How do I Build a Bato-Bucket/Dutch-Pot System?
Here is my photo-report on building a Bato-Bucket, also called Dutch-pots, system.
It is a very efficient top-drip set-up, easy to use and very safe. No more fear of power outage, the bato buckets have a 2l (about 1/2 Gallon) reservoir built in, that works as a wick system if nothing comes from above. The other big advantage over other drip systems like tube, tubbler or slab set-ups is that the plants are in individual containers that can be moved around, plus the (almost) 3 gallon container provides enough space for the root-mass. Batos have been around for years with proven results but lately haven't been seen that much.
You might have seen the bato buckets in a system called "Eve's Garden", which is a "Brand" product and therefore costs about $350 for a 6 pot and up to $600 for a 12 bucket system... OUCH! That might be the reason for the decline of the batos in the community.
Parts & Price List:
# Bato Bucket: $4.90 each 16x $4.90 $78.40
# PVC Pipe: $3.85 per 10 feet. 25' x 0.385 $9.62
# PVC Fittings: $0.50 - 2.00 a piece. 8x $1 $ 8
# Feedline: $11 for 50', can also be bought in 10' for less than $5. 50' $11
# Feedline Links: $0.70 - $1.50 T, Elbow, shut-off valves, riser, endcaps 7 x misc. $15
# Drippers: $$0.75 - 1.25 a piece. (Including couplings) 32 x $1.25 $40
# Drip-line: $9 per 50 feet. 50' $ 9
# MAG Pump: $30, but smaller pump would do. Mag has low heat and energy use.1x $30
# Wooden planks: $7 each 4x $28
# Perlite: $18 per 24lbs. bag. 2x (1.5 used) $27
This is a grand total of $191.02! Pretty good savings if you ask me.
First you'll have to measure your space and decide how many buckets you will want to use. You can design this system as big or small as you like. In this FAQ, we build a 16 bucket system. Each bato measures 10"x12"x9". 4x 5' Rows with 4 batos each. We space the buckets 16" at center. You can space them wider or closer, depending on how long you're planning to veg. The rows are 20" on center which fits the footprint of the 1K light and reflector I'm using. Store price (without the light) would be about $750.
The batos are designed to be drained by 1 1/2" PVC pipe, which means the drains plug right into the pipe which in turn stabilizes the bucket. 10' PVC pipe cost's less than $4 and they will cut it for you to size at Home Depot.
Constructing the Drain System:
First we measure and mark our PVC pipe where the hole for the drains will be drilled. I used a pair of pruning scissors to get a little groove into the PVC, so the drill bit with the pointy end would grip right away. It worked great. A 3/4" drill bit would be enough but I went a bit larger. Now drill out holes for the bucket-drains.
Here's the bato bucket, you can see the reservoir. Two elbows are combined for one drain fitting. This way, the water always siphons out from the bottom and never leaves stale water in the bucket. The next pisture shows how the bato drain-plug fits into the PVC pipe. The buckets are the same just a different color.
Here's the layout, assembled in the room. Since in this set-up, the reservoir is 2' lower than the system, it's easy to drain. I just put a slight angle on it by raising the long side of the pipes about 2" and the downward pipe that leads to the reservoir about 1". If your reservoir is in the same room, you'll have raise the buckets so gravity can do it's thing. I've seen PVC structures, tables and the common "sawhorse" set-up.
You will of course have to figure out how many T-fittings and elbows you'll need to construct the drain pipe. ($0.50 - $2 a piece) It's really very easy to piece this together an Erector set would be way more complicated. Make sure you get PVC Primer and PVC Cement to make sure they are leak-proof.
One more important point about the PVC pipes: They are dirty when you buy them. Take the time to wash them with a bleach solution to sterilize everything. I scrubbed them on the outside, and used a long stick to shove a big sponge with bleach-water through them. Rinse very well and let them be for at least a day before using. After all, your girls' food will run through those pipes.
Constructing the Feeding System:
Now that the drain system is established we have to worry abut the feeding of the plants.
I use a MAG-drive pump with a rate of 250gph (Gallons per Hour) The pump is placed in the reservoir (or outside if you want to use the pump in-line). A 1' riser is connected to the output via a female/female adapter. (Risers only come male/male and the pump's output is also always male). I screwed a T- piece to the top to split the output. One side goes back to the res for mixing and pressure adjustment via a shut-off valve, the other side goes to the feed-line, also with a shut-off valve in between.
I placed two lines between the 4 rows of buckets (1 line for 2 rows) via one t and one elbow connector. The feed line comes rolled up and is very hard to straighten. It rolls right back up when straightend which is a pain in the ass. I got some fasteners to nail it to the floor. Both lines end with an end-cap. The T's and Elbows are totally drip-proof. I was worried at first but I ran some tests, actually trying very hard to rip apart the connections but to no availe...
Now you'll need a hole-punch. This one in the pic is a little more expensive and easier to use but they're available for about $3. Figure out how many drippers you need and punch holes into the feedline at an even distance.
You put your 1/4" connectors into the holes of the feed line, in this case they came with the drippers. Again, these plugs are tight and a perfect fit. If you punch a hole at a wrong position you can get a "goof-plug" to fix it. I use these, from 0-10gph adjustable drippers, available at Home Depot Or Lowes. Connect your drip-line to the 1/4" connector and then to the dripper. Use 2 drippers per bucket.
Here's what the set-up looks like without the buckets.
And now with the buckets for a test-run. I let it run for an hour or so, double check all the connections before filling the buckets. I run the pump for 5 minutes every 3 hours and have the drippers set at about 3gph. I forgot to time the res-cycle time but I guess at this flow rate it would be around 8-10 minutes.
The batos run well with all kinds of media: coco coir, clay, lava rocks, granulated rockwool but perlite is the most common medium. It's relatively cheap, provides stability and keeps light from the roots. A 24 lbs. bag will fill about 10 buckets.
First you fill the buckets just to the top of the little 1/2" ledge they have. Now the perlite has to be thoroughly watered. Water it till the bucket starts to drain and go a minute longer (you want to make sure it's pretty dirt free so you don't clog your connectors). Now drain the entire bucket since you don't want plain, unadjusted water remaining in the bucket's reservoir.