Good equipment for managing the care and feeding of our orchid collections is vital to raising healthy, robust plants. Nurseries and big box stores offer a dizzying array of products. Finding the best sprayers, fans, misters, etc. can save time and money. We all look for durabilty, efficiency and reliability. Below are some recommendations from people who have tried the products — orchid growers.
Review by Mark Prout, OSGKC member and AOS judge:
Name and manufacturer: RL PLO-MASTER Premium Home & Garden 1/2 Gallon Sprayer, Root-Lowell Manufacturing Co.
Size: 1/2 gallon
How it’s used, i.e., dispensing water (RO or tap), insecticides, fertilizers, etc.: Anything liquid (dedicate different sprayers to different purposes)
The good things: Sturdy … constant flow button … large volume for one-handed sprayer … easy to clean (dish soap and BLEACH)
Would you recommend this pump spray? Yes.
Retailer and cost: Home Depot, less than $10 (the last time I bought one).
Review by Rick Day, OSGKC member and OSGKC Orchidist of the Year, 2008
Size: 1/2 gallon hand pump sprayer
How it’s used, i.e., dispensing water (RO or tap), insecticides, fertilizers, etc.:
- Watering (rain water) and foliar fertilization of mounted plants
- Watering of hard to reach potted plants
- General misting
- Some insecticide spraying (I never use oil or neem products in this sprayer.)
The good things:
- Large size
- No trigger
- Excellent spray nozzle that adjusts to very fine mist or compact stream that shoots 3-4ft.
- Volume markings on side of bottle for exact measuring
- Little filter cap on intake tube to prevent clogging
- Longevity. I have used this sprayer every day for 4 yrs. without a hitch.
The bad things: At first I thought it was price. However due to its durability I think it is more cost effective than any of the trigger sprayers.
Would you recommend this pump spray? Yes, without question.
Overall rating: (5-stars to 1-star, with five being highest): Yes,6 stars!
Retailer and cost: It has been awhile, but I think it was around $25 from either Lowe’s or Home Depot.
Review by Leo Schordje, public speaker and expert on Phragmipedium and Paphiopedilum.
What I use for my 1000-plant, under-lights collection:
Name, manufacturer and size: Prior to about five years ago I used a Hudson style Sprayer, from Menard’s. It was about $24 some 10 years ago. The tank is a two-gallon tank that works best with about 1-1/2 gallons of spray mixture. The handle is the pump.
It looks somewhat like an old-fashioned milk can, made of a hard blue plastic. You pressurize the tank with about a dozen pumps. Tightening or loosening the spray nozzle adjusts the fineness of the spray.
The good and bad things: Over all it works well enough. One issue, I always take a rag or paper towel and drape it over the pump handle and the top of the tank BEFORE opening the empty or near empty tank. There is always a spray of mist if there is any residual pressure left. It is not good to get that burst of pesticide spray in the face.
It takes two or three batches of spray for me to spray my entire collection. I normally only have to do this twice a year, in the fall, after the first hard frosts, two applications about two weeks apart. If the treatment was effective, I don’t have to spray the whole collection again for another year.
For touch up problems, I use a 20 ounce spray bottle, of the type sold at Lowes or Menards for use with household cleaners. They last for a season or two, then they need to be replaced. I get the medium grade, about $ 2.50 each. They are not the best, but they work well enough. There is always the issue of dribbling a little of the concentrate that you are measuring into the bottle down the side of the bottle. One should always wear gloves and wash or rinse the outside of the bottle as soon possible to avoid accidently getting the concentrate on your skin.
Truth be told, for the spraying of the whole collection these days, I use my watering system. I now have a water tank, and a centrifugal pump that is capable of pumping some 25 gallons a minute. The pump is grossly over powered for watering an orchid collection, but I managed to obtain the pump at a very inexpensive price. The feed line to the pump is a flexible piece of one-inch diameter hose, so when I want to spray the entire collection I simply lift the intake out of the water tank, put it in a five-gallon bucket of the spray mixture and then use my normal watering wand, with a fog nozzle attachment. This has really made spraying easier for me, and minimized my contact with spray mixtures. But this solution is not practical for a small collection.
As always please read the labels and follow all the safety precautions listed by the manufacturer of any pesticide or fungicide you use.
Reverse Osmosis [RO] Water Systems
Review of RO water system by Terrence Thompson, member of OSGKC
Name and manufacturer: GE Reverse Osmosis System Model #GXRM10RBL
Capacity: 4-gallon storage tank* (*Theoretical tank capacity. When tested according to NSF/ANSI 58 at 50 PSIG inlet pressure, tank capacity is 2.05 gallons)
Why did you get it: Paphiopedilums and phragmipediums demand pure water, according to other growers. I grow mostly these two types of orchids.
Briefly describe how system operates: The system is attached to a faucet in my basement. I quickly found that the two gallon storage tank was much too small. Mark Prout suggested I direct the output into a larger storage container. I purchased a 33-gallon Rubber Maid plastic trashcan as a storage unit. The water is directed into the container through a fitting at the top of the trashcan that includes a float valve. When the water reaches the top of the storage trashcan the float valve rises and shuts off the water. To get the water out of the tank I purchased a small fountain pump and placed it as the bottom of the trashcan can. The pump is controlled by an electrical switch on the power cord. I attached a wireless control to the power cord so that I could start and stop the water flow easily.
The good things: Easy to use. No mess, no fuss in watering my orchids. Before I set up the system I would purchase distilled water at Walmart and mix it with tap water to reduce the TDS (Total Dissolved Solids) in tap water.
The bad things: There is some maintenance required. One a year I replace the carbon pre and post filters ($45 for both). Every three years I replace the RO membrane ($45). Don’t forget you must purchase a fertilizer that is designed for RO water to supply some of the necessary minerals that regular tap water offer. I use the Michigan State University RO fertilizer mix.
A TDS meter should be purchased to monitor the RO output to make sure that the system is working correctly. I purchased through the Internet and inline meter that measures both the water coming in and the RO water output TDS level. Once a month I activate the meter and record its reading. If the TDS starts going up on the output side then it’s time to replace the RO membrane.
Would you recommend this system? I would recommend my system. I purchased it at my neighborhood Home Depot for $177 and I can get the replacement carbon filters and RO membranes there. That is very convenient. Home Depot sells GE RO systems for as little as $117. At the time I made my original purchase, all I could get was more expensive system I have now. I think my system probably has a higher daily output capacity for RO water than the less expensive system. My system probably fills up my 33-gallon trashcan faster than the less expensive system. However, I don’t know that for sure. If I drain my 33-gallon tank to the bottom, which is very rare, it takes at least two days to re-fill the tank.
When setting up the system like this you will need some basic plumbing skills involving plastic tubing. It’s not hard to do. However, you will need to purchase some brass or plastic tubing connectors to be able to attach the float valve. I had to order the float valve through the Internet. The fountain pump and wireless switch were purchased at Home Depot.
Name and manufacturer: GE Smart Water Reverse Osmosis System
Capacity: 2.3-gallon storage tank.
Why did you get it: To supply water for most of the orchids and drinking water for the family.
Briefly describe how system operates: System connects to cold water. One connection is under the kitchen sink, water filters through two types of filters and goes into a holding tank, which connects to a separate tap at the counter.
How do you use the RO water: The family drinks R.O. water (one to two gallons daily). Orchids get two to three gallons per daily and one-plus gallons for the humidifer, usually winter and summer. I mix both in 10-20 percent tap water.
The good and bad things: I wish I had RO filter in the plant room at the utility sink. It’s in the kitchen, but I fill old gallong containers and hold in the plant room until needed. The system is a little expensive, in terms of filter replacements.
Would you recommend this system? Yes.
Retailers and cost: Home Depot. System costs $150 or so, plus installation, unless you’re handy and can do the work. Filters run $120 or so a year for five to six gallons daily.
Review of RO water system by Dan Scholzman, past President of OSGKC
Name and manufacturer: GE
Capacity: It is sufficient to fill my 27 gallon barrel overnight.
Why did you get it: To aid in growing Paphs
Briefly describe how system operates: It’s basically a dialysis machine. It has a semipermiable membrane that permits water to flow through but not salt.
How do you use the RO water: I started using RO water as an aid to growing paphs. It seemed like it helped me to keep them alive and to bloom them. Of course I have no idea if it really made a difference, but I stay with it. I’m using the Michigan State RO formula, so I’m using RO on other plants that I had been using tap water.
I should mention that I use air conditioning condensate during the summer. I collect it in my basement, and via a sump pump system with pvc pipe, I transfer it to my green house collection barrel. It is sufficient in quantity that I don’t need any R/O in the summer.
The good things: The water is pure.
The bad things: It is wasteful as far as water is concerned. There is about a 3:1 ratio as far as good water and wasted water is concerned.
Would you recommend this system? Yes or no. As you know, many authorities think it is essential. My take is to go to it if one is having problems growing a particular species.
Retailer and cost: I remember that it was reasonably priced at Home Depot; but I do not recall the amount.