Drain to waste coco is a misleading title because DTW is actually not wasteful. In fact I am using less nutrients than a recirculating hydro system. Surprise! I avoided this grow method because the word waste is right in the title but I soon found it was a misnomer and drain to waste is a fantastic way to grow in coco.
Here I am running DTW with multiple feedings using a top feed drip system. It is doing great and I want to cover this grow system and some specific points about growing in coco and getting great results. The video below shows a brand new grow using top feed drip and drain to waste.
Although I like to experiment and sometimes that does not always work out so well. So this grow was a reset of a previous experiment gone south. In it I had a SIP planter going and a constantly falling pH. I fixed the problem but the plants were not healthy so I decided to start over rather than try nursing them back to health.
I decided it was time to go back to basics. Top feed drip and drain to waste are tried and true methods of growing in coco. I also decided to go with multiple daily feedings. Coco is a hydro medium and although you can treat it like soil you will never unlock its true potential that way. You can follow this grow itself at http://420dotcom.com/running-hps-vs-led.html
Drain To Waste With Short Frequent Feedings
Here is a video taken on day 7 with plants being fed 3 times a day. They get about a 15-30 second feeding. Just enough to produce some run off.
You Need To Automate Your Feeding For Maximum Results In Coco
If you want to get the best results growing in coco you need to automate your irrigation system. Coco is a hydroponic medium. Because it is somewhat similar to soil you can treat it like soil and get pretty decent results. But you are leaving a lot on the table growing this way and treating it like a peat based media.
Coco holds a lot of oxygen even when wet and because of this it can be irrigated much more frequently. Coco should never dry out! Salt build up only happens as drying occurs and the salts then have a place to build up. By always watering until you get run off you are not giving them a chance to accumulate in the first place.
Top Feed Drip For The Win! Easy To Set Up And Run
Because multiple small feedings are needed to unlock coco’s magic hand watering i8s just not practical. Can it be done? Yes. Is is practical? No!
You will have to be there every 3 hours or so to water doing it manually which does not make for much of a life. Even if you are determined to do this by hand you will miss feedings so you will need a pump with a seconds timer and a drip system.
Dont despair it is pretty easy to set up a top feed drip system and it is not that expensive either. Here is the drip system I use:
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You will want to use the open bubbler . The other regulates flow and you dont want that. It is more prone to clogging and you want maximum water flow which is controlled with a timer instead. Each bubbler has 8 ports and I use two drippers per pot.
You can use any 1/4″ OD tubing but I recommend the green floraflex tubing because it is super flexible. You will have a hard time using the stiff black stuff sold at home improvement stores. However I do get cheap dripper stakes there to hold the tubing in place.
Dont run drip heads with this set up. Open ended tubing works great and doesn’t clog easily. You can add a tee to the end of the tubing to split the flow if you want. You will want to water evenly so it is important to cut all your dripper lines the same length.
Here is the EcoPlus 396 GPH pump I use and I have found them to be very reliable and not to pricey. For most grows this will be all the pump you will need.
They come with an assortment of 1/2 and 3/4″ fittings and and intake screen.
But I take mine apart and use it as an inline pump. I also add a 1/2″ street elbow with a short length of pipe attached so I can pull from the very bottom of my reservoir.
Here is a pic of my modified pump:
You Need A Reliable Timer
This is the timer that I use. It is not cheap and can be a bit confusing to use at first. There may be cheaper alternatives out there but I have not found any.
You need a timer that can be set to run seconds, most I see run 1 minute intervals. You can use them but you may use a lot more nutrients than you need to. Then there are other timers that will run seconds but cant be set for 3 or 4 hour cycles so read the timer specs carefully before you buy something else.
Smart Pots For Coco
Smart pots work great with coco. I used 2 gallon smart pots and unless you are growing trees there really is no need to go larger. In fact smaller pots with a large root mass work best. They need frequent watering and can use up the feeding faster which is what makes multiple daily feeds work so well.
The smart pots will allow roots to breathe and will root prune to keep root circling to a minimum. Each time a root is pruned it creates additional side shoots.
DRAIN TO WASTE COCO – RESULTS
After running this DTW system on both my grows I have to say it was a total success. I have had no problems with salt or nutrient buildup at all. Even better I am seeing greatly reduced foxtailing in strains that are prone to it.
I just finished my first DTW harvest and here is a harvest video from it below. If you want to see the full grow it is here: http://420grower.org/double-tap-gg4-x-black-banana/
As you can see the results are quite good using DTW in coco. My other grow is still in progress at: http://420dotcom.com/running-hps-vs-led.html and it is doing very well also.
If you want to automate your watering you cant beat drain to waste coco but just remember the secret is running low nutrient levels with small frequent feedings.