Snowbirds: House plant maint. question

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Note: Someone in an RV group recommended that I post this here, complementing your NG for having many great ideas.
We travel pretty regularly in our RV, and have recently bought a winter home in AZ. When we're away for up to two months, our house plants (in WA) somehow survive, with a good soaking when we leave, along with placing them so they'll get enough light, but not burn up. They're awfully thirsty by the time we come home.
Now that we expect to be gone for longer periods, we need some kind of automatic, indoor watering system. We need to shut off our house water while we're gone, to avoid potential disaster, since our house is somewhat remote. In other words, whatever we get will need to be battery operated (winter power outages are common) and draw water from buckets/tank/whatever. So far, what I've found doesn't have enough capacity to do the job. We simply have too many plants, which will suck up a lot of water in three to five months. It's not practical to have someone go to our house, nor do we want to impose that on anyone, especially when they wouldn't have water to use for themselves (not to mention our complicated alarm system).
Does anyone here use an automatic system, or have a brainstorm for how we could keep these poor plants happy? Some of them are decades old... we'd hate to do them in. Thanks for your input.
Unc
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there are companies that specialize in taking care of closed houses; watering plants, flushing toilets, running sinks to fill the traps, checking for plumbing leaks filling your basement, etc.
regards, charlie cave creek, az
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news:dbrag1

This is an excellent service, in AZ, but our house plants there are made of silk. The outdoor plants require no care. We also have good neighbors who can take care of anything that comes up. We are very fortunate to be shaded from the afternoon sun, so all we do is seal the drains and leave buckets and jugs of water all over the place.
The climate in western WA doesn't cry out for such a service... the toilet water will still be there when we return, and the outside takes care of itself. We really have leaving for an extended period down to a science, but the probability of being gone three months +, instead of one or two, is a death sentence for our plants.
This would be easy, if I were willing to leave the house water on while we were gone. I've seen what an undetected leak can do - it's not pretty. Our friends and family are too far away to impose this detail on them, and I'm not fond of the idea of handing the key to a somewhat remote residence to a complete stranger.
I'm convinced that the exact product I was hoping for doesn't exist. It's modification time. The parts and pieces are out there - it's just a matter of coming up with something that'll work.
Unc
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wrote in message

there are very low dose pumps used to feed nutrients to aquariums, which come from the medical field (drug pumps). these feed from a tank or line pressure. you can frequently get used dosage pumps on ebay or used from medical supply places.
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That's an interesting possibility. Combined with a timer, that might work. I'm E-Bay challenged, but it might be time for me to check it out. If nothing else, maybe I could drug my plants into a suspended, transcendental state, until we get home to care for them.
Unc
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wrote in message >

they are timer based. used to deliver drugs over a period of time periodically. with a large enough reservoir, it would suit your purpose. you could just have a lot of 1/8" drip system tubing running all over the place. you may require a bunch of them. here's an example:
<http://cgi.ebay.com/ws/eBayISAPI.dll?ViewItem&itemw02378317&category212&ssPageName=WDVW&rd=1
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<http://cgi.ebay.com/ws/eBayISAPI.dll?ViewItem&itemw02378317&category212&ssPageName=WDVW&rd=1 I expect to group the plants in a couple of areas, near the immovable plants, depending on how much light they need, so the cluster of hoses is no big deal. I think this would work, but it's hard to imagine a medical dripper being designed to deliver a half quart of drugs to a patient, once a week. Perhaps I could get around that by placing multiple delivery heads in the plants which drink heavily.
Unc
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If you plan on abandoning your house for 2 months in a row, I recommend that you check your insurance policy, especially if you are in an area subject to freezing. In my area insurance policies require empty houses to be checked once every 48 hours for possible water leaks, break-ins and loss of heat in winter, if they are going to be empty for a week or more. If you cannot provide evidence that this was done and a problem occurred, they may not cover the damages that happen.
It may be simpler to arrange for a house-sitter to visit the house on a regular basis and water the plants at the same time, even if you have to pay something for the service.

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I appreciate all of that. I have discussed these things with our insurance agents and I'm not too concerned. We do have one neighbor who does check on the place, but the way we leave it, it has always taken care of itself. The nearest people we would trust with our house are at least 90 miles away. I just hate to impose on people like that, while we're floating in a pool in AZ, but it may come to that. If I could just get past keeping our plants alive in our absence, there isn't anything else of major concern.
I could leave the water on, which means I could buy an OTC automatic watering system, but that would certainly require another call to the insurance agent.
Unc
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Perhaps this could be rigged up to each plant. http://www.leevalley.com/garden/page.aspx?c=2&cat=2,2280&pE922
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I like the general idea, and there may be a way to modify such a system to do the job. Some plants can live in water, but others would croak if they got too much. Thanks.
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I've read about a method - never tried it - of draping a strip of cloth from a container of water onto the soil. Supposedly the water wicks from the container down onto the plant. Doesn't sound reliable.
If I were to devise a method, I'd try rigging a small pump, on a timer. Micro tubing like used with irrigation systems outdoors might be ok. Put plants and the whole rig in garage or shower (where spills won't matter). Could even use a submersible pump, such as is used for garden ponds. There is probably a ready made thingy for what you want, but have never seen one.
Dedicated RV'ers take the whole house with them - picnic tables, patio lights, landscaping, flag poles, etc, etc, etc :o)
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Norminn wrote:

Say Uncle K Did I mention some of the ideas may be, well, "different"??
Lou
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Now you tell me. That's fine. It's a different kind of question. Besides, it's kind of peaceful here, without all the politics and flaming so common to many groups.
Unc
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Agreed.
Har har. All I need is golf clubs. Either I'm not dedicated enough, or perhaps it's that we have enough house plants to fill the RV, leaving no room for my wife's excessive shoe collection. We actually do take a few of them with us. They seem to be the happiest ones. Some of them are so mature they simply couldn't be moved, like a six-stemmed, 30' philodendron.
Unc
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clipped

You just aren't inspired - yet. Hang a bucket on the front of the RV, run some wire or bungee cords front to back, and wind Phil around the bungee cords. May lose some leaves, but they grow fast and it probably would help keep you under the speed limit. You will be the talk of the camp ground, after the racoons :o)
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uncle k wrote:

I did a google search on "automatic plant watering timer vacation" and got loads of hits - it has definitely been invented. Do you have a sprinkler system? Leave power on? If you have a sprinkler system, you can add micro drip tubing to existing heads and water the plants whilst the lawn is watered. Placing plants in garage or other waterproof place, of course. The tubing and connectors are not reliable enough to run them into interior living space. Four months with nobody checking the house? Dangerous. Pay your friend to come down once a month or hire a local police officer.
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The whole idea is to do this without using our house water system. We've left for up to two months numerous times and never had any problem. I agree, four months is a stretch. We do leave the power on, to run our security system, timers, and supply enough heat to keep things from being damaged by cold or dampness. Even if I have someone go in once a week, there's no guarantee that a leak wouldn't start the minute they left. One week, let alone one day, with water running through the floors would be disasterous. I could put all the loose plants in a kids wading pool or the like, but a serious leak would fill that in no time.
Unc
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clipped

My original thought was to use a container (trash can, kiddy pool, etc) to pump water from, in garage or other waterproof location, using a limited water supply and battery supply. You said you have a lot of plants, but no number ... huge planters or a bunch of manageable pots?
Another thought, given the attachment to plants and length of vacations, would be to build a greenhouse large enough to handle the houseplants and supply their needs for long periods.
Yes, water leaks are disastrous - we had about three minutes worth from a broken washer hose. Fortunately, tile and terrazzo floors weren't damaged and we got a wet vac going before the water damaged cabinets and baseboards. All day would have trashed our home.
Last resort - a garden club, nursery or friend who would plant-sit if you haul them somewhere else :o)
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Just buy a small junk water heater (no leaks but don't need heating elements) and fill,it 3/4 with water and compressed air head. You then have a pressurized water supply, but with limited volume (whatever you put in it).
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