bays or greenhouses, look for systems that can be moved. 

The commercial boom systems depend on a single or double rail attached to the greenhouse frame. This supports and guides the boom over the vegetation. Even though most boom systems weight under 200-pounds, the system still needs strong support for the trailing hose and attached rail.

Most booms are powered by a variable or fixed-speed gear motor. To allow the speed to vary, a fractional-horsepower DC motor is used by most manufacturers. For either thorough watering or a light mists, you can find rates of 25 to 250 ft per minute. 

For excellent coverage, use cone-spray or fan nozzles. It's a best practice for uniform application to space the spray, so there is overlap in the pattern.    A critical dimension to provide that overlap is the height of the nozzles above the plants. For additional water for plants near the aisles or sidewall, you may need more nozzles at the ends of the boom. 


Adequate Water Flow is Paramount

As with any automatic watering system, adequate water supply is necessary. The wide selection of nozzle capacities available allows booms to be designed to fit most water supplies. Generally, 12” to 15” spacing is used with a nozzle capacity of from 0.1 to 0.8 gallons per minute.

Some systems will operate on water pressure as low as 15 psi, but generally, 40 to 50 psi is recommended for uniformity. To keep the nozzles from clogging, make sure your water is clean. The supply line should have at least one, possibly more filters. The mesh on the screen should be 150 to 200 to get rid of any particulate matter.

Some systems are available with more than one boom. These can be fitted with nozzles with different application rates for misting, feeding, pest control or growth regulator applications.


Methods of Control in Commercial Boom Irrigation

There several viable methods available to control boom systems. The most straightforward set up is to use a time clock or cycle timer that activates the drive unit at predetermined times.

More flexible systems use programmable controllers or microcomputers that allow

  • speed changes

  • skipping of empty bench areas

  • selection of boom sections to activate

  • multiple passes over the same area

Safety and reliability are addressed in several ways.

A variety of sensors may be employed to detect

  • bloom obstructions

  • mechanical problems

  • low water pressure

  • power failure


Advantages of Commercial Boom Irrigation

There are many additional advantages to a boom system besides greater uniformity of water application. Less water is needed because the system can be operated to provide the optimum amount of water for the crop. Less aisle space is needed for watering.

There are a large number of options. Because of that, careful selection of a boom system is required.

Factors affecting your choice include

  • the type and style of greenhouses

  • cropping system

  • water quantity

  • water quality and

  • the amount of automation you desire.

You should shop around to find a system that is most economical for your growing needs.

Get Your Free 15 Minute Consultation Today

 Call 408-332-9635 or contact us online. The team at Voeks, Inc. is here to help you grow.

Greenhouse Mist Systems

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What is Commercial Greenhouse Misting?

Greenhouse Mist systems apply water intermittently via mist.  This system is used industry-wide in horticulture and agriculture propagation environments. It improves the success of rooting hardwood, softwood, along with herbaceous stem cuttings and leaf cuttings.


What does a Greenhouse Misting System Do?

  • A well-designed greenhouse mist system produces a fine mist that provides a thin film of water over the cuttings and media. That application results in:

  • A thin “film” of water being formed on the foliage of the cuttings by the fine mist. This film controls moisture loss from cuttings by reducing leaf temperature from evaporative cooling and increasing humidity.

  • The mist enables leafy cuttings to be exposed to higher amounts of light. Rooting is accelerated, and many hard-to-root plant materials are established easier.

  • With mist propagation, there is more flexibility in preparing cuttings. Generally, most types of cuttings will root more readily under mist.

  • Larger cuttings can be rooted with greenhouse mist systems which otherwise would not be possible without mist.


Mist Systems Eliminate The Problems of Over-Watering

A properly designed mist system maintains a fine film of water on the leaves. This topical misting method uses the optimum amount of water, not too much or too little. It also eliminates the problem of excess water that leaches nutrients from the cutting and the rooting medium.

Excess water can saturate the growing medium. That can significantly reduce the amount of air in the medium.

Excess moisture at the bottom of the cutting restricts a good supply of air necessary for rooting. The amount of water can be reduced by using a fine mist nozzle along with the use of an intermittent mist.

The use of intermittent mist, which is appropriately sized and controlled, is the best solution to prevent over-watering.


Common Greenhouse Mist System Applications

Greenhouse Mist systems are capable of a broad spectrum of applications. The most common use is propagation, in conjunction with micro-climate benchtop heating. However, most systems can be modified to apply to a variety of applications such as:

  • Greenhouse crop chemical applications

  • Application of insecticides, fungicides, and herbicides

  • Greenhouse floor sanitation

  • Dust control

  • Odor reduction in food processing

  • Odor reduction for composting

  • Cooling

  • Humidification


Why Use a Professional for Greenhouse Misting?

Greenhouse Misting: Importance in using a professional for your installation:

For the best results, it is vital to have an industry professional involved with the design and installation of your greenhouse mist system. Voeks Inc. has designed and installed over 100 complete misting systems for propagation environments. We are here to help you avoid common pitfalls like: 

  • Over-spray is going onto walkways and walls. That overspray increases pathogen transmission and promotes algae growth. 

  • The over-saturation of the root zone which is a dangerous plant destroyer. 

  • Selecting the wrong controllers that aren't compatible with your specific propagation methods. 

  • Selecting incorrect nozzles. These can cause the mist to keep dripping even after the station is turned off. This is important because a large drop can kill a  small cutting.

  • Greenhouse mist systems can over-water trays if the heads are patterned in a typical “overlap” method used in sprinkler irrigation.

  • Incorrectly setting the pressure on the regulator selection resulting in flow rates that do not meet the misting emitters flow rate specifications.


Get Your Free 15 Minute Consultation Today

Call 408-332-9635 or contact us online. The team at Voeks, Inc. is here to help you grow.

Drip Systems

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All About Greenhouse Drip Irrigation   

What is greenhouse drip irrigation? It is a water delivery system in which water is applied drop by drop - slowly. The water is sent to the soil at the base of the plant. When your drip irrigation system is thought out and designed correctly, you don't have to wonder about how much water to apply. By the use of soil saturation sensors, water is applied when the soil is too dry and not at the correct moisture level.

When you want to accurately gauge and control the amount of moisture in your commercial greenhouse, an automated greenhouse drip irrigation system is the way to go. It's an exact and simple method that applies water by sensing the needs of the soil. Growers save time, money, and it's incredibly accurate. It takes out the guesswork and human error. 


Why is Available Soil Moisture Important? 

Greenhouse Drip Irrigation: Available Soil Moisture

 The productivity and growth of plants are determined by how much moisture is available in the soil. The current moisture level can be determined by:

  • soil and plant appearance

  • signs of wilting in leaves

  • signs of stress of succulent terminal leaves

  • dry soil that won't compress in your hands

Even before there is a visible lack of water and plant wilting, lack of moisture can be harmful to plants. Water deficiency can result in:

  • slow growth

  • underweight fruit

  • end rot in tomatoes

With correctly designed greenhouse irrigation, you can replace the less than accurate and time-consuming traditional methods and maintain optimum moisture levels for your soil. 

Conventional irrigation methods usually wet the plants lower leaves and stems. The entire soil surface is saturated and often stays wet long after irrigation is completed. Such conditions promote infection by gray mold-rot (Botrytis) and leaf mold fungi.

With the more traditional irrigation methods, lower stems and leaves on plants are watered more heavily. That results in over-saturation of the entire area of soil and promotes leaf mold fungi and gray mold-rot. 

At 10 to 12 inches deep within the soil, most greenhouse vegetables remove large amounts of water. That is a critical depth when gauging moisture and cannot be determined accurately by testing the top couple of inches of the dirt.

Also, evaporation and transpiration are everyday occurrences in greenhouses on sunny days. That can result in excessive moisture loss and damage to the plants even when enough moisture is added back. This type of water stress, no matter how intermittent or slight can cut profits because of low harvest weight. 


How Efficient is Greenhouse Drip Irrigation? 

For commercial irrigation of

  • crops

  • landscapes

  • gardens

  • trees

the drip method is the most efficient. When your drip system is well-designed, your efficiency can go to almost 100%. Compare that to other types of overhead irrigation such as pop-up spray heads and rotors which have an efficiency of only 50% to 70%. 


What are the Benefits of Greenhouse Drip Irrigation?

Saves time & money

  • Installation and maintenance costs for a greenhouse drip irrigation system are typically much lower than an underground sprinkler system. They are often exempt from watering restrictions because of their efficiency. Be sure to check your local rules and restrictions.

  • Greenhouse drip irrigation systems operate at pressures between 15 and 30 psi, eliminating the need for a booster pump in low-pressure systems.

  • In a greenhouse environment, large areas can be watered all at once because of its low flow rate.


CUSTOMIZAble & precise

  • No more under-watering or over-watering, plants get just the amount of water they need.

  • Drip irrigation works well for many locations, terrains, crops, and soil conditions.

  • The flexible system is easy to change as plants are removed or added.


Saves Water & Eco-Friendly

  • Greenhouse drip irrigation uses less water since water is delivered only to the plants that need it.

  • Evaporation losses are low with greenhouse drip irrigation systems, especially when used along with mulching.

  • For windy open-air conditions, it works much better than sprinklers. And it has advantages over horizontal airflow sprinklers in greenhouses.

  • Drip irrigation in a greenhouse environment reduces and has the potential to eliminate pollution from runoff.


Fewer Weeds & Disease

  • Drip irrigation creates fewer weeds because the area between plants is not irrigated.

  • Greenhouse drip irrigation reduces the incidence of foliage diseases.


Healthier Plants

  • Drip irrigation improves plant health by delivering fertilizer, and other chemicals precisely where they are needed.

  • It improves plant health by reducing fluctuations in soil moisture.


What Can You Expect? 

  • Save time by not having to manually control the irrigation systems or spend excessive amounts of time checking on moisture levels.

  • Instead of water spraying into the air, it's applied directly to the soil. That method keeps leaves and stems drier.

  • There won't be water collecting in puddles or splashing around because it is applied at the correct rate so it will percolate into the soil.

  • Fewer foliage diseases such as gray mold-rot or leaf mold.

  • Since the soil surface stays drier than with spray methods, there is less fruit deterioration and evaporation loss.

  • If everything else is in place and there are no limiting factors, there can be increased production.

Get Your Free 15 Minute Consultation Today

Call 408-332-9635 or contact us online. The team at Voeks, Inc. is here to help you grow.

Micro Spray Irrigation

Mist Systems

What is Greenhouse Micro-Spray Irrigation?

Micro-spray is a combination of drip irrigation and surface spray irrigation. So, of course, it has both the disadvantages and advantages of the two systems of irrigation.   Micro-spray generally operates with pressures between 15 and 30 psi. So, like drip irrigation, it is considered a type of low-pressure irrigation.  It is usually regarded as low volume with application rates of 5 to 70 (gph) gallons per hour or (18.9 Lph - 264 Lph).  

Micro-spray is well suited for spraying: 

  • ground covers

  • large flowerbeds

  • sandy soil

It typically creates a larger wetted area then drip irrigation. 


How is Micro-spray Delivered? 

Water is sent through microtubing and into a series of nozzles. These nozzles are attached securely to the risers. Depending upon your specific needs, risers can be designed to pop-up or be fixed in place. In either case, this type of irrigation has a significate advantage because it is easy to see that the nozzles are functioning. This gets rid of the common complaint of not being able to see if drip irrigation is working. 


Factors to Consider with Greenhouse Micro-Spray

As we talked about above, a greenhouse micro-spray system provides several of the same benefits as drip irrigation. Now we'll take a look at a few of the disadvantages. 

•    Because this type of irrigation puts out a higher volume of water than traditional drip irrigation, it may not be exempt from watering restrictions. 

•   Greenhouse micro-spray may not be the best for all climates. In windy conditions, there can be a disruption to the flow pattern of the water. And in extreme heat, there can be losses from evaporation. 

•    Overwatering can be a problem because of the higher flow rates. Add to that the problem runoff. But, in some climates or circumstances, this wouldn't be a concern. 

•    And you have to take into consideration weeds. When there are more wetted areas, more weeds grow. 


Get Your Free 15 Minute Consultation Today

Call 408-332-9635 or contact us online. The team at Voeks, Inc. is here to help you grow.


Ebb and Flow Irrigation

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What is Ebb and Flow Irrigation? 

Ebb and Flow irrigation originated from the world of hydroponics. In the traditional hydroponic ebb and flow systems, containers are filled with a growing medium that is inert. The medium does not function like soil, meaning it is not part of the nutritional delivery process to the plants; it simply has the function of anchoring the roots and functions as a temporary reserve of water and solvent mineral nutrients. A fertilized solution alternately floods the system and proprietary valves on the flood trays allow the solution to drain at rates customized by the grower.


How Does Ebb and Flow Irrigation Work?

Ebb and Flow system work by intermittently flooding grow trays. Grow trays come in a variety of types. Trays exist that sit on top of greenhouse benches, or there are full commercial lines of ebb and flow benches (the entire benchtop itself is a tray or series of trays).

The trays are flooded with a nutrient solution that is pumped from a solution tank. The flooded tray drains the solution back into the solution tank but at a slower rate than it is filled, through the use of proprietary valves. This action is normally done with a submerged pump that is connected to a controller. When the controller turns the pump on, the nutrient solution is pumped into the grow tray. When the controller shuts the pump off, the nutrient solution flows back into the reservoir.

 In order to prevent pathogen buildup, and to ensure that the fertilized solution continues to deliver the intended nutrients, it is essential to drain or purge the solution tanks on a schedule that fits your growing plan. Voeks Inc. provides design and installation for all types of purging systems that adhere to local water quality control board mandates.


Hydroponic Growing Method and Its Drawbacks

You can use ebb and flow systems in conjunction with traditional hydroponic growing practices. However, there are three things to keep in mind as far as drawbacks and limitations:

  1. The nutrient delivery process is 100% based on the fertigation solution
  2. Along with the growers understanding and maintenance of that solution
  3. Also, the solution will require stringent control of EC, temperature, PH, and nutrient concentration.


Flexibility with Soil-Less Media

Voeks Inc. in conjunction with growers has had success in designing and installing ebb and flow systems that do not fall within the typical structure of hydroponic growing practices.

Using soil-less media for example peat moss of different textures with a base nutrient charge allows incorporation of dry fertilizer. This growing practice can be planned and constructed to act as a back-up in regards to nutrient charge and buffering. This translates into needing not as perfect fertigation. 


The Ideal Fertigation

For complete fertigation, there needs to be a redundancy of the combination. For example:

  1. a good peat-blend soil-less media,
  2. with a light dry fertilizer amendment,
  3. plus continuous liquid feed via low concentration

That redundancy can give flexibility to growers. So when, for example, your stock tanks runs out on a Saturday, the plants are fine until Monday because the soil is holding more nutrients.

This growing method does require however attention to design detail. Using relatively smaller particulate growing media needs to be managed by the implementation of plumbing, to prevent clogging of ebb and flow drains, and media buildup in solution tanks.


Contact Voeks, Inc. today for a free consultation about your commercial ebb and flow irrigation system. 


Greenhouse Sprinkler Irrigation

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Greenhouse Sprinkler Irrigation

Greenhouse Sprinkler systems, much like the ones you typically see on a football field or neighbor’s lawn, allow you to water a very large area at once. These systems give you more control over your crops because you can decide where to water and when to do it. Sprinklers can be used by themselves or in a circuit, depending on the size of the area you are looking to water.


Where Can I Use Greenhouse Sprinkler Irrigation? 

Greenhouse Sprinklers can be installed inside a greenhouse or high tunnel. But, they are also great for irrigating fields, gardens and commercial landscape. Sprinkler systems can be customized to water only a few crops with one sprinkler head. Or, systems can be created to water entire fields with a series of sprinklers.


Advantages of Greenhouse Sprinkler Irrigation

  • Sprinklers can water large areas all at once and save time.
  • Sprinklers give you independence from the topography of the area.
  • Sprinklers allow you to irrigate with no need for channels.
  •  Sprinkler heads have larger emitter orifices than other irrigating methods. This makes sprinkler irrigation less susceptible to head clogging compared to drip irrigation.
  • There are excellent possibilities of irrigating for other purposes such as sprouting, frost protection or cooling during hot periods.


Disadvantages of Greenhouse Sprinkler Irrigation

  • The primary disadvantage to sprinkler irrigation, in comparison to drip irrigation, is that it wastes water.
  • On average, 20% additional water is needed in order to guarantee the net dosage for the entire crop.
  • Greenhouse sprinkler irrigation can sometimes cause high operational expense, due to the energy needed for pumping. Successful sprinkler irrigation depends on high pressures and velocities of water.
  • Sensitivity to wind can cause evaporation losses.
  • There is the unavoidable wetting of foliage in field crops results in increased sensitivity to diseases.
  •  There are problems inherent in irrigating tall crops or fields through which equipment has to pass during the irrigation season (e.g. pastures).
  • Fertilizers and pesticides are often flushed out.


 Contact Voeks, Inc. today to find out how we can help you with your commercial greenhouse sprinkler irrigation.