Tips for Automating Outdoor Cannabis Gardens for Next Summer
Indoor and outdoor horticulturists both enjoy certain “perks” of their respective practices. These perks are generally interrelated with gardening labor and work environment. For indoor growers, access to inside conveniences such as electricity allows for the use of technologies related to environmental controls, lighting systems, and irrigation setups. These workplace bonuses generally make the day-to-day routine of the indoor cannabis grower more enjoyable. Because, they lighten the workload and allow for the precise monitoring of the indoor garden atmosphere. Conversely, outdoor gardeners grow their cannabis crops under the expanses of blue summer skies, breathing fresh air with their hands in the dirt. For those outdoor growers who practice organic cultivation, these natural environments blend seamlessly with a deep appreciation for the living biologics of outdoor soil gardens.
Looking at the perks of both indoor and outdoor cannabis growing, one must ask oneself: can’t I enjoy the benefits of both? It goes without saying that indoor cultivators can’t enjoy the freshness of the outdoors. However, who says outdoor growers can’t make their lives easier with some technological advancements? As such, we decided to have a look at automation options for outdoor cannabis gardens to ensure that, over the long summer, outdoor gardeners have ample time to bask in the rays of the summer sun. For those outdoor enthusiasts looking for a technological boost in their outdoor cannabis gardens, here are a few options:
Advancements in digital cultivation technology for controlled environment agriculture have made controllers an essential tool in hemp and cannabis cultivation. This notion applies both indoors and outdoors. For indoor cannabis growing, controllers have taken the “thinking process” out of mundane chores. These include setting lighting timers and regulating temperatures. Similarly, for tech savvy outdoor cannabis and hemp growers, the fluidity and ease-of-use of these smart-products is too tough to resist. While most smart indoor garden technology sets forth to regulate ambient environments, automated hydroponics systems for outdoor soil gardens focuses solely on irrigation.
Controllers are the essential element in transitioning an outdoor soil garden from hand watering to a smart irrigation program. Controllers send precisely dictated electronic signals to components in the physical figurations of irrigation infrastructures (see next section). They do this by utilizing cutting-edge computer technology in conjunction with touch screen displays.
With electronic integration, these smart controls regulate valves relating to both nutrient and water dispersal in the macro-irrigation system. The more sophisticated of these controllers can be programmed to mix up to 20 different fertilizer feeding regiments, simultaneously, for a single garden.
Ease of Use for Smart Irrigation
The ease-of-use for smart irrigation controllers is tied to both their technological perks and practical applications in horticulture. Generally, controls are the most beneficial for outdoor cultivators as relating to timing and consistency. These controls can be set on digital timers or light sensors for automated irrigation on a daily basis. As many plant species thrive on consistency concerning both environment and watering, the machine-like precision of controllers make them a serious value-add for outdoor commercial operations. Also, many controllers feature “cloud based capabilities,” in which a grower can monitor and change irrigation and nutrient levels from their smart phones or computers. As such, and if implemented correctly, growers can alter irrigation practices four outdoor cannabis gardens from afar. This perk is particularly notable concerning changing weather and temperature patterns. All things considered, controllers can add some serious efficiency and stability in outdoor cannabis and hemp gardening practices.
For both indoor and outdoor growers, fertigation injection systems have become a staple of use and efficiency. Traditionally, water-based fertilization processes have been hinged on the labor-intensive practice of manually mixing nutrients in reservoirs or holding tanks. For commercial sized operations, this is a demanding and tedious chore. To this end, it often involves the mixing of thousands of gallons of water at a time, multiple times a day. However, with some ingenuity and careful planning, the engineers behind tion injectors have developed a product which nearly eliminates the painstaking chore of hand mixing fertilizers.
As discussed in the previous section, smart controllers can be implemented in conjunction with fertigation injectors. This combination has created a highly-efficient and precise system for outdoor soil irrigation. In layman’s terms, the controller dictates the operations of several pressurized valve systems that are fed from separate containers of nutrients. The controller also regulates water pressure from the primary water source. When the irrigation process begins, water flows through a pipe that is integrated with the nutrient valve system. Next, the fertigation injector releases nutrients into the water flow in conjunction with specific levels of water pressure. When operating and balanced correctly, the fertigation and controller combination delivers precisely measured, nutrient-rich water into soil containers. This all occurs with little human effort.
For good reason, outdoor commercial cultivators have come to cherish the ease-of-use that comes with fertigation injectors. For outdoor soil gardeners committed to a 6 – 7 month growing season, automation options like fertigation literally eliminate hundreds of hours of unnecessary labor in manual nutrient mixing. Moreover, the precision that comes with fertigation is entirely unmatched by human effort. To illustrate, top of the line injectors disperse carefully controlled amounts of nutrients down to 5 ml per injection.
Drip watering components don’t necessarily fall into the “automation” category. However, they are an essential element in any smart irrigation plan for the outdoors, especially concerning organic growing. That being said, organic soil growing is based on the development of a living biological ecosystem within the soil mix. This live soil can never entirely dry out without killing beneficial microorganisms. Regarding aforementioned smart growing system, the controller and fertigation injector combination feed nutrient-rich water through hoses or pipes. Finally, the water reaches the soft-plastic tubes that should be embedded deep in the soil.
Since outdoor growing containers are generally far larger in size than their indoor counterparts, top “drip systems” work inefficiently for outdoor cannabis gardens. Concentrated drips of water in such large containers leave a clear majority the soil un-irrigated. This can lead to several serious problems. Therefore, to effectively deliver water and nutrients, automated irrigation systems in outdoor growing must utilize long lengths of perforated irrigation tubing that is coiled around inside the soil-filled container. With this method, fertilization will be accomplished in a uniform fashion. As a result, organic soils will retain the requisite moisture content to maintain the integrity of their biological communities.
In utilizing some of the automation perks from indoor gardening, outdoor cannabis and hemp growers can make their lives easier. For commercial-sized outdoor cannabis gardens, the benefits of smart equipment like controllers and fertigation injectors far out way financial costs. Looking forward, one can only assume that outdoor growers will continue to combine their passions for soil growing with the technologies of modern gardening. In the end, making for a practice that utilizes “the best of both worlds.”
This article originally appeared in the January 2019 edition of Maximum Yield Magazine.