In August Brett and I headed off to England for the annual Autopot summer exhibition. This is Britain’s premier event for all things Autopot. It was a great opportunity to talk to other Autopot users, to learn more about how to use these amazing self watering systems and see what they are developing at the Autopot headquarters.
At the farm they have a working greenhouse that showcases the many different things you can grow using the Autopot self-watering Aqua Valve. In addition to the standard tomatoes, cucumbers and peppers, there were yard long beans, giant onions – both red and white, 2-meter-long gourds, squash and multiple trays of different basil. They boast to have about 40 different varieties of chilli. This included the infamous Carolina Reaper and Ghost Chilli in various colours. The Mammoth Onions were interesting and although we tried to find some seeds the centres we went to didn’t stock that variety.
The advantage of seeing all these was to see the different ways you can use and set up the self watering systems and the trials they are doing on the different media as well as feeding regimes. The harvests they achieve are very impressive as you can see in the Pepper section here and the abundant tomatoes here
In addition to the Autopot exhibits there were also exhibitors from other hydroponic and organic suppliers showing the latest trends in the industry. Lights, fans, tents, clay balls, growing media and too many nutrient suppliers to mention.
Organic Autopot self-watering
One area that many people have asked me about is the way to use Autopots to grow organically. The guru’s at Autopot seem to have this sorted. The main problem has always been that the thickness and live elements of organic nutrients tend to block the plumbing unless you flush and wash frequently. This can be effective if you have the patience to flush the system. If you are using the Autopot in this way you can help the flushing process by putting water in the reservoir for a period between organic liquid feeding.
At Autopot they are successfully growing using a good quality soil mix and feeding weekly with an organic liquid feed. Their recommendation to running organically, is to have water in the reservoir and feed manually. When potting up you need to use a good quality potting mix to which they add some organic slow release fertiliser. What they are using sounds very similar to our Rok solid. They also add an organic powder containing soil microbes (including the fungi mycelium) to the mix. We can achieve the same thing using our Oceans 100 liquid feed. To use the organic liquid feed, they turn off the water and allow the tray to dry out. Once the tray is dry they pour the liquid feed either into the tray or top feed until the tray is showing liquid. Once the plant has taken up the organic solution from the tray you turn the water back on and let the self watering valve water in the normal way. I think this is worth a trial.
There were an amazing variety of chilli peppers. All growing in trials with different media and nutrients. You can see the incredible 30 pot Carolina Reaper setup here. What do they do with all the chilli? Apparently, they give them to a producer who creates hot chilli sauce with them. No one there seemed that interested in actually eating them but were very proud of the heat they were achieving in the chilli they grow.
CANNA was present there but the media that caught our eye was the Gold label Clay balls. These are irregular shapes. The theory being that the roots can grab hold of the clay ball quicker.
Other items we saw and were impressed by were the use of the bamboo cane balls to create a support for the plant. I always find Peppers are hard to support and this was very effective. We have both the Cane balls and the Cane caps available in the shop.
This year has seen 72 brave souls enter our potato growing competition to raise funds for the Te Horo Community Hall. Many thanks to those that entered and good luck with your growing. Even if you haven’t entered, keep the morning of Saturday December 1st free to join the fun when the potato bags are brought in for harvesting. There will be a sausage sizzle, cake stall and raffles. If the shop grows the best harvest, we will raffle off the 1000L water tank that Devan have kindly offered as a prize again this year. A big thanks to our sponsors Devan Tanks, Kong’s, Redpath, Diatomaceous Earth NZ, Revital Primehort and Tui – without whom this wouldn’t be possible.
Early spring special
A new container of Autopot has just arrived so to celebrate spring and help you with your growing, we will be adding the 5 litre Autopot nutrient free (valued at $60) with every Autopot 4pot system sold in September at the normal price of $199. Normal retail for this package would be $265 That’s a saving of $60. Sorry only available to in store purchases for Newsletter Club members on request.
Our greenhouse is and ready for planting. We’ve cleaned the walls, sprayed all surfaces for any stray white fly, our AutoPots are all scrubbed, and clay balls cleaned. Now all we need is to plant it up. Next week will be a good time to start. We have tomato seedlings that are good to go in now, but the chilli are still too small. AutoPots in the greenhouse are such a good way to get an early start. It’s an exciting time of year for us gardeners and no doubt you’re all like us, hoping each day will be warm and sunny so some planting can be done. We sure don’t need any frosts like we had on Wednesday morning. Thank goodness everything was under cover.
We love sowing our own seeds. The propagator certainly helps at this time of year. Kings seeds seem to have a good strike rate and they also have a huge variety to choose from. Sowing seed is a good way to get to plant any of the more unusual varieties which may not be available in the garden centres. If you aren’t in to sowing your own seeds, or don’t have the time, we know several of our customers are selling plants they have raised themselves at the local markets. Have a look at what they are doing.