Replacing Mixing Barrels and Bathtubs with Garden Nutrient Dosers
Garden nutrient dosers are time saving and more efficient than the typical bathtub mix and can be easily adjusted.
I’ve been fortunate. Only a handful of times have I had to mix my nutrients in a barrel, juggle the pH and sump pump my way through the feeding process. I was introduced to nutrient dosers early in my cultivation career. Nutrient dosers are time saving and more efficient than the typical bathtub mix and can be adjusted in a snap. As indoor gardening has evolved over the years, growers are seeking ways to alleviate the back-breaking labor and time-consuming tasks that can be involved in the gardening process. Nutrient dosers will free up time and elbow grease, which will allow you to focus on other more pressing matters.
How Do Dosers Work?
Dosers work by pulling nutrients into an injector and mixing them with your water line in order to produce a parts-per-million or electrical conductivity to precise levels. The concept is quite simple. Typically, a nutrient doser set up in a traditional garden consists of several wall-mounted injectors that each have a tube running into a barrel of raw nutrient. As many parts of a nutrient regimen cannot be premixed due to adverse reactions, nutrient dosers keep all parts separate until they are fed into the water line.
As water makes its way through the series of injectors and PVC pipe, the pressure, along with the internal mechanism of the doser, meters out a perfectly measured dose every time. What nutrient dosers actually do is called fertigation. Fertigation is the process of injecting nutrients, fertilizer or other substances into your irrigation system. Fertigation allows for the uniform distribution of nutrients. Nutrients are also directed toward your root zones, which allows for better saturation and nutrient uptake.
My personal experience involves working with mechanical dosers in a multi-part system—three or four barrels of raw nutrient and a pH up connected to directly to the water line through a series of injectors. Each injector had a manual control dial of sorts to control the size of the metered dose. Click-click-click was what I heard all day as each metered dose was pumped into the water line.
As we all know, plants require different nutrient levels at each stage of growth. Using a nutrient doser in conjunction with a solid feeding schedule will simplify your routine and allow for on the fly changes to your EC, ppm and pH. You will no longer have to measure out your nutrients one cup at a time. Nutrient dosers do all that work for you.
One of the best features of mechanical dosers is that you can add injectors or filters to your system as needed. You can use one injector in a small grow or you can use 10 in a large agricultural setting. Large-scale agriculture would not be possible if it were not for nutrient dosers and similar advancements in technology. Large-scale production facilities depend on technologies that cut costs, reduce labor and allow for simplification of the feeding process.
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Garden Plug and Play Technology
The latest push in gardening and hydroponics is plug and play technology. Moving to an automated nutrient doser is a must if you want to grow your plants from your couch. Automated dosers obviously vary from mechanical dosers in as far as they are digitally controlled, thus allowing for remote operation. Now if you are watering from a barrel with a hose, the jump to an automated doser is quite the stretch. Electronic dosers are more geared toward automated watering systems like capillary mats or general hydroponic systems. Once upon a time, your car had a choke that had to be adjusted before it would start every day. A genius then realized, “hey we should let a computer do this for us”. The same can be said about gardening innovations. The move toward computers and automation is in full effect in the cultivation industry.
Automated nutrient dosers in a hydroponic system utilize pH and EC probes to constantly monitor and adjust your nutrient levels. These types of dosing systems can run for weeks on end before needing to be flushed or cleaned. Once you program your desired levels, the computer will automatically sense and adjust your EC and pH and will maintain your target levels. Utilizing automated dosers takes the human factor out of the day to day routine. This can potentially save you from costly human error and save you time in the process. And we all know what time really is don't we? Automation will help you maintain proper nutrient concentration levels, reduce labor, and will ensure proper feeding is achieved at all times. If you use a plug and play system, the biggest benefit is that you can monitor everything right from your phone and be made aware of problems in your grow without having to be there. Gone are the days of walking into a foot of water because your pump didn’t shut off... well at least now you’ll know about it.
So Long, Barrels
If you are looking to make the switch from a barrel to an injector or to a fully automated nutrient doser, you’ve probably had enough of struggling with your mix and wrestling with pH. Nutrient dosers are a great way to maximize your efficiency, save time and money and ensure accuracy. If you are using a mechanical doser, once you turn the dial to your appropriate setting, you are good to go.
Verify your mix with an EC/pH meter and the water from your hose will deliver the perfect amount of nutrient every time. For a more advanced hydroponic system, automated nutrient dosers are truly set it and forget it. Using probes to determine the levels of your mix, they automatically adjust to compensate for variances. No matter how you look at it, moving to a nutrient doser from antiquated methods of feeding is a natural evolution of the gardening process.
Written by Cory Hughes | Commercial Grower
Cory Hughes is a former police officer turned full-time commercial grower in Denver, Colorado.