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cannabis irrigation set up guide

Michael Box is a lifelong disciple of plants and their cultivation.

For the last 22 years, he has worked in the field of horticulture, emphasizing on cannabis for the past 12 years. Throughout that time, the irrigation sector has always been a passion for all things related to water-installation, design, and instruction.

He is currently the Operations Director and Lead Designer for Sustainable Village in Boulder, CO. Sustainable Village designs and supplies various projects with a focus on Blumat Watering Systems and large multi-acre hemp field irrigation.

This episode of The Real Dirt will give you interesting information on why drip irrigation works best for your grow plus step by step instructions for setting up . Michael shares his irrigation expertise, cultivation experiences, and explains Blumat systems solutions for your unique situation. 

Download The Episode Companion For This Episode

Some Topics We Discussed Include

5:12 – Blumat, the evolution of drip irrigation
10:57 – Hand watering vs. drip irrigation
16:33 – Parts of the drip system
27:19 – Using drip tape
35:57 – Challenges in drip irrigation systems
46:54 – Advantages of Blumat system
57:27 – Where to find them

Transcript

Chip Baker: Hey guys, this is Chip from The Real Dirt. In today’s dirt we talk about irrigation. That’s right so many cannabis farmers are hesitant to put irrigation in their small operations and even in their big fields, but we’re going to demystify it a little bit with you today. Today, I’m going to have a co-host, Justin Jones. He’s been on the show many times before and you know, he has some large hemp fields that they irrigate. And I’m also having Michael Box of Blumat Irrigation.

All right, once again, you are at The Real Dirt. Down today’s dirt, I’ve got my good buddy Justin Jones who is our impromptu guest host say hello Justin Jones.

Justin Jones: Hello, how’s it going out there?

Chip Baker: Doing good man and I brought you on today Justin so we could chat with Michael Box. What’s up Michael? 

Michael Box: Hey there, Chip. 

Chip Baker: Michael runs Sustainable Village. Sustainable Village among many other things help and design irrigation systems for hemp farmers cannabis farmers of all types, small scale and big scale. He represents the Blumat brand is that correct? 

Michael Box: It’s Blumat.

Chip Baker: It’s Blumat brand which we’ll attempt to explain that to you a little later but it’s a ceramic brick based irrigation device. We’ll just leave the mystery.

Michael Box: Yeah, I’ll get into it in a bit. Right? Yeah,

Chip Baker: Totally. I’ve seen these things for a long time I saw him first in Europe, 2000-2001 or something– great product. But hey, I’ll tell you guys there’s a huge myth in the cannabis industry you know it and hear it well is that it should all be hand watered and in order to make it great and incredible, you have to hand water it but we three are here to tell you that is not true. And irrigation and automation do rule our full food world as well as the cannabis world as well. 

Irrigation and automation do rule our full food world as well as the cannabis world. – Chip Baker

If you think that drip irrigation is too difficult, we’re going to demystify that today, if you think that irrigation is too expensive, we’re going to bust that bubble too. We’re going to explain how drip irrigation can help you with your cannabis farm. So, sit back roll the largest joints, you can enjoy us here for this episode of The Real Dirt, it’s going to get wet. 

Michael Box: So, I have to say, working on irrigation, there’s a lot of jokes that you can use around getting people excited.

Chip Baker: Oh yeah, man. I love drip irrigation. I love the math. irrigation it is the coolest thing when you put it together but it’s one of those things that people easily fail at because they don’t do the math. They don’t put in the right filter sizes. Have you ever done this Justin? Have you ever like built a drip irrigation system that didn’t work?

Justin Jones: I’m kind of I’m kind of a hand watering kind of guy still, but I have a really tiny cannabis farm in Denver so you know we can do that, we have– [inaudible]

Chip Baker: Sure but all your large scale hemp stuff

Justin Jones: All the large scale stuff is all irrigation. Yeah, and it’s a big deal and I’ll tell you what, you definitely don’t want to screw it up. You want to make sure it’s correct because I saw some people that are you know that definitely scrambled this last year 2019 during the planting season and their pumps weren’t ready or like you said the filter something this or that– there’s a lot of things that go into a successful irrigation system. And it’s also a living breathing thing that on a daily and weekly basis needs to perform. So. 

Michael Box: Yeah, that’s absolutely right. 

Justin Jones: Super important.

Blumat, the Evolution of Drip Irrigation

Chip Baker: Hey, Michael, I’m wondering if you could go over the basis of a the two types of drip systems we were going to be talking about today. We’re going to talk about, like individual drippers. And we’re also going to talk about the wonderous drip tape. So, yeah, let’s maybe we could talk about the individual drippers first.

Michael Box: Sure. So when we look at irrigating containers, so anything that’s in a pot or a raised bed, for instance, whether that be indoors, greenhouse, even outdoor, large raised beds outdoors or also when people are in native soil applications, with their ganja plants, with large plants, things like that. We kind of look at them on an individually plant by plant basis. And we engineer our Blumat systems into those. And we like to call Blumats, the kind of the evolution of drip irrigation. So standard drip irrigation, you know, it tends to be a lot of little plastic drip emitters that run at a certain rate, you know, say like a gallon per hour, half gallon per hour. And those are all–

Chip Baker: Use your pressure compensated?

Michael Box: Yeah, pressure compensating or non-pressure compensating depending on the application. And those are fed by a pump system that runs at a pretty high volume. Some usually on a timer. So, you know, say you have a greenhouse with raised beds, and you have emitters in the beds, and your timer kicks on for 20 minutes a day, twice a day, something like that, and it gives us kind of the standard amount of water, and that’s handy. For years I did a lot of installation of those, I use them on my own grows, worked on a bunch of different just vegetable farms over the years, and new systems like that, and they work well. They take a lot of save a lot of labor, that sort of thing plants, you know, generally, like them. 

The way our Blumats work, and I know you said you have seen these before Chip, and what they are is they’re a ceramic cone with a little plastic cap on the top, and through the top of that plastic cap, there’s a very thin three-millimetre line the silicon line. The cone itself is filled with water, and it’s buried in the soil, and as the soil dries out, the ceramic cone dries out a little bit, which pulls a small amount of water that’s inside the carrot we call them a carrot. It is both a small amount of water into the ceramic, which creates a negative hydro-static pressure inside the cone, which pulls down on a little membrane, which opens a valve and allows water to flow through the top of it. So it’s an on-off valve that responds to soil moisture and then so it lets water flow through the top of this valve and re-hydrate the soil which re-hydrates the cone which closes the valve and that’s like a variable flow as well. 

So if the soil is drying out fast the valve will open more and water more, and it’ll drip out even into like you can have a safe you got a small pot like a one-gallon pot or a three-gallon pot, you could just have a drip right out of the carrot. Yet something bigger like five or 10 gallons, you could have some little distribution drippers that it would drip through. Or with large pots, you know when we’re talking like 45-6500s two hundred that sort of thing. Or raised beds, we feed it into this array of soaker hoses that we have, we call them blue soap, but they’re interesting soaker hose made out of Tyvek. And either way, what we’re doing is maintaining static moisture levels in the soil with the Blumat Systems. And that is different than a traditional drip irrigation system with individual emitters that are going to have wet periods and dry periods, and it’s going to have these big swings in the moisture level–

Chip Baker: They are much more like running rock walls as far as the moisture level running–

Michael Box: And it maintains like a really even consistency. Yeah, I hadn’t really thought of it like that. But yeah, I suppose it is.

Chip Baker: That’s the two major like sections we have that we sell drip irrigation to Cultivate OKC, Cultivate Colorado. Yeah, is there either, quote unquote hydro growers, so they want their medium to stay moist all the time. Or they’re soil-less growers and they believe in some sort of [inaudible] to a tie up.

Michael Box: Yeah, which you know, that’s one at school thought–

Chip Baker: Hey, I’ve done it all honestly and man it’s just how you want to do it right. For me and my scales in the past I can’t see like water savings on one versus the other or, you know, growth technique or grow growing better in any way. The yield seemed to be the same but it’s just preferred you either want to wet or you’d like to dry it out.

Justin Jones: Yeah, I got something for this. So my recreational marijuana grow. Medical unrack and Denver dank. We still hand water and a lot of– [inaudible]

Chip Baker: You got AD lights or something?

Hand Watering vs. Drip Irrigation

Justin Jones: We have 100 lights. We’re small lights, big growers. But part of the problem is that I have multiple cultivars on a grouping of plants. Okay, so and that’s just we were vertically integrated and we just basically we grow a little bit differently than you’ll see in a lot of places. But what’s cool about what I’m hearing from your system is this might actually work. And the reason that we don’t drip irrigate, is because if I’ve got eight different cultivars, they can all be in the same size of coco and they can be in the same you know, in the same grid and all that but you know, they’re gonna use their water and nutrients little bit differently. So we actually hand water and we kind of look at each plant on its own. Because if we just give everything 10 minutes a day, certain things are getting over watered and it becomes really difficult to get any kind of a dry down or it’s just definitely easy to over-water certain things so–

Michael Box: Yeah, and over water is a huge problem, right? I mean–

Justin Jones: So this your system has the ability to– each one of these carrots has its own sensor to how much moisture is there, you know, in [inaudible]

Chip Baker: Each container maintain the same amount of moisture. 

Michael Box: Yeah, I think you guys are just jumping right to the heart of it here, which is that’s exactly right. Different, you know, finos different strains, whatever you’re going with, even like different places in the greenhouse, you know, or the room some are going to be hotter than the others. All these different containers are going to be using water at different rates. So this allows the plants to you know, just take just as much as they want and not too much. And the systems you know, the supply lines are under a constant pressure. So this waters on 24 hours a day. And it’s very low pressure, like our max psi is 15. 

So we just need to maintain a very low pressure on all the supply lines. As soon as the plants want some water, they just open up the valve. And it’s really like the plants are actually controlling the on off switch to the water. And in fact, when you you know, after a plant is done growing and you kind of you pull the carrot out and you look at the pot, you’ll there’ll be a little conical hole, you know, where the carrot had been embedded in the soil, and it’ll just be completely solid root mass. So the plants actually wrap themselves around the carrot and start exerting pressure on that to control the valve, which is, you know, —

Justin Jones: That’s pretty cool. 

Michael Box: That’s kind of a higher level of it. But yeah–

Chip Baker: So this is the– I’ve used this example over and over again, when people talk about how bad drips irrigations are, and I’m like, Well, let me tell you, if you have a right drip irrigation system, when you’re done with it, or halfway through, you will notice that the very top of your soil is just a map of roots, right? And roots will come out of the top of the soil even. And to me, that just sounds like everything. It’s just a healthy environment you know, it’s hard to argue with that one honestly but I’ve never seen I’d love to see a picture of this man and maybe we get one or you could post it.

Michael Box: And if people check out our Instagram, its Blumat Watering Systems, there’s a bunch of pictures on there and people send them to us all the time where there’ll be like a little dripper you know that where the water enters the pot, and we actually have to put the drippers up on a stake about two inches above the soil. 

Because what happens is if you lay it right on the soil, the roots just grow up into the dripper and clog it. And people send us photos all the time of having this mound of roots just underneath the dripper where the plants are getting it and I’ve actually had it at home and my little greenhouse at my house. We’re using the soaker hose, the drip tape soaker hose that we use this type x soaker hose like hundred gallon pots I’ll put a big spiral that. The root mass will actually grow over the top of the soaker hose and completely encapsulate the soaker hose so that you have to like at the end of the season actually tear the roots back to get the hose out from underneath this thick mass which is you know kind of blew me away the first time I saw that.

Chip Baker: So yeah, I’m checking out your Instagram site and I see that the other product you have this type x like it appears to be a drip tape like product is that what it is?

Michael Box: It’s different than a drip tape. And so most we think of drip tape, it’s like extruded plastic, you know, it’s black, and it’s got it’s usually flat looking when it’s dry and then it swells up, but there’s a mirror built in. You know every 8, 12, 24 inches however, you know whatever distance you want those emitters have specific flow rates. And you know, that’s the same thing you turn that system on or the myths at that spacing for that flow rate. This the BluSoak is the that we use is actually has just thousands and thousands of little micro holes that we water out just continuously so you get a continuous soak. And it also operates at a really low pressure, it’ll operate down to two psi which is which is much lower than like the traditional drip tape needs more like eight to 10 to really function.

Parts of the Drip System

Chip Baker: So we bounced around a little bit. Yeah, but a couple things I wanted to get in here is the important parts and pieces that people need when they go to design an irrigation system. And, we’re going to list them out here. So if you got a pen and paper, go get it. If you want to write it down in your notes, you know perfect. And we’re gonna list the parts of the drip system that everyone needs and maybe give a little understand you know? You need water.

Michael Box: Yeah, that’s where it started water.

Chip Baker: Yep, you need our source right? Hey Justin, do you guys have holding tanks or do you come right off your waterline for your large irrigation? 

Justin Jones: The we’ve got both, we’re coming out of wells. We’ve got holding tanks. You know, I know guys I saw people that are you know straight pumping right out of the river. It depends on what your water rights are here in Oregon I you know really but you know most most people have a have a good well, it allows them you know, so many. So many of our those sorts of things.

Chip Baker: We have our water and then we have our, our pump, which is it gives us two things. It gives this volume and it gives us pressure Right, Michael.

Michael Box: That’s absolutely right.

Chip Baker: Go ahead.

Michael Box: Oh, and then the next step is your filtration –[inaudible]

Chip Baker: Most important.

Michael Box: Absolutely. That’s right Chip, most important.

Chip Baker: Water, pump, pushes volume and pressure and filtration.

Michael Box: Yeah filtration so now we’re really kind of talking about, like multi-acre row crops you know, for a big hemp fields and stuff like that. And this in filtration–

Chip Baker: We sell filtration to all of our small indoor cannabis [inaudible]

Michael Box: Oh, absolutely.

Chip Baker: Right, any irrigation needs disk filter.

Michael Box: But when we get into especially when we get into these big multi acre fields, irrigation becomes critical because people are spending lots of money on their irrigation systems. I mean, it’s really easy to mess them up. And there’s a there’s a bunch of different ways to build filtration and to do it like you mentioned the disk filters very popular, there are mechanical filter, basically, you’re pushing water through these disk arrays and takes the particulate out. They’re really inexpensive relatively. And then we also install sand media filters to which are a little more complicated, a little more expensive, but they’re more automated and can go for longer periods of time without–

Chip Baker: They have automated flesh out valves. You can run larger volumes of water you don’t decrease your your pressure when they get dirty necessarily. Yeah, that’s the problem with the disk filters, you do have to have a minute cleaning maintenance schedule and, you know, my in our in our hydro garden with our rock. Well, we have to clean our filter every couple of days.

Michael Box: Right. So we use these big mechanical filters. We like this brand called Irritec they make really nice, really make, they’d make the biggest one. So filtration is all about surface area, the more surface area you have in your filtration system, the longer you can go between cleanings. You can get away with a really small filter, but you have to clean it all the time. Or you can build a bunch of filters in these array, these manifold arrays that we design. They’re really cool. We, you know, we have some of those on the Instagram too. I think there’s some photos of those but yeah, that’s our most popular style that we install. And then sometimes we’ll do the sand media stuff as well. So filtration is really it’s key. So that’s, something we tell people to is that’s where you if you’re gonna spend money on one part of irrigation system, especially for a farm filtration [inaudible] cuz you don’t want to you know, I mean you put, acres and acres of drip tape down in the field and then you run a bunch of, you know, get the sediment through it and you’re going to clog up all those tapes and now you got a bunch of garbage laying out and feel that needs to be replaced.

Filtration is all about surface area, the more surface area you have in your filtration system, the longer you can go between cleanings. – Michael Box

Chip Baker: Well, you know, just last year, I bought a couple acres about a two acre kit of drip tape. And, you know, I sell all this stuff but like, Man, this particular company, I like to work with drip works, you know, there’s no, I do, they’re just great people I love their model and they have really good prices. So like I ordered some kits. And it came with just a three quarter inch screen filter, right, I immediately threw that away and put in an extra large, extra long disk filter. That was for more volume and more water than then my system could carry. But I always liked to upsize that part of the filter. Make it bigger, it’s easier for everybody to take apart and clean it. Just bigger is better in my opinion on [inaudible]

Michael Box: Generally, it is to you know, higher flow, you know, larger diameter stuff, get more flow, you get less friction loss and with your ports, your overall pressure.

Chip Baker: So hey, this is a great engineering point for drip systems this filter is not going to take that same volume or pressure and you need to up it, right, you know, to one inch or one and a quarter or one and a half or whatever the one up, you should up it.

Michael Box: And really, you know, and once you start talking about those diameters, I mean, the smallest we ever get into with the hemp fields is two inches, and that’s where we start with all of our supply lines. We use a product called lay flat, which she probably probably [inaudible] you’d call it’s usually like [inaudible] sometimes it’s like a fire hose. It’s like a rubber kind of fire hose material. Yeah, we use that. So after you know we get to through our filtration systems. Then we start laying out our main lines and our sub mains so we’ll use the highest diameter [inaudible]

Chip Baker: Okay. Let me pause you. So we’ve got water, we’ve got our pump, which is volume and pressure. We’ve got our filter. And now we have our supply line is that what you want to call it?

Michael Box: Yeah, supply lines here. Okay, main lines. You might also put in a fertilizer injector in there too, usually right after the filtration. But yeah, so supply lines, you know, we’re either going to be in PVC or in lay flat, or a combination of both usually, depending on where we need to move the water to. And we’ll start with higher diameter stuff. I mean, it’s not uncommon that we’re using six or four inch stuff right off the bat to get large amounts of water out to the field and then we’ll branch that off into zones or sets, people call them too. And those will be that so we can’t generally can’t water the whole field at once. 

We’ll want to break it off into zones. And we’ll say hey, what’s the max amount of water This field is going to use in a day in the middle of the summer its highest use rate. You know, like, right in the middle August how much of these things going to be drinking? And we’ll say How much time will it take to get that much water on the field and say, hey, we’ve got like, say we have an 18 hour day to water we have to size the system so that it’s possible to put that much water down on that field in that 18 hour window is kind of so that’s our like upper limit of what we need to be able to supply. So yeah, the the mainline takes the water to the different zones, and then those zones are usually controlled by valves. Most of the time it’s a manual thing, but we can also do you know, solenoid valves that go off on timers and that sort of thing.

Chip Baker: Hey Justin, in how many how many zones you got in your hundred acre field?

Justin Jones: They had a lot a lot of zones but– and they do I think that was all manual too. The automated stuff, it’s hard to it’s hard to trust it sometimes.

Chip Baker: Unless you’re just in consistent dry temperature in Southern California or Nevada or something. It’s hard to say okay, it’s going to be this much every day.

Michael Box: And most hemp farms are new, you know that’s the thing most hemp farmers right now have only been doing it for a couple years at best, right? 

Justin Jones: Nobody got ten-year [inaudible] Yeah, well you know, one of the big hemp farms that I worked with a bunch this last year they also are large scale hops our operation. You know, that they’ve got so many years and hops and you know, and of course there’s always something even with their hops farming, but, you know, they’ve usually have dealt with it in the past or they have other resources. 

So yeah with hemp farming everything’s kind of brand new– No, definitely that was an issue you would hear you know about people that if your irrigation isn’t working if it breaks down, if there’s no like catch up time you know if you hit if you– if you kill everything because it didn’t get water your stuff start over so it definitely seems challenging now with these systems, you know, the slasher, I saw guys that were running drip tape in with their transplanting and so the tape was like that, you know, I guess in the ground on the raised beds, a lot of people that planted and then put the drip tape out after the plants are in and maybe they did a little bit of overhead watering at the very beginning with the transplants growing in. Now with your guys’s system for a large scale hemp field, once you get off those laterals and the mains and laterals are your material underground above ground. How does that work?

Michael Box: Yeah, so, again, now we’re talking about just that extra drip tape. That is one or the other, it’s really up to what the farmer wants to do or has the capability of installing.

Chip Baker: Do you see any difference?

Michael Box: You know, the tape can be protected longer if it’s buried, you know. And it’s, it’s also supplying water below surface so it could, there’s less evaporation that happens when it’s buried. It’s hard to get the tape out with hemp plants, especially if you’re finding like, If you’re growing onions or something, you can just pull that tape right out. If you’re growing hemp though, I mean, you guys know what a fully grown hemp plant looks like and how big that stock is and how massive the root system is right? Just [inaudible] 

Justin Jones: You know, in that case, the above ground tape would maybe easier to pull out but those were– I saw people that put those in and then had a lot of wind when the plants are real small and that the lines actually moved around and some plants. Yeah–

Chip Baker: Yeah, you still got to put some weight on it. And if you’re gonna do– because I prefer the above ground on drip tape. I do like to take it out at the end of the year and right to reuse it. Agricultural waste and plastic waste are one of the biggest plastic wastes in the world right now. So I want to be as conscious as possible. 

Michael Box: Yeah [inaudible] It’s the biggest issue I have with this–

Chip Baker: Yeah. And drip tape really is great because you can at the end of the season, wind it up. There’s some great YouTube videos on how to wind it up and keep it on your spool using just like a cordless drill that’s what we use. And so I put it on top, and then I’ll just like every 10 feet, I’ll put on five shovels of dirt on top of that. So then when I come to like, pull the field up, I just walk down the row and I just pull up right where there’s a weighted down section right.

Michael Box: Yeah there’s a lot of implements you know, that will actually shape your beds and lay a plastic bolts and bury the tape four inches down all in one pass. 

Chip Baker: Sure. Yeah. Now I have now I have all that. 

Michael Box: Yeah. So if you’ve got that stuff, that’s probably what you’re doing and you might even be throwing away the tape every year.

Chip Baker: You got plastic mulch over there Justin?

Justin Jones: You know, I see it both ways. The main farms that I worked with were no plastic mulch, flat no raised beds. No, it was it was just flat. 

Chip Baker: No, it was just flat. and it’s in the world for it though.

Justin Jones: Yeah. And we had drip, we had a farmers with drip and we had farms with pivots. And definitely, you know, so, you know, we kind of the Willamette Valley here in Oregon, you can see it a lot of different ways for sure. But we do have to have some sort of irrigation because normally we get no rain from, you know, somewhere in June till somewhere and October. So, [inaudible] but, you know, definitely I like seeing the different systems and definitely it’s super important but pumps and filters, and the injectors, you know that’s the and just that math although all that math going on–

Chip Baker: And the most important pies. Hey Gentlemen, I think this is a perfect time for us to take a break. Let’s just sit back and roll up the largest joints you can and join us just back in a few minutes for The Real Dirt.

Thanks for listening to another episode of The Real Dirt podcast. Hey, you know in these trying times, it’s kind of hard to find all the parts and pieces you need. However, if you call us at Cultivate Colorado, Cultivate OKC, email us, text us, man send out smoke signals. We’ll try to get every single thing you need to grow to you, either drop ship delivery or we offer curbside service. It’s one of the most important things that we can do right now is help our customers continue growing. And you know, just to put more great cannabis out there in the world is definitely going to be a good thing here. So if you’re having trouble getting any of your products or if you don’t think that your local store is open, no need to worry. Contact us at cultivatecolorado.comcultivateokc.com you can look us up on our telephone number, you can drop me a line at chip@therealdirt.com you can pm us, you can dm us, you can do whatever you want, and we will go out of our way to get you everything you need in these trying times.

Justin Jones: Chip, I got a quick question in regards to that. You mentioned [inaudible] direction. And what color smoke signal would you guys like to see if that if that’s where we’re at?

Chip Baker: Well, you know, smoke me always like that fine blue smoke. You know, I’m talking about, right. Yeah, it’s nice blue smoke. That’s what we’re looking for. It’s the intention of the smoke signal, I believe. That will draw us to it like flies in light.

Justin Jones: Yes, yes.

Chip Baker: So man, great to be back with you guys. Today, we’re talking about irrigation. I’ve got Michael Box and Justin Jones here. Justin Jones has done a large scale commercial agriculture with hemp. And he also grows ganja by hand in Denver waters it by hand. Michael helps transition those exact people into irrigation systems. 

Alright fellas, like where we’re talking about, oh, the parts and pieces of an irrigation system let’s just keep reviewing for everybody is we’ve got our water. We’ve got our pump that’s pressure and volume, and we have a water filter. We then often have some type of fertilizer injection system, a siphoning fertilization system. Some people have an additional tank which requires a different pump and an additional filter. But then we have a mainline that that brings all the water to our garden and from our mainline then we set it up into zones. The zones end up breaking into smaller lines that run through the garden. And then the individual drip lines come off into our containers unless it is drip tape. Then your supply lines are also your drip lines as well. Right, does that sound easy? Yeah. I don’t know if anybody else got lost but–

Justin Jones: Alright, I was following you there.

Chip Baker: Yeah. So Michael when we put all these stuff together what’s people– they’ve got all the parts and pieces they’ve they figured out, they’ve got everything right. What’s the main way they mess up right now?

Challenges in Drip Irrigation Systems

Michael Box: Well, you know, we talked about a lot of math involved with these big systems and we’re looking at acres of plants. And the main problem we see is when folks try to do it themselves. And you know, I’m all about do it yourself and many, many aspects of life. But with these irrigation systems, it’s really, really helpful to have somebody engineered for you that knows what they’re doing. Because the last thing you want is, like we talked about getting to the middle of summer, and all of a sudden, you can’t get enough water on those plants. And you’ve got hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of plants in the field that are dying before your eyes because you can’t give them enough water.

Justin Jones: Or you’re at the beginning and you just spent all this money propagating and you and your pumps not big enough, and that’s usually what I was hearing was these guys, they didn’t do the math, right? Their pumps weren’t big enough or you know, they couldn’t push enough through the filters. You know? So it’s a–

Chip Baker: That is the case, just to explain it to people who have zero knowledge of this is real simple. There’s a certain amount of volume and pressure that you get at the beginning of this whole thing. And that is as much as you’re going to get ever. So you take all of the drippers that you have and divide it by that number. And, that’s roughly your limitations, right?

Michael Box: Yeah, but even– 

Chip Baker: It’s more complicated than that–

Justin Jones: If you have a good well that just keeps putting out for you, too so–

Chip Baker: Yeah, right. I mean, if you got a five inch well, and you know, it’s putting out 8000 gallons a day, it doesn’t matter if you have a four inch line that put out 13-14,000 gallons a day, it’s only gonna get 8000 gallons a day.

Michael Box: That’s right. And often with you know, big multi acre fields, we’re looking at hundreds of, you know, 120 gallons a minute we’re trying to put out. So it’s really pretty large volume on water. So having an engineer and I do a lot of design work here, we put the system together, we source parts from a bunch of different manufacturers that we have really great relationships with and get that system to people. I do all the kind of tech support customer service, everything that needs to happen. 

I do a lot of design work here, and we put the system together, we source parts from a bunch of different manufacturers that we have great relationships with and get that system to people. – Michael Box

In addition to that, when we’re talking about big fields, I do have an engineer that I work with, who will draw up a system and he’s an irrigation engineer out of Oregon, and actually up your way and he does a fabulous job. He’ll create someone gets a system through us. You know, not only will they have every part that they possibly need delivered to their farm, they’ll get a CAD drawing of the whole system all laid out and everything is going to be guaranteed insured to work. So when we’re dealing with millions of plants. We like to have that insurance policy backing us up so that we don’t ever screw up and we don’t you know, that’s the real advantage of having the engineer design done. It’s done properly. 

When we’re dealing with millions of plants, we like to have that insurance policy backing us up so that we don’t ever screw up. – Michael Box

Chip Baker: All right. So this drip irrigation isn’t just for large farmers, though. And that’s, you know, most of the people that buy drip irrigation from us at Cultivate. They’re small farmers, they might have 12 lights, 20 lights, 500 square feet. So we basically have two types. We have a small scale or your craft’s size, we’ll call it what do you think that number goes up to from one light to how many square feet would be considered a craft operation?

Michael Box: For an indoor situation like that?

Chip Baker: Indoor greenhouse you know–

Michael Box: You know, I don’t know if I have an exact number. A couple thousand square feet canopy I would say stops, you know, it becomes more commercial. A lot of it has to do like what’s the guy’s market? You know, what’s the farmers market that they’re gonna go into? Are they trying to get five rounds a year in are they? You know– 

Chip Baker: What is the equipment change? 

Michael Box: Yeah. So the way we design it, we’ll do our Blumat irrigation systems in in anything that has to do with containers. So we don’t really have an upper limit as long as folks are growing in say raised beds, or large pots or things like that.

Chip Baker: So even over in Justin’s four acre greenhouse or something, it’s all in containers–

Michael Box: Yeah, so I you know that that’d be a situation where, you know, if he’s grown in a lot of small pots, we have some different ways to use the Blumats with that. We also have these systems called Capillary Mats, which are a whole other kind of really interesting way to irrigate, they’re like that, and that pot sit on and with water up through that. So that’s a really great way to do a lot of smaller containers. And, you know, the way we work it is we have a lot of people call us every day say, hey, there’s my grow. This is what it is, maybe it’s six lights in your basement, maybe it’s, 5,000 square feet of in a couple acres of greenhouses, whatever it is. They’re contacting us and then we talk to them, we work out what they need, and we give them a system that’s going to work for them. And it’s gonna be different now we’re talking outdoors, native soil stuff, anything over, like I say, an acre, but he’s probably even a little less than that. We’ll stop doing like Blumat stuff. And we’ll go straight more to this traditional drip irrigation.

They’re contacting us, and then we talk to them, we work out what they need, and we give them a system that’s going to work for them. – Michael Box

Justin Jones: But you would go to with the Blumat, possibly up to an acre?

Michael Box: Up to an acre. Yeah. Yep. And you know, that’s a real kind of craft situation that you’d be doing. It’s, but for sure, we put some of those [inaudible]

Justin Jones: Well in that number here like an Oregon if you have a tier two recreational outdoor, it’s an acre, you know? so–

Michael Box: And then when we’re talking about acres of greenhouses, that’s you know, that’s always going to be– that just really depending on what the containers look like–

Justin Jones: Right, I’m saying for ganja pure tier two, you know, you’d have an acre guys you’re doing an outdoor. You know, 40,000 square foot canopy.

Michael Box: Yeah, that’s that’s a lot of ganja. 

Chip Baker: Yeah, man. We’re trying to put in 240,000 square feet of ganja this summer. 

Justin Jones: Alright! 

Chip Baker: Yeah, totally. 

Michael Box: That’s out in Oklahoma? 

Chip Baker: In Oklahoma. 

Michael Box: Yeah. Is that under full sun, that kind of thing?

Chip Baker: It’s between greenhouse [inaudible] yeah, auto flowers and clones and seeds.

Michael Box: Excellent. Yeah

Chip Baker: Right. Doing it all man. I’m definitely not a snob on growing ganja any all ever we can.

Michael Box: No I mean I think the auto-flower thing is really fascinating development and especially I think it can fill a really awesome niche in a farm,

Chip Baker: Oh, man. It is how all the rest of the commercial. So many of the other commercial agricultural products work with day neutral flowering periods where it’s just time. You know, it’s just 45 days or 50 days or 70 days. I mean, I just planted a bunch of cabbage that was 45 days and tomatoes that were 50 days. And that’s how commercial agriculture talks about it all and even home agriculture talks about it the same way, backyard gardens right.

Michael Box: Yeah, I was just ordering all my seeds for my kitchen gardens just the other day and you know I’m up in the mountains so I like to pick those short windows the short days yeah

Chip Baker: Yeah I’m excited about down here in Oklahoma it was 90 degrees a few times this week. The spring has definitely sprung it may freeze once or twice but yeah we’re ready to go man and places like this are perfect places for auto-flowers and I mean many people grow them inside which I don’t quite understand that but outside they’re just you can start planting right about now and keep planting until well after your first freeze. 

Justin Jones: Well, I think you could get a nice cycle to you know, and we saw a really good success with hemp farming this year. With you know, logistics and being able to dry your hemp, you’ll be harvested. All your work come due in the same week or two, you know, so just trying to go with an auto-flowering genetic and then an early and then you know, maybe later to try to spread out your harvest in the fall so, yeah.

Michael Box: Well and you know, we’ve got a number of clients now they’re using the auto-flowers. A lot of them were seeing them or doing them in raised beds and– actually for us for that craft flower that smokeable flower, which I think is a really very viable market but that’s kind of a different topic. 

Chip Baker: And the raised beds are just perfect for ganja, pulls them out of the soil platform. So it changes the whole water dynamic, it dries them out more gives it more oxygen, even if you don’t put the plastic mulch on top of it. It’s an incredible like a little small addition to growing almost anything. If you add that drip and the plastic mulch, and man that’s how all the organic vegetables are grown pretty much this way. Or many, many of them no pesticides, reduces the weed pressure reduces the pest pressure such a great deal. It’s really good thing.

Michael Box: Yeah. And you’re kind of talking more about the like a shaped bed or raised bed out in the field where the tractor will come and raise those beds up and then and then we see a lot of folks in like greenhouses with built raised beds right like either a fabric bed like [inaudible]

Chip Baker: Similar concept. You get a grounded oil profile–

Michael Box: And a lot of those guys that we’re working with are more of that living soil style grower, right? So I know you’ve got a bunch of say about living soil. I was just looking at the talk you did [inaudible]

Chip Baker: Oh, great, great marketing term. It’s you know, as they call it, something different but right, so whatever.

Advantages of Blumat System

Michael Box: Yeah, but the thing– So that’s where the craft part comes in, I like to think about is when, when we’re looking at I’m a big believer in soil biology and soil health. And I mean, who is like, how can I get around that give it to the roots? Yeah, and that’s where the Blumats kind of really kick in is when they maintain that static moisture level. That’s where we see, you know, we kind of were talking about earlier, the real big advantage is you guys jumped right on it, which was, hey, different plants are going to use different amounts of water, so we’re going to prevent for over watering. 

But the other real big advantage is that maintain that static moisture level is incredibly beneficial for the soil biology. So all that beneficial bacteria, fungi, your flashlights, all this stuff. Those are all these little micro organisms, right that if the soil gets too wet, they’ll go dormant. If they gets gets too dry, they’ll go dormant. But if you can hold them right in that hydro neutral zone require homeostasis, or we’re going Goldilocks zone, whatever you want to call it, that little window, where they breed and do their jobs whether it’s solubilizing phosphorus or transferring nutrients or fixing nitrogen, they do that 24 hours a day, they don’t have like a period where they get too wet and slow down and get too dry and slow down. They just do it all the time. 

So with those, you know, quote-unquote, living soil growers that are that are relying on all that activity that produce the nutrients or to produce the food for the plants. They’re able to get some real, some real benefit out of that static moisture level and increased biological activity to the point where you’re getting significant yield increases, and we actually have some folks out of the Seattle area. They’re about to publish this paper in one of these some new peer-reviewed journal. So I can’t go into all the details, but they’ve done some really controlled studies. With Blumats versus hand watering and saw increase, I mean, it’s dramatic increases. It’s the order of like about 20% increase in yield. [inaudible]

Chip Baker: Do you have a preferred media that you guys like to use the works the best with the Bluemat?

Michael Box: Not really, I mean soil and soil-less mediums so–

Chip Baker: So that coconut pea?– We’re just [inaudible]

Michael Box: [inaudible] a great, great application

Justin Jones: And that’s what I grow is in love the ganja in Denver. I’m in like, three gallon, four gallon, coco and perlite and we drained a ways to add water.

Michael Box: Right. So yeah, I mean coco’s got that tremendous capillary action. So it moves water from side to side and in evenly distributes it. So you know, that’s a really Blumat’s were good in that. Because we I mean, we have some customers that are just straight like coco salt growers and they crush it with the Blumats. They see increases in yield. They say, hey, this isn’t bad. 

Chip Baker: They have a fertilizer through their drip system? 

Michael Box: Yeah, yeah, absolutely. 

Chip Baker: I didn’t realize that was possible. 

Michael Box: It is. And one of the real amazing thing is, is you can actually, and we kind of almost aquire or strongly encourage people to, if they’re going to run their synthetic nutrients through the Blumat system to decrease their dilution rates by 50%, or maybe even down to 25% of what they were using because you’re not getting that drain to waste that you’d normally do. So there’s no runoff, anything that’s going into pot staying there. So we don’t really–

Justin Jones: So you reduce your fertilizer level consumption? 

Michael Box: By % right off the bat. Yeah.

Chip Baker: Yeah, we actually tell people 25% because people don’t want to believe.

Michael Box: Yeah.

Chip Baker: But they usually change their mind quickly. 

Michael Box: And yet, so that’s pretty incredible.

Chip Baker: There’s virtually no run off with your system.

Michael Box: That’s the idea. Yeah, once they’re dialed in, in tune, they’re just gonna maintain that static moisture level. And we usually like to verify that we have a digital moisture meter, we use other, there’s some other ones out there that are really nice, too. And, you know, we just so you’ll have an independent monitoring device of some sort that’s telling you either your moisture level, either in a form of a percent or in millibars is how our meters read their tenancy ometer. So they read in negative millibars. And yeah, you can kind of really cling on to those, those moisture levels, much tighter with the Blumat systems and with the swings, the wet, dry swings of the drip system are hand watering. 

Justin Jones: Sure. That’s awesome. Now, I’m excited. I’m going to get a hold of my growers and have them check it out.

Chip Baker: Yeah, it’s a good solution. For you, most adjustments rooms. I can’t remember but I think they’re mostly like 12 to 20 light rooms? 

Justin Jones: For small. Yeah, everything’s good. 

Chip Baker: They’re all small. So, you know, we’re praying for this.

Michael Box: Yeah, a lot of times when we we talk about converting a system over that’s existing. We really also encourages people to start small, you know, hey–

Justin Jones: Well we could just do a couple of do a room or that’s what I mean.

Michael Box: Yeah, do a room and then you practice you get good at it cuz there’s a learning curve, right? I mean that– it’s a new technology doesn’t just work flawlessly right out of the box. You got to learn how to install it right and tune in and then when you tune it in now, it does a fabulous job but it takes that a couple weeks to learn– [inaudible]

Chip Baker: A little piece of a way to describe it is not perfect right out of the box and you have to tune it. Just like fun musical instrument. Alright. So, you know we’ve kind of — Okay, so right now you’re talking to I don’t know 15,000 ganja growers literally are people interested in it? What can you tell them to help them along with what they’re doing or an irrigation in mind? What’s the like, you know, this positive like you can do it type thing you can say to these guys, right? Or you can say anything, man because it’s like people are always asking you the same question. Let’s answer it right now.

Michael Box: Yeah. I mean, growing plants is fun. I’ve been growing plants all my life. I love growing plants producing my own food, produce my own ganja, medicine, everything this is something for everybody. And, you know, especially now you know, I mean I don’t know when this is going to air what but we got some crazy stuff going on right now in the world. Yeah, with all this virus stuff that’s out there. And I think you know this is the good time to start growing your own and start not just weed but your food, and everything else. And people can do it if they put their minds to it and a good watering system is a key to that because water is essential. It’s easy to screw it up. If you really don’t know what you’re doing, it’s easy to overwater. And we have a lot of really simple solutions for the small home grower, as well as just for any of the larger commercial folks we can scale up to do whatever you want to do.

Growing plants is fun. I’ve been growing plants all my life. I love growing plants, producing my food, produce my ganja, medicine, and everything. This is something for everybody. – Michael Box

Justin Jones: It’s great.

Chip Baker: Yeah, man, I you know what, I’d like to speak to you, people that are pooping on irrigation right now and say it doesn’t work. And I’ll say you’re haven’t seen enough ganja growing. That they are the biggest the smallest, the best gardens in the world are grown under drip irrigation. And if you do a little math and follow the steps that we laid out here for you, you can make your system better than it is today. 

So just open your mind a little bit. Drip systems will stay in. However long it takes you to water by hand. That’s how long it will take you to install your drip system. So if it takes you an hour to water by hand, it’s going to take you an hour to install the drip system and now you get to collect all those other hours in your day in your life and like sit back, smoke weed hanging out with family and stuff.

If it takes you an hour to water by hand, it’s going to take you an hour to install the drip system, and now you get to collect all those other hours in your day in your life and like sit back, smoke weed hanging out with family and stuff. – Chip Baker

Michael Box: Yeah. Now, that’s I mean, that’s Such a great point the return on investment on an automated irrigation system is one of the quickest return on investments you’re going to get for any element of your grow. You’re going to, especially with the Blumat systems, you’re going to see yield boosts, you’re going to have reduced water and nutrient usage. And you’re going to see the labor seems are just incredible. 

I’ve got a big grower out up in Humboldt area right now he put a lot of greenhouses Blumats and all of them last spring, the end of season he told me hired one less full time employee just because of the Blumat system, just to have that and I’m not saying that you know, machine should take people’s jobs but everybody out there is trying to keep the bottom line intact and [inaudible]

Chip Baker: Well, you know what irrigation does for the farmers and the growers, it allows them to actually grow the weed. Because now here’s what they do is like, okay, instead of spinning that 45 minutes watering the weed. Go look at it. Go turn the plants. Pick off the crooked leaf, the bad leaf pull out the shaded plant, you know, gives you time to actually grow it. Just even the look at it.

Michael Box: Yeah, let them show you what they need. Couldn’t agree more.

Chip Baker: So you’re gonna go get a drip system Justin.

Justin Jones: Maybe I can’t wait to go check out the Instagram page. What was your Instagram again?

Where to Find Them

Michael Box: So Blumat Watering Systems. We have two, one Sustainable Village and then the other is Blumat Watering Systems. That’s where we put off all cannabis related material. And it’s the more popular one too. We’re also like I mentioned we’re based out of Boulder, Colorado. We actually just opened up a really nice big office and showroom which is now shuttered with everything else in Colorado for the next month.

Chip Baker: Totally. Yeah, man we’re only we’re doing curbside service delivery only public can’t walk into the stores. I honestly feel like it might change the way so many of us interact. Oh yeah most of our business through our delivery system anyway, we would rather everybody just get on calling us in and ordering it so honestly, this is the perfect time for us to promote that. You know.

Justin Jones: Sure for sure. And even all the way to the other end of it. You know, we’re selling ganja right out on the street corner–

Michael Box: On the corner

Justin Jones: On the corner. Finally our corner and the great thing is actually I just was talking to my business partner back there and the weed cops have actually been out the city actually came in yesterday. Take a look at all the knows the city of Denver but they’re out looking to see how it’s going, you know and checking out these curbside situation. 

Chip Baker: All right, they’re like, man–

Justin Jones: We actually have a perfect situation because we’ve got a big parking lot you know, controlled area so we’re lucky there and I know like chip at his stores you’ve got a big parking lot everywhere and you can people can pull in and, you know, call phone it in. Use all this technology that we’ve got, you know, we’re sitting here on the zoom, doing the doing this right now, as we talk. And I think the zoom’s stock, you know, in the last month has gone has doubled because all of a sudden, we realize how important, how cool this is to have a conversation to get to see people and get some personal interaction through all this great technology.

Michael Box: Yeah, I’ve seen not only did zoom stock go up but any company that looks like zoom, like there was another one I think it’s called zoom communications. That is not this company. People just mistakingly buying it.

Justin Jones: Well, I think it was already the wave of the future. I think this might just be the gasp It’ll get pushed down a little bit on it but. Sure great talking to you guys today here and learning a bunch about the irrigation and new technology and irrigation. So it’s great.

Michael Box: Yeah if anybody wants to check it out to our website is sustainablevillage.com and there’s right on the front page there’s a quote request form, so if you guys want a free custom design we always do a free design quote for anybody. There’s a there’s a button right there you can request that and there’s also a really nice informational catalog, it’s a PDF that you can download as well right there on the front page it kind of lays out how the Blumats work and kind of our products and services overview so sustainablevillage.com.

Chip Baker: Yeah, I got some projects. Maybe we’ll get you guys involved on a couple things to, man. I’ve done all my irrigation myself. forever. But, you know, anytime I go into one that’s built by a professional, I’m always like, Oh, yeah, I should have done it that way. You know? Great, guys. Hey, man, I really appreciate you joining me for another episode of The Real Dirt. 

If you like this episode or want to download others, check us out at therealdirt.com or on iTunes at The Real Dirt podcast, please, please, please subscribe, and you can get all of the like 70 plus episodes that we have sent right to your mobile device. Hey, also, if you’re out there and you see people in the world, just give them a smile and spread a little cheer in love and kindness. We’re all in this world together. And I think what’s going on right now is made us realize how small it is. So I love every one of you. Roll up the largest joints you can and listen to this episode again.

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