Moisture Retention Curve, Reservoir Care, and BluMat Tips with Michael Box
Posted on April 2nd, 2023 to Transcripts
Jordan River 0:00
Greetings cultivators from around the world, Jordan River here back at you with more GrowCast always the right moisture. Today we have Michael Box back on the line. This is a really great episode. I think this is the greatest episode with Michael that we’ve done. We’d go in depth to watering practices, watering techniques, moisture retention curves, the difference between different mediums and of course the new developments over at Blumat. Code GROWCAST is active at sustainablevillage.com. Michael likes to put that on for you guys when he comes on the show. Now through the end of April use code GROWCAST for your blue mats if you need them everybody. I know you’re gonna love this episode with Michael and before we jump into it, you know I got a shout out AC Infinity. ACinfinity.com code GROWCAST15 to get your savings and keep the lights on here at GrowCast. We appreciate your support. And we love AC Infinity. They make the best grow tents around extra thick poles. They’ve got nice durable, thick siding. Now that you have the new side ports. People have been asking for those on AC Infinity list and plus they’ve got everything else you need to grow. They’ve got lights, and pots and fans. And they’re oscillating fans, the cloud array system. Check out their humidifiers, the CloudForge. How nice is your humidifier, maybe it’s time to replace that. The cloud arrays are my favorite oscillators on the market. And of course, their cloud Line series what they got it all started with all those years ago when we were partners with AC Infinity. All they made were those inline fans and they’re the best in the game. So shout out to the entire AC Infinity suite they’ve got everything you need to get growing for fans to tense delights, code GROWCAST15 works at ACinfinity.com. You support us and you’re getting some badass durable growth gear while you’re doing it. So thank you to all your listeners using code GROWCAST15 and thank you to AC Infinity. All right, let’s get to it with Michael. Thank you for listening and enjoy the show.
Hello podcast listeners you are now listening to GrowCast. I’m your host Jordan River. And I want to thank you for tuning in again today. Before we get started as always, share GrowCast. Turn someone on to growing. Tell a grower about the show. It’s how we grow. We’re on Spotify, we’re on iTunes, Apple Music, wherever you want us were there. Check us out and share the show. See you everything we’re doing and all the places we’re going at growcastpodcast.com/action. There, you’ll see the classes and the seeds and the membership and all the fun stuff, all the codes and all that. Today we have speaking of codes, we have the man himself from Sustainable Village, the US distributor of the incredible blue mat watering system. Michael Box is back on the line. What’s up, Michael?
Michael Box 2:08
Hey, Jordan, good to be here. Thanks, man.
Jordan River 2:17
Yeah, good to have you back on the show, of course, sustainablevillage.com. You know, Michael, that is where he is from. He is the mayor of Sustainable Village. And they are distributing Blumats all over the place to living soil growers to automate their grow. And Michael runs temporary sales, code GROWCAST gets you 10% off all Blumat products at sustainablevillage.com through the month of April. Right, Michael?
Michael Box 2:58
Yeah, that’s right. I’m kind of happy to offer that to your listeners. Yeah, it’s one of the sales we do. So. Yeah, take advantage of it.
Jordan River 3:07
You guys do not do discounts a lot. You guys are very generous to activate this for us because you guys don’t really see codes outside of this community. So I really appreciate that Michael, and my audience appreciates that. Seriously, appreciate that. But today, we’ve got a lot to cover. You were just recently at a big soil conference, giving some presentations, diving deep into ideal moisture levels and moisture retention curves and so much more man. Talk to me about what you’ve been up to and how your presentation was at the Soil Summit.
Michael Box 3:37
Sure, yeah. So we were just at the Soil Life Summit. Well, about a month ago, I guess it is now that was out in Nevada City, the grassroots fabric pots, they kind of hosted this event and put it on and brought together a bunch of cultivators was mostly living soil oriented. So a lot of soils like soil science people, and cultivators. And, you know, we did a piece on irrigation. A lot of really great, really great speakers were there. And well, I kind of want to bring this up right off the top. You know, I was out there with my team that I like to travel with. And those guys are Izzy Becker, and Cooper Didier. And they’re both experienced cultivators and real Blumat experts. And with them, we’ve been doing a ton of r&d work here at Sustainable Village, using the Blumat to accomplish different things. Basically get really, really precise with our moisture levels. We’ve also been doing quite a bit of research on like existing university based published studies on what are called moisture retension curves. And we’ll kind of get into that a little bit who, as we progress, hear about what those are and what kind of data we can pull off with them. But yeah, so between a lot of kind of like functional research development in regards to how to precisely use Blumat, and very small systems and scaled up to very large systems, right, and get extremely consistent moisture levels, in soil media, for the size of whatever room you’re working with, whether it’s six plants or, or 1000 plants,
Jordan River 5:34
I’d like to talk about this idea of the ideal moisture range, because it’s a really interesting one, right? Especially in living soil, because your oxygen levels, right, that’s going to determine the type of biology that thrives in your soil, how aerobic that soil is, and the more moisture there is, the less air is going to be there, but obviously to dry as bad also. So it’s just funny to see, it’s interesting to see someone like you who dive so deep into this one niche aspect, because it’s infinitely complex, I’m sure. So you hear about this, like 50:50 air to water ratio. But I’ve always wondered like, That can’t apply to every plant, that can’t apply to every situation,. When it comes to cannabis, what can you tell us about like taking a look at the media, whether or not it’s living soil, or what it’s comprised of, and what that ideal moisture level truly is?
Michael Box 6:27
So one thing we could start to talk about is this concept of moisture retention curves. And a moisture retention curve is a graph, you know, it has a y axis on the x axis. So you know, your, your vertically oriented y axis would represent the your VWC, which is volumetric water content, that’s water as measured in a form of a percent.
Jordan River 6:52
So how much water is in there essentially?
Michael Box 6:55
Well, yes. And then on a volumetric level. And then that that brings with it all kinds of interesting correlations between air, the amount of air so as as water moisture, as volumetric moisture levels increase, the amount of air in the soil decreases. [Right.] And as that moisture, that volumetric water level decreases, your EC increases your electrical conductivity, or your parts per million, or however you want to know how much materials in the in the water usually inform the nutrients, that’s going to increase as the amount of water in the soil dries up. And then so that’s your vertical axis. And then your horizontal axis is tension. And this is measured in centibars or millibars. The units of pressure, one bar equals 15 psi.
Jordan River 7:48
And it’s a metric unit, right? So I never knew that for that formula. That’s funny.
Michael Box 7:53
Yeah. So it’s, and that was one atmosphere pressure. So it’s like the weight of that sea level, what does the all the air above you weigh. It’s 15 psi. And if you break that down into metric fractions, so you have centibar is one 100. And the millibars 1000s of a bar. So those are just units of pressure. So that’s how you measure tension. There’s a relationship between your VWC, your bodily volumetric water content of your percentage, and the tension in the soil. And as the, as the percentage of water drops in the soil, the tension increases. [Right.] And you can, you can make a graph of this. And there’s various functional points on the graph, that are the set parameters for basically beats your available water content. So there’s a point at the graph, where it’s flat at the top, you know, it’s very high percentage of moisture. And there’s a certain point where it starts to fall. So as the soil dries out, this graph is going to there’s, there’s a point where the graph will drop as flat, and then it drops and it goes straight down, you know, in some sort of angle is sometimes steep, sometimes less steep, depending on the soil moisture type, or sorry, soil media type, and then it’ll flatten out again.
Jordan River 9:26
Yep, it bottoms out at the end. If you google, if you google this moisture retention curve, you’ll see and like you said, they’ve got different media’s listed here. And the line looks different for every single media.
Michael Box 9:37
That’s correct. Yeah. So that point at the top where it flattens out, right, right, where it takes that first dive or it kind of goes off the cliff. That’s basically field capacity. That’s your field capacity point. And then the place where it flattens out again, that’s your permanent wilting point. [Right.] You’re the wilting point.
Jordan River 9:56
So now it’s just dense. It’s it’s it’s gone completely. Okay, so on I see what you’re saying. So it there’s so at the top of that first hill, right before it drops off in soil tension is where your field saturation is. So that tells me that when you’re using a moisture meter, like a Blumat sensor or the parameters that measures in M bars, then you’re going to need to adjust based on your media. Is that what you’re telling me?
Michael Box 10:22
That’s correct. [Wow!] So what we can do is, if you look in there is there’s some great stuff out there, you know, there’s a real, there’s a video, I’ll tell you guys about the channel is called Science in Hydroponics. That’s who made the video. You know, it’s really, actually really great material. But there’s a video called Understanding Media Through Moisture Retention Curves. This is a YouTube video, understanding media through moisture retention curves by Science in Hydroponics. If anybody wants to do the deep dive into the kind of functionality of these graphs, that’s a really good one to check out. So but you know, this just gets down to the meat and potatoes of this, you know, because I know this is the science part is fun for some folks, and some people just like, give me what’s the usable, what’s usable data. And I kind of want to jump into that just a bit. You know, so when we’re looking at, like a pure peat mix, what we find is, we want to keep the soil. And again, so you have these two points, right, you have your field capacity, and then you have your wilt point. And all your water always needs to stay in between those two, those two periods, because when does it field capacity, that means that means you’re getting runoff, right. So so in most irrigation events, we want to not have runoff or not very much runoff, because that’s tends to be wasting water, nutrients, that sort of thing. So we want to be able to hit the field capacity point, and stay just just a little bit drier than field capacity. And that’s really the ideal range to hit is on the kind of wetter side of things, which would be a lower M bar number. And then the upper limit is your wilt point, which we don’t really want to cross. Because once the plants actually start to wilt, there’s permanent damage, that’s when the plant might survive might be able to bring it back to life, but you’ve decreased vigor in yields, you know, to some degree [Right.] on generatively. So, yeah, so, things like we can we can look at different basic media types, you know, like your peat, perlite as a media cocoa like pure cocoa agar you can look at the blends like more of our, you know, basic living soil blends, which tend to be a peat or, or cocoa mixed with perlite, and then some organic material.
Yeah, how do they differ? How do they how do those ideal M bar readings differ between those types of mediums?
Right so let’s look at let’s look at like three kind of types of media here that are very common. So we can look at like what like a living soil blend would be, you know.
Jordan River 13:05
Kind of like, a basic sure like.. This is exactly based on Coots mix, like a 1/3, peat perlite compost with a bunch of minerals added in there, these are brands that you might go out and grab like, yeah, build a soil or Purple Cow or these are, these are richer, like
Michael Box 13:22
This organic Miller soils are really good stuff out there.
Jordan River 13:25
Now the base is nice and airy, but they do have a lot of that mineral content in there. So it’s adding it holds a little bit more water than if you just went and grabbed a PROMIX. So I’m interested to see what the ideal watering pressure is. Because it’s not [Yeah] it’s not dirt outside, but it’s also not f***ing PROMIX.
Michael Box 13:42
No, so I mean, what you’re calling there was like, like native soils, we’ll call them tend to be composed mostly of sand, silt and clay. So some sort of ratio of sand, silt and clay. And those are not typically what cannabis cultivators are growing in, especially, I mean, anybody is growing in a container, especially indoors. [Yeah.] Yeah, anything, any container grow, whether it’s indoors, outdoors, raised beds, pots, whatever we’re looking at. It’s gonna be in some sort of low tension soil, right? So like a potting mix the land of some sort, whether it’s Coco repeat base,
Jordan River 14:19
Right. And I was told 90 to 120 M bars that range.
Michael Box 14:23
Yeah, so you can go wetter than that. So I would say okay, just here’s some numbers for living soil. Olivia so I’m excited go 50 to 100 M bars.
Jordan River 14:33
Whoa, that is wetter and now now for the first time listener the lower the M bar, the wetter the soil.
Michael Box 14:39
Yeah, it is. And really like based on the soil moisture retention curve, that’s like what it that’s what we’re seeing because so [Damn] and that’s gonna and you know, you got it. When you’re when you’re looking at like the living soil blend. You really have to take the brand or the mix or the you know the recipe and do your own moisture retention curve for that org to data from the manufacturer, which is sometimes available, and there’s ways to do it yourself, which could be another episode maybe, but, you know, the living soil, that that range is really gonna be, it’s gonna be radically affected by the amount of compost as your biochar in there, what’s in there that’s holding moisture longer, right, and could be acting differently. You know, compass is great in lots of ways, but it’s also problematic in other ways, too. So one of them is the kind of unknown how it affects moisture retension curves. [Right.] But basically, we’re talking like, you know, like peat, or cocoa, perlite and compost as your main. That’s what a living reco that’s why I’m calling nobody. So blood, [Sure.] Pure peat has a has a wider range, actually, that you can really hold stuff in, probably like, as wet as 40, millibars, all the way up to maybe 120 would be a good zone to keep just a pure peat mix.
Jordan River 15:57
And the range is wider. That’s interesting.
Michael Box 15:59
Like, your peat, your cocoa, really, at this point, we’re just talking, you know, more synthetic hydroponic style growing with like a soilless medium.
Jordan River 16:08
Would you say the same range for pure cocoa?
Michael Box 16:11
No, and here’s where it gets very interesting. Cocoa is you can keep very wet, right? It’s like 10%? [Oh, wow!] Really where you want it. Yeah. So that field capacity point of cocoa is right around 10 millibars. You know, that’s on the wet side, but you can keep cocoa extremely wet. And it’s got a very steep curve. So it’s going to dry out quicker than other soil media types. And which, which basically, lets us say that cocoa needs to get watered multiple times a day. Yep. It’s just not really possible to, and I’m sure people are going to maybe have other opinions about this. But, you know, if you’re looking at it from the from the point of view of moisture retention curve, to you have to be watering cocoa multiple times a day, or multiple times within a 24 hour period, in order to stay within the the available water content window.
Jordan River 17:12
That optimal range. You’re absolutely right. I mean, there’s a lot of different ways that people can can do it. But if you talked about optimal usage of cocoa, I think, you know, even like guests like Dr. Coco, which is that’s kind of his whole thing is, it tends to go hand in hand with high frequency fertigation, this medium. Now, what I didn’t realize is just how saturated that is down to 10 millibars. As opposed to, you know, the bottom of this living soil range I was originally being told at and now you saying 50. That’s still a huge gap down to 10. That’s wild.
Michael Box 17:43
Yeah, it’s really, really wet. And you know, so again, when you start playing around at these ranges, then you start looking again. So it’s things to think about, from an irrigation point of view, how much errors in the soil. What’s the tension of the soil. What’s the volume of water in the soil. What is the EC of the soil, and then what’s the pH as well, which is a little bit different. But you know, the EC, that’s another one. So your nutrient levels, again, that’s that’s part of it. So like with cocoa when you’re feeding it like a synthetic nutrient mix or something, once it starts to dry down, like, you know, past 70 millibars, the EC is starting to get more and more dense, right.
Jordan River 18:28
Why is that? Why is the saturation of water lowering the electrical conductivity? Do you don’t why that is?
Michael Box 18:36
because it’s diluting it, it’s diluting it. So you have to think of think of soil as a liquid solution. Think of it as a liquid, like a soilless of liquid and it’s got all these different components. And the more water in it, the more diluted it is.
Jordan River 18:49
Wow, I never thought of it.
Michael Box 18:50
Like if you have nutrients in the soil, and they become it becomes drier and drier.It’s just like, you’re gonna leave a pot of coffee in the coffee machine overnight and you come back and it’s like sludge on the bottom of the, of the pot, [Random moisture.] That’s, you know, that’s because you’ve taken you’re dehydrated and you just have the thick nutrients. So by trying it down too low. And it’s this especially happens rockwool but like, because it’s such a quick transition and it’s but but in cocoa as well. If you dry it out too much, you know you’re gonna get that wilt point just have the lack of water availability. But right before that happens, you’re gonna get an odor over fertilization, negative side effects as well.
Jordan River 19:36
So you’re more likely to burn your plants with that if you dry and bath too much and the soil moisture gets so low that the EC spikes so you’re more likely to get nutrient burnt that’s wild man that is so wild. That’s why you need a smart watering system like the Blumats to keep that shit evenly moist.
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I’m sure you’ve seen the study that’s been passed around for a really long time talking about using a drought period to increase cannabinoids and yield. I believe the title of the paper is something like Increasing Inflorescence Dry Yield Weight in Cannabis or whatever. And it talks about how they drought in their cannabis in mid flower. What do you think of that? And whether or not that study is true? Do you ever recommend that people toy with droughts like that?
Michael Box 21:46
Yeah, sure. So I haven’t read that exact study, but very, you’re talking about like drying. You know, people want one of the to have what is the dry back period helpful for my clients at different periods in time. And the answer is, yes, dry backs are useful and beneficial. But the amount that you’re you’re swinging, the moisture level between dry and wet, is smaller than people think. And I don’t know what the parameters of that study were like, I don’t know, how they were measuringm, how they were drying, how much they were drying back. Or what kind of drought periods they were putting in place on their plants. I don’t think like purposely taking them past the permanent low point. Right, good.
Jordan River 22:38
That’s the thing is I tell people you know, even if that study is like pointing to a true, you know, way to increase your yields, like I don’t want people risking crop loss for maybe a slight increase in yield, as opposed to keeping it nice and even. Now, what you’re saying about swings is interesting, because that’s a lot like temperature, right? Which is like, well, if you’re gonna run a dry back or a dryer solution, make sure you’re not then over watering the thing because that’s what’s gonna Is that what you’re saying? That’s what’s gonna cause more issues?
Michael Box 23:05
Yeah, we’ll just don’t dry it on too much is the main thing. So I mean, he’s familiar with this term crop steering, yes, you know, like steering, biologicals, or whatever. So crop steering with moisture levels. Okay, so when, when the moisture level drops down, you know, we get to that higher the higher millibar ratings, and the EC concentrates, you now have plant uptaking the large amounts of nutrients, [Right.] so one of the principles of that hearing technique is to dry it down throughout just the immediate sounds to a point where the EC concentrates and becomes high, and the plant uptakes that high nutrient level, that high EC nutrients. And so it’s taking in a lot of nutrients at once, but you just can’t take it too far, you can’t take it past a point where you’re getting like a nutrient burn [Right.] taking it either getting any kind of like toxicity through nutrient uptake.
Jordan River 23:57
More like you said it on the other side on the moisture side wilt or anything like that.
Michael Box 24:01
Yeah, so on the wish that that’s you so you don’t want to take into that. So you know, to do this, this Yering where we’re drying out a little bit and then you know, the plants pulling in more nutrients, you can achieve that functionality through swinging between like wetter and drier periods. That’s what’s what’s happening. And you can do that, but you don’t it’s not as extreme a thing as people might use. The other really effective way I’ve been seeing people use dry back periods is in right after transition. You know, like the first maybe two to three weeks of flower. If people dry back their soil aways to you know, more like 100 120 or something like that even what that’ll do is it’ll it’ll keep the plants this is particularly see this in like raised bed living soil type grocery and this peaceful canopy that really I guess would apply to anything. So it’s really for canopy management, so what you get is shorter, stouter plants with like a similar amount of bud sights on them. And it just, it just makes the canopy management a little bit easier. So instead of having a bunch of really tall plants, you have some like slightly less tall grass. That’s a lot about a flower. Yeah, just. So that’s, that’s a, that’s a common place I see people, you know, effectively using a dry back period.
I was right after the transition. I like that. I like that.
I think there’s a lot to be said about that. And especially the steering piece, there’s a lot of science to that, you know, you mentioned using Blumats as a way to kind of keep soil media within a certain range. And that’s really what we’ve been doing is around here. And you know, this is a bit of a plug for what we do. But it’s also just really interesting. And this is some of the r&d work that we’ve been getting is just building the Blumat systems in a way that create these particular millibar swings based on soil moisture type. So with cocoa, we can keep our millibar levels really, really consistent, but still getting a little bit of a swing back. So you’re getting this slight drying period where EC increases the dilution. So it’s almost like it gets a little bit of a rinse after that. So it gets this high EC uptake. Because it’s like starting to dry out and it’s freaking out and it wants to pull up all the oil available moisture, which happens to be super nutrient rich. And then right after that we have more water coming in, to kind of give it itself a bit of a flush and a little bit of a cleanse.
Jordan River 26:31
Oh, interesting. Now, how do you dial something like that in like, what does that mean? Are you reworking the valves? Are you getting in there and tinkering with the with the tiny little aspects of that of that valve? Are you changing out the the carrot?
Michael Box 26:45
Yeah, with the carrots. Just how to stop the carrots. Right. So there’s like a dial in process. Which, you know, essentially is what let’s let’s jump into this. Yeah, this is a new, new technique, but it’s just a clarification of the technique. And actually, we’re cranking out some videos right now. It was like new advice, instructional stuff. I think it’d be really helpful for people
Jordan River 27:06
not where’s that going to be? Is that going to be on the website?
Michael Box 27:09
That’ll be on the sustainable Village YouTube channel.
Jordan River 27:12
Youtube page, go check out everybody subscribe, code GROWCAST for the website. Subscribe to the YouTube, baby.
Michael Box 27:19
Yeah, so Sustainable Village. And while he was there, not up yet, but they will be and give or take a part of care. What you’ll find is there’s there’s there’s a few main components, right. So this is we’re talking about the Blumat sensor, those ceramic cones that people see, there’s a bottom part that unscrewed it’s just a ceramic coating with a little plastic threading on top. And then the cap is really where all the magic happens there. [Right.] The cap inside of that there’s a rubber diaphragm. And when it seals, the tip of the Blumat, the ceramic parts rise out and create suction inside of it. And that suction, it pulls down on that rubber diaphragm and opens the valve. So the real trick to dial in Karis is to dial them in when there’s no tension on that rubber diaphragm, right. So there’s no tension on the rubber diaphragm, which means you’re either doing it with the soil completely right. So at least the soil right around the character is totally saturated. So you’re almost at a zero millibar level, or to do it with the chair itself. Sealed, but in a bucket of water. Or, and this is really cool. What you can do is dial in the cap with the bottom actually remove from the whole device. So if you have your pressurized water line, like say your eight mil line setup runs all your costs, and you have it run to each carrot, you can with the bottom of the carrot remove right. When the bottom is removed, there’s no tension on that rubber diaphragm. So it’s completely at rest. And you just go and you open up the little brown cap on the top, and you open it up into a water flows. And then you dial it back until you get the hanging trip. This is the same kind of indicator that we have used before and everybody’s used, you’d look for this hanging trip. So again, you have the cap, we have pressurized water running up to it, we open it up, water flows, we tighten it up, so we get a hanging drip, which just means there’s a little drop of water, right on the on the tip of the three millimeter that brown tubing on that comes through the carrot. It’s just hanging there. Yeah. Right. So now that we have this baseline, which is like neutral atmosphere, like there’s no no tension on that. We know that if we get that hanging drip and then tighten it up to triangles or arrows or we want to call them on the top. We’re gonna hit [This gets really interesting.] We’re gonna hit a certain millibar level based on the pressure behind the system. That’s really what’s changing the millibar.
Jordan River 30:02
Wow. So so let me just clarify, if people are going to use that method to do the capitalist dialing in, they would then screw on the carrot and put it into the soil or medium while it was in its ideal state. And then that way, you know, it’s perfectly dialed in.
Michael Box 30:20
Yeah, but there’s a couple more little steps that are gonna make that even more like obvious how to do it. So we know that if, if you’re having like the backend pressure is that 15 psi, right, which is like the standard Blumat pressure. And you dial it back to arrows you’re gonna hit 80 millibars is going to be for is going to be the moisture level that you’re going to hit. And, and then what you can do is we have these little plastic caps, they’re called protective caps, and the little plastic cover is very, very inexpensive. And they just snap right onto the top of that the brown dial a little you adjust. And they snap over it. And they make it so you can’t adjust that anymore. So now that cap is preset, we know that when I said we don’t want up to 15 psi on the backend, we’re gonna hit 80 millibars. [Wow.] And so we can just sit there. And do, you know, 10 of those 100 of those 1000 of those. Was talking to you guys up at Kiss Organics the other day, Ben, the Chief Science Officer up there. He was telling me that we showed him this new technique. It’s like I said it had 800 plants in it. Just did it in two days. No dial 800 carrots, and they’re all holding the exact same moisture level pots and pots and pots upon.
Jordan River 31:43
And you but you’re telling me Hold on let me get let me get this straight? Can I then put that carrot into my medium no matter how dry or wet it is? And it’s going to bring it to that 80 M bars. Is that what you’re saying?
Michael Box 31:54
Yeah, you wouldn’t want to do it in like a hydrophobic medium. But yes.
Jordan River 31:58
So you don’t have to dial in the actual mean. But that is that is so cool, man. So it’s the floating technique. It’s the it’s the f***in what is an Air Jordan technique? You’re hanging this Catholic thing in the air? And then you said what? two notches to the right, bing bang, boom, you snap it in, you lock it in. And that’s it.
Michael Box 32:16
Yeah. And I got and we built a graph. We both have graphs. So yeah, 15 PSA, two notches. 15 psi is gonna be 80 millibars. If you had if you did that to two triangles, that’s two psi, like on a gravity system that’s gonna push you up more like a sink like 120. I don’t have the graph in front of me right now. But it’s right about there. So here’s the thing. So if you’re running a gravity system, like low pressure, yeah, maybe you just want to do one strike. Because you’re gonna get, you’re gonna get one triangle at low pressure. And again, I don’t want the graph in front of me. But I’m just from memory.
Jordan River 32:48
From that just about that range.
Michael Box 32:52
Yeah, it’s basically it was right around like a two psi one triangle equals 80 millibars. [That is so crazy, dude.] And then there’s a line you can draw. And here’s where it gets even crazier. Because what you can do is you can take, you can call it cap dialing, that’s like a little term we’ve been doing. And this was a big one. Yeah, super helpful, you know, really define this process in a huge way. And, you know, like I said, I got this team of people here, this chicken ass, and teacher of the graph and everything. So it was, it was it was a great breakthrough on his part, but we can do is we can, you know, tap, we can cap dial, you know, on the carrots, put them in the pots. And I mean, we can get every plant in the room to hit the exact millibar level that we want. Right. So this is let me get that consistency, right from pots and pots and pans are taught and it can be done very quickly, they have the locking cap, so you can use it from cycle the cycles, like once the growth, like once that runs over, you can just take that carrot out as long as you don’t mess with the, with the top and you won’t, because that’s that protective cap, it’s you just take the carrot out, throw in the bucket of water that store there. And until you’re ready to set up the next run. And you don’t even have to dial it in next time around. So you can just go run after run after run without dying and charities are all preset. So then we take that concept where we’ve got every container in the room held at the exact same moisture level. Without any, you know, any fluctuation, without any monitoring software, there’s no electricity, you know, it’s all analog stuff. And then we take we change out the pressure reducer, right, so we take out the basic Blumat pressure reducer and we put in this adjustable pressure reducer that we’ve recently sourced. It actually has a dial on it that we can twist and change. We didn’t come in psi. So if you want to dry out an entire room by 20 millibars. All you have to do is walk over this pressure reducer and give it a turn and you’re going to dry back that whole room. [Wow.] Very precise. [That is wild.] You know and when you couple that with like the Blumat moisture meters which we should touch on that soon. So I want to give people a real good pro tip on setting those things and resetting them. [Don’t let me forget to do that I got you, I got you.] So we can, you know, you can really measure this. And so if you wanted to put that, you know, 20 mil of our dry back at the beginning of your flowering period, you can do that.
Jordan River 35:16
So you’re reducing it from the psi side, you’re no longer reducing it at the carrier, you’re just going to the source and increasing or decreasing the pressure and locking in. Listen, don’t take this the wrong way. But you’re obsessed about this, you can dream about water retention, you know what I mean? You’re a nerd for this stuff in the best possible way. And it’s funny, because I’ve talked to you over the years now, and you’ve taken probably the number one complaint from customers, which is dialing this thing in and out. And you’ve completely resolved that for those who want to do it this way. That’s f***ing cool. Dude, that is really, that is really exciting. But I do want you to talk about this moisture meter, because I like the Blumat, moisture meter, man. This thing has been hardy for me. I know you said the rameters are like the heavier duty your version, but I just have this little moisture sensor. And honestly, I love it.
Michael Box 36:01
The more we use these, and the more we mess around with them. And the more I study the soil soil moisture, as a science and everything, what I’m realizing what an amazing product, what these, the digital Blumat moisture meter is. And and I’ll tell you why. Because it’s a tensiometer based moisture meter, right, like, like the Ramona, but it measures so precisely at wet levels. So volume like very, very wet levels, it’s hard to get at it’s very hard to get accurate measurements with a volumetric sensor. And there’s a couple of high-end tensiometers manufactured by like meter group, that they’re very expensive to do very accurate moisture levels. rameters are good. They’re they’re like really nice quality piece of equipment. And they’re all analog. But when you want to get like really granular down in that, like 20 to 50 zone, like with the Blumat digital moisture meter, you’re able to do that very accurately. And we used to see some kind of inconsistency with these. And really that’s been resolved through kind of clarifying this particular recalibration process. So let me just describe that really quickly. [Yeah, please.] If you haven’t, these Blumat additional moisture meters, it’s two components. There’s a nine inch, well, it’s seven inches. But anyways, there’s there’s the there’s the cone ceramic column with a plastic tube attached to it. And then there’s the digital meter head, right, and that screws on the top. So the bottom part, nothing you can do with that it’s just a static piece of equipment. The top is where the meter actually is, and the digital readout. So you don’t ever want to get that thing wet. Let’s be clear about that. But if you’re getting inaccurate readings, what you need to do is take the meter head off, there’s some little screws, little phillips head screws, you need like a little watch screw or something like this, your job is to take them out. When you pop out the battery, take the battery out. And then you put the battery back in, screw it back in. And then you’re going to do a recalibration where you the on button, you’re going to hold that down until it blinks 000 on the screen, and now it’s recalibrated to atmosphere, and you want to do this with the meter head off removed, it’s the same principle, we want the sensing aspect of it just like we want that rubber diaphragm to be at rest, and not have tension on it when it’s being reset. So I think one of the problems we were seeing a lot is people would start to think, Oh, this isn’t giving me an accurate reading or something, they do the reset process, which is just hold that button down. But they do it when the when the meters in the soil, and it has tension being exerted on it. So then you’re going to recalibrate it the new zero or the new, you know, whatever that calibration is based on the device being under tension. So that’s why we see those kinds of results. So that’s easy fix anybody who’s got a Blumat digital moisture meter that’s been having trouble with it, just follow those steps. Take out the battery, hold down, like put the battery back in, hold the button down with the meter head removed. And now it’s recalibrated.
Jordan River 39:14
Nice, easy for you got to defrag the hard drive sometimes man I remember. I remember how that works. Yeah, hard hard. Yeah. But yeah, I do recommend I seriously recommend that everybody get a moisture sensor reader like hand waters especially. I understand liking the hand watering process, but Blumats are going to free you up for sure. And even if you’re not going to get a full blown system you absolutely need to grab one of these it just helps you understand so much more about your whole setup. And you can really really dial it in and I’m excited man I’m excited to run a bed with the Blumat. But you guys aren’t just doing you know living soil styles only, right. You do you have different applications you you’ve been running nutrients through some of your products doing a more hydro style. Do want to talk about that?
Michael Box 40:00
Yeah, you know, so I mean, we’ve been very popular in with Libby soil, because we’re able to, you know, maintain these kind of semi static moisture levels in the soils, which is, you know, promote promotes biological activity, you know, the kind of like, a hydro neutral state for the rhizosphere. But we found that it watering cocoa systems with synthetic nutrients is actually very effective with Blumat’s also. For the same reason, because we can mess with the moisture levels so precisely, and consistently from container to container to container. But yeah, so sure, we can run any kind of synthetic nutrients through the system, no problem, we recommend people use a little bit of hydrochloric acid or maybe even just clean product with it to keep them clean. But that’s a requirement of any irrigation system that you might install. And, yeah, so we’re, we can institute these dry backs, we can do it, you know, consistently across the room, we can, we can have that monitored very precisely. And really just seeing great results with that. Yeah, but doing some r&d stuff with a couple of local NGO facilities here in Boulder. And maybe the next time we come on, I’ll share some results. But what we’re seeing anecdotally is likely going to be a massive yield, increase, switching over, they were hand watering, a cocoa inflex, synthetic, nutrient cocoa program, and really killing it, you know, if you want a great job, but I think we’re gonna, we’re gonna really knock it out of the park. And it will actually update on that. And, I don’t know, couple weeks, two weeks, maybe, maybe next time on Monday, we’ll share it. I want to do, I think this will might already aired, but we’re going to be in Oklahoma, or Canada on. [Oh, I’ll see you there, man.] Yeah, yeah, I’m looking forward to it. And I think that’s like March 31. And April 1, we’re gonna do a seminar there on irrigation techniques, I think, isn’t going to help with that as well. We’re gonna do that rush is going to be done in Albuquerque, too. So that is Albuquerque, Canada. And I want to say, like around the 19th of May, like that. But, you know, one of the things we’re talking about there is like, for commercial growers, how your systems can improve your bottom line, and the how quickly the ROI is on an automated irrigation system. It’s pretty dramatic. When you start looking at all the labor savings and other savings that are associated with like, easing the strain on the each back system, heating and cooling, water usage, nutrient usage. You know, like a decent Blumat system will pay for itself, usually in the first run. And so if you’re a commercial operator right now, and just feeling market compression, and you’re not using an automated watering system, you should really. I mean, if if you’re pinching pennies, there’s not an easier way to just institute something with a very fast return on investment that’s going to decrease or increase your bottom line really quickly. So with living soil stuff, we’re, there’s one kind of narrative about how we talk about things and how we use them. And then, you know, there’s people that are doing cocoa and salt. So we’re doing like large facilities now that are doing lots and lots of cocoa containers. We can go right into those expandable cocoa core blocks. You could carrot right in there. We have these lightstrip ring type emission devices that we can use with them that work very well.
Jordan River 43:40
But you got to run nutrients through those, right?
Michael Box 43:42
Oh, yeah, no, we can go through the carrots, we can run nutrients through that. I mean, you know, because there’s no nutrients actually going through the, the cone itself, that’s a sealed, you know, that’s just that’s sealed. The kit like tear, it’s just the valve, it’s an on off valve. That was like, depending on the soil moisture level was pinching or unpinching the valve. And that that valve is the three millimeter line, especially that three millimeter line that runs through the top that’s getting pinched on and off based on the moisture level in the soil.
Jordan River 44:11
Right. I was saying not just the carrots like the you were mentioning the capillary mats as well.
Michael Box 44:15
Yeah, so capillary mats too for veg, those expandable cocoa pots, you can set those right on a capillary mat and they just like, you know, pops right up. And that’s pretty neat. And then you can yeah, if you’re, you know, doing a salt kind of thing, you can very easily run run your veg through through the capillary mats and it’s really the way to go for large dense production. I mean, you’ve got a ton of plants on there, you know, keep really low moisture level, like humidity levels in your, in your room if you want to. You’re not getting a lot of evaporation. There’s a ton of benefits with that. With both living soil like we’re doing a free amended mix. Or you know that that’s gonna get transplants or larger container or we’re just we can actually run, you know, like nitrogen dominant veggie mixes through the capillary now and have that whipped up through the, through the pots. Before they’re, you know, either transplanted or moved to a flower.
Jordan River 45:12
I want to try that style, man. Now I’m going to get a bad going. So I’m going to need some soaker, some soaker tape, I’ll pick that up at Sustainable Village. And, and so that one is going to be fun. But what I really want to try is this capillary mat system, this sounds like [you’re gonna like it.] Yeah, I would like I would really like to do that. And it may be in conjunction with the bed, like you said, either in a in a veg type scenario, or run some nutrients.
Michael Box 45:35
We’ve talked before about using the bottomless pots. [Yep, that’s what I want to try.] Yeah, and then plug it into my bed, set it on top, and off you go,
Jordan River 45:47
That would be amazing. So I might, I could, I could be pretty close to that setup if I want, because I think I’m going to do a bed finally do an indoor bed. So this is gonna be my first time in a tent in a bed. And it’ll be it’ll be really fun, man. So you know, I’m going to be rocking the Blumats. But speaking of Blumats, we have a little bit of time here before the top of the hour, this feed has to come from somewhere. You talk about if you’re running living soil, or if you’re running nutrients through it wherever it leads to this reservoir, right. And I would love to talk to you about really like what you would and wouldn’t recommend adding to reservoir reservoir? It’s a question I get a lot it can I add this? Can I add this? How often do I change out this? Is this gonna make it stink? You know what I mean? What should and shouldn’t we add?
Michael Box 46:33
Yeah, you’re totally right. If you’re, if you’re putting additives into your supply line, you generally need a reservoir. There’s our ways we do it on larger scales, like those neutrons and stuff like that. But for the most part, you’re either having a reservoir that you’re doing a mixin, or like a home grower might be mixing up a nutrient mix and gravity feeding it into their plants. Or maybe they’re mixing up a larger reservoir and then have a pump system that’s pumping water out of there and into the Blumat system. Either one of those really normal simple and, you know, the designs are very clear for that. What can you put into it? There’s one question, we’re going to talk about that, and then how to how to maintain and keep it clean. So what you can put in there. I mean, really, you want anything water soluble, you want fully soluble products. If you put stuff in that has a lot of particulate, like a really thick compost tea or something, [sure] you’re gonna get some buildup in the system. You can also get mineral deposits if you have a high EC, synthetic mix, that falls down starts to fall on the suspension. But both of those things are actually quite easy to manage with either using like Peck acid, or hydrochloric acid, or two generally accepted and very safe, benign products that you can use to kind of clean out your systems. So if you’re doing an organic mix, you’re probably going to see a biofilm growing on the insides of your reservoir.
Jordan River 48:17
Sure, some like slime up on there on the edge.
Michael Box 48:20
Yeah, bacteria. Peck acid was great to knock that back, keep everything clean.
Jordan River 48:25
What about like enzyme products?
Michael Box 48:28
Enzyme products are really good to like SLF 100.
Jordan River 48:31
Interchange the good one with those acids?
Michael Box 48:33
Yeah, they’re a little different. But they’re both we’re getting automatic cleaners are great too though the little more expensive. So enzymatic cleaners peck acid that’s spelled PVK. We’re hypochlorous acid.
Jordan River 48:47
Wow! Keep everything clean. Because yeah, like you said, anything that’s going to have that biology breathing in it. Anything that has like organic matter, right? Like, that’s going to be a problem.
Michael Box 48:58
Yeah, but it can’t it’s not like you can’t run organic nutrients through the systems, it’s no problem. It’s just, I mean, if you have some that have a lot of microbial activity in the container like some there’s some nutrient mixes that when you mix up a drought, like you hydrate the dry mix, they’ll eventually like sometimes quite quickly turn into like a really kind of thick, like sludge Sure. So if with like a blumat system, you’re not just heavily watering all at once you’re kind of slowly watering over time. So your reservoir has time to kind of sit around.
Jordan River 49:28
Some super life nutrients need to be used right away and those are don’t don’t not use those in your setup but hand water those in. That’s exactly what..
Michael Box 49:36
Yeah, right. Sure. Yeah, and water man or get the dry version. You know, a lot of those bottled products have a dry version. So like pre amend your soil with that. Were just top dressed in the dry stuff as well.
Jordan River 49:48
Nice. Yeah, that’s a great suggestion.
Michael Box 49:50
You know, if you have something with a lot that has trouble staying in solution, you can do some sort of either heavy aeration or like recirculating pump, [Right] I’m looking at one, Arrow mixers. They’re pretty cool. They’re like a recirculating pump kit that you can buy. But you know, there’s lots of different ones just having a recirculating pump in the tank.
Jordan River 50:11
Tight and it just keeps everything moving keeps everything clean. Now I like what you say with the recirculating pump. You can also grab like if you’re, if you’re like me in your in home grower setup, and you have this tote, you can grab like an aquarium pump is basically what it is a recirculating and it’s just pushing, it’s pushing water along, it’s in taking water, it’s submerged, and it’s pushing water along, as opposed to like an aeration pump, which might which will also mix everything up, but it will aerate. So one of the products that I used, we like king crab, it’s just a clean bacterial product, and it works great in reservoirs. But when you bubble it, it tends to bloom and bust faster. So you get like a little bit of foam, whereas if you just recirculate it, it seems to be very, very clean and keep everything nice and clean.
Michael Box 50:56
One thing you want to think about with like a recirculating submersible pump, is you want to just want to run that on time or just to keep it on continuously because those things they heat up so trash, and then they’ll heat the water. I’ve seen this work as you go into a reservoir that’s had one running for, you know, a day or something like demon, and the water is hot. Yeah, was like actually hot. ,
Jordan River 51:18
That’s I’ve seen that exact same thing, man really good call, it should just kick on and off, you know, have it kick on for five minutes. And then stay off for what you know, 15 minutes, 30 minutes, whatever, and kick back on. That’s the way to do it, for sure. And and the aeration ones are good too. But if there’s any bacteria in there, the most aerobic ones are going to repopulate right and kind of like I said, their population is going to boom, and then it’s gonna bust. And you might be left with a lot of dead bacteria in there.
Michael Box 51:43
So again, we don’t want to see a lot of particulate. Blumat especially don’t clog that much because there’s not like a drip emitter associated with them. So like, the narrowest point they have to get through is the three millimeter tubing, which is actually really pretty big for irrigation mission devices. Another thing was like blue soak if you’re seeing like the blue soak the soaker hose flooding, probably what’s happening is your your some sort of liquid input you’re using, that’s getting like over time building up inside the blue soak. And so it looks like itself is having to over pressurize in order to push through whatever film has built up on the inside of the soaker hose. And the increase in pressure is causing a split.
Jordan River 52:27
Oh, so it’s like creating a seal, which is increasing the pressure.
Michael Box 52:31
Jordan River 52:31
Michael Box 52:32
That’s that can be that can be resolved through cleaning products, like peck acid or hypochlorous acid, or an automatic cleaner. And really, I mean, it’s part a proper maintenance of any irrigation system that you might expect, you know, anything’s gonna have that.
Jordan River 52:47
And when you clean your res, like, let’s say you’re going to be going through there, what do you recommend people use just something simple, like H2O2 or what?
Michael Box 52:54
Well, again, those products mentioned hypochlorous acid, we have one other website called a biofilm Buster, you can buy that that works really great, that’ll clean it, and that’ll break up, that’ll break the bonds between the biofilm layer on the inside of the reservoir and the bacteria itself. And it’ll help flush that out. Drip clean is a product that would house and garden home garden.
Jordan River 53:17
So you just clean with that same stuff too? Just scrub it, scrub on down.
Michael Box 53:20
Yes, use as directly. Yes, he says directly. [Cool.] Well, that’s just us run through the system. And I’ll kind of clean it up. If you want to take the reservoir apart and like have it disconnected from you. Yeah, that’s
Jordan River 53:31
Yeah, that’s what I’m saying. Like between runs and stuff.
Michael Box 53:33
Yeah, I mean, we’re even like a like bleach solution would be fine. You’re just cleaning, cleaning plastic. So whatever clean plastic well for you, and you feel comfortable using. Yeah, as your peroxide. That’s fine, too.
Jordan River 53:47
Nice man. Do that. Yeah, that’s good stuff. And I think you’re right, like you just need to be super selective about what you put in there and make sure that it’s all super soluble. And it’s not going to end up stinking on you and being too biologically active. Just hand water that stuff in. That’s what’s perfect about the blumat system, right is you got the you got the reservoir on autopilot. And then I take my you know, certified organic nutrients, my food, nutrients or whatever, and I water them, hand water that in and then the blumat adjusts in real time. So I’m really excited to get back to this high tech. I consider this high tech, like high tech, automated indoor organic grow. I’m super stoked for it.
Michael Box 54:24
Yeah, and you know, you kind of mentioned this earlier. But what we’ve really been trying to do over this like last big spurt of r&d is solve some of the most common problems that the blumats have had.
Jordan River 54:35
Like any good product man, I love that about.
Michael Box 54:37
Yeah, we got a lot of use out of it. And we got some feedback and this is like things that are happening. So it’s like okay, let’s dive in and let’s put the time and effort and, you know, spend a lot of money on staff dollars trying to figure this out and we did. I think what we can do now is a whole another level of how we can irrigate and it really is kind of the cutting edge and it’s exciting to be like to be working at that level, you know, I just put it out there too like, anybody that is looking for a design, we do our blumat designs are totally free, completely free of charge. And that’s like a fully designed system with, you know, really nice quality drawings and parts lists, as well, you know, itemized parts list. So if anybody’s interested in having a blumat system, whether it’s for their home, or their commercial system, either they go to the website, sustainablevillage.com There’s a quote request button right there on the main page up at the top, you hit that you fill out some information, and we’ll be in touch with you and get back to you with the design. We can also do more traditional drip irrigation systems, we’ve been doing some really large hydro facilities lately that are all engineered out. We’re doing big, engineered outdoor fields, really huge projects, medium projects, whatever you got, like if it’s irrigation, particularly cannabis, but we do a lot of just we do actually do a fair amount of traditional ag to, you know, give us a call political request or whatever. And you know, most of most of work with you and then share some of our expertise with with folks.
Jordan River 56:12
You do a great job over there Sustainable Village, man. If people call you and you sit, I hear it time and time again, I just got to sing your praises here. Before we wrap it, wrap it up. Of course code GROWCAST 10% off, its sustainablevillage.com The blumat products will get you 10% off code GROWCAST through the month of April. But I have heard time and time again in my Discord community with the members. They actually recommend it to other people they say call blumat, they will design you a system, they won’t sell you shit you don’t need. I’ve heard I’ve heard four people, five people say that. And they’ll design something that’s going to work for you. I just you know, I want to pull the trigger on a blumat. But I don’t know how I’m going to integrate it into my thing every time just call Sustainable Village.So yeah, I really appreciate that dude, I’ve heard nothing but good things when people ring you.
Michael Box 56:54
Appreciate it. Man, it’s really great to hear that. We work hard to the customer service side of things. It’s really what we what we hang our hat on.
Jordan River 57:03
I have no joke probably seen that five or six times in my Discord server. So shout out and again, thank you for the code. It’s active through April everybody grab them now. Code GROWCAST, it’s sustainablevillage.com. It works on the blumat products. I’ll be running these again this year. I’m super excited about it. And yeah, let us know how you liked this amazing episode with Michael. It’s really cool that you dive deep into this thing, man. I love the science about the water retention curve and applying the measurement of pressure to these different mediums. The reservoir care stuff was awesome. And I just look forward to you guys dialing in your products even more and coming back on and teaching all of us growers no matter of our style more about irrigation. So thank you, Michae. l do appreciate you, man.
Michael Box 57:44
You bet, man. My pleasure. That’s fun as always.
Jordan River 57:48
And you, listeners, I appreciate you all make sure to check out growcastpodcast.com/action to see everything you can catch all of our stuff up there. That is all for today. This is Michael Box and Jordan River signing off saying be safe out there everybody and grow smarter.
That’s our show. Thank you Michael Box and thank you for tuning in today. Before we wrap it up. I gotta remind you Oklahoma community cup is coming up May 7th. Now we got three things going down on Sunday, May 7 at the Oklahoma City Public farmer’s market starts at 11am goes till 4. And those three things are, first a day of education, your favorite speakers like OK Calyx and Brandon Rust and Nick Nikolaev and Soil Guru and Kyle from the FOOP and so many more. We’re all going to be speaking all day long, so you’re not going to want to miss these amazing cultivation presentations. Then you’ve got the People’s Choice cup. That’s where you can be a judge and you judge Oklahoma licensed cultivators or just simply bring your home grown and enter into the home growers showcase. That’s home growers flower judged by the speakers. So come and check it out. Everybody It’s a day of flower and fun and education. There’s going to be food, there it’s going to be so good. You do not need a med card to attend and enjoy the education. You do need a med card for the judges kit and the home growers showcase. If you’re out of state, you can get a temporary med card in Oklahoma just check the website. Find it all at growcastpodcast.com/communitycup. I’ll see you there everybody. The greatest event we’ve thrown so far. It’s going to be huge. This is going to be worth the drive down. Grab those judges kits before they sell out. And we will see you at the first ever community cup Oklahoma. See you there everybody. All right. Hope you’re doing incredible things in your garden. I will see you on the next episode. We’ve got old friends we’ve got new friends so stay tuned don’t touch that dial. Bye bye everyone.
Transcribed by https://otter.ai