Bioscience

Capillary mats labor-saving, economical alternative to hand watering

February 17, 2009

By Flinn Foundation

[Source: ScienceDaily] – Capillary mats are popular in the retail nursery industry and with many home gardeners. The uniquely designed mats provide automated irrigation to a variety of plants, conserve water, and reduce the need for labor-intensive hand-watering.

Made with absorbent fabric lined with polyethylene film on the bottom and covered on top with perforated polyethylene or similar material, the mats help minimize evaporation while allowing water to move from the bottom of the mat up into the containers on top.

One advantage of capillary mats is that plants of different size and water requirement can be placed on the same mat without under- or over- watering individual containers. Other reasons mats are preferred to overhead sprinklers are that mats leave less water on the floor of the retail area, and staff don’t have to spend as much time watering plants. The downside: capillary mats can be an expensive system to set up and maintain.

In a study published in the American Society of Horticultural Science journal HortTechnology, a research team from the University of Arizona used capillary mats and overhead sprinkler irrigation in a simulated retail environment to maintain annual and perennial plants in containers for various time periods during both summer and winter.

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