Raised Bed Garden and Rainwater Collection and Garden Drip Irrigation Lessons Learned 2013

Another season of the raised bed garden has come and gone. I learned a lot of lessons this year and benefitted from lessons learned in previous years.  The raised bed garden was a success and we got enough rain for the rainwater collection system to be more than adequate to run my garden drip irrigation system.

Rain Water Collection Pond

Red Dirt Rainwater Collection Catch Pond

Rainwater Collection Catch Pond

I had our farm tractor at the house to cut some dead trees and decided to take the opportunity to build a rain water collection catch pond.  It’s harde than it looks to use a front end loader to dig a hole.  It took me about 20 hours of digging but I ended up with a “pond” that will hold up to three feet of water.  I finally got through the top soil down to a clay base and I think it’s going to hold water.

Bad Corn in the Raised Bed Garden

Black Garden Drip Irrigation Hose with Green Corn Plants

Garden Drip Irrigation Hose

Im not sure that corn is a good plant for a raised bed garden.  While they start fine, they seldom finish well.  I’m guessing that there aren’t enough plants for even pollination.  Next year, I’m taking the corn plants out of the raised bed garden and farming them over the septic tank drain field.  At least the Johnson grass does well there so I might as well give it a try with it’s cousin the corn plant!

Flopped Squash

Raised Bed Garden Overflow of Green Squash Plants

Raised Bed Garden Overflow

My squash plants don’t look like they enjoy the garden drip irrigation system or the raised bed garden.  They are just too big to fit well in the garden and flopped over the side.  They flowered but never made any squash.  This is another plant that won’t make it on the list for next year either.

More Bad Corn

Yellow and Brown Survival Corn Year Two

Survival Corn Year Two

My survival kit corn didn’t do well at all.  It was probably due to the fat that I planted too few of them.  Corn isn’t going back in the raised bed garden anyway but I still have a number of dried survival kit corn to try again next year over the septic tank.

Failed Cucumbers

Raised Bed Garden Green Cucumber in Black Dirt Failure

Raised Bed Garden Cucumber Failure

My early season cucumbers did very well in the garden.  My late season cucumbers didn’t do well at all.  They consumed a lot of the water from my rain water collection system and never produced much of anything.  Another reason the garden didn’t do well may be that I didn’t add any new materials this year.  Next year, I’m going to add another measure of compost.  I think the peat moss and vermiculite are fine and the compost contains the organics anyway.

Winterizing the Raised Bed Garden and Drip Irrigation System

Brown Wood and Red Gravel Raised Bed Garden Drip Irrigation Put to Bed with Blue Plastic Tarp

Raised Bed Garden Drip Irrigation Put to Bed

Winter weeds were terrible in the garden last year.  This year, I spent an extra $7 to purchase and install a plastic tarp.  The goal is to prevent any weed growth over the winter – we’ll see if that works!

Leaky Rainwater Collection System

White Rainwater Collection Drip Irrigation Pipe Leak with Black Rubber and Purple Primer

Rainwater Collection Drip Irrigation Pipe Leak

The water line from my rainwater collection system that powers my garden drip irrigation system had a leak early in the season.  It took quite a while for the ground to dry out enough for me to find the leak.  It was a small and subtle leak and was occurring in a pvc pipe joint where they made a very slight curve.  I found this rubber connection joint at Home Depot and it worked just fine.  I ran my garden drip irrigation system all Summer with a water hose instead of the underground pipe.  It worked fine for me but annoyed my wife.

Summary of Raised Bed Garden, Rainwater Collection and Garden Drip Irrigation Lessons

I’m always a little sad when the growing season ends.  I’m also excited about what I’ve learned and can implement next year.  The rainwater collection pond will help a lot – especially as I plan a larger garden outside of the raised bed garden.  The garden drip irrigation system worked very well and I’m please – especially now that I have the leak fixed.  I’m going to expand the rainwater collection system this winter from 1000 gallons to 4000 gallons.  As always, next year will be even better!
Container Garden | Rain Drip Irrigation | Rainwater Collection | Raised Garden Beds

 

Rainwater Collection and a New Raised Bed Garden

Last year’s raised bed garden that I feed from my rain water collection system ended the season nicely. I experimented with “survival” seeds while they performed adequately, I DO think we’re in trouble if we have to feed ourselves from non-hybrid heritage seeds. It was very evident how plant hybridization and breeding have been influenced by the modern grocery store consumer. The fruits and vegetables from my “survival” seeds were smaller, misshapen and less tasty than fruits and vegetables grown from hybrid seeds or purchased in the store. I did save and dry some of the seeds for planting this season to see if they live up to the promise of heritage seeds.

The Right Mix of Rainwater and Raised Bed Garden

Fading Green and Brown Final Raised Bed Garden from Last Summer in Brown and Grey Wood Container

Final Raised Bed Garden from Last Summer

I’m very pleased with my rain water collection system feeding my raised bed garden. I use square foot gardening techniques in my raised bed garden and as you can see, it is very bountiful! It literally sips water and my 1000 gallon rain water collection tank never even got close to running dry – and it was a very dry Summer last year. I use a hose bib timer and turn on the drip irrigation twice daily for 10 to 15 minutes. Each plant has a different emitter that is calibrated to how much water the plan type needs. After many years of abject failure with the deck container garden, it is delightful to have a raised bed garden that performs well – especially in that it is fed from my rain water collection system.

Survival Seeds and the Next Generation

Dried Yellow Corn Raised Bed Garden Survivor Seeds Dried for Replanting on Red Marble Counter

Raised Bed Garden Survivor Seeds Dried for Replanting

I gave a try to survival seeds last year and had less than successful results but they weren’t a complete failure either. I dried a couple ears of corn and some melons to try this year. They’re in the ground in my raised bed garden but seem to be lagging behind the other, hybrid corn I planted at the same time. Again, if SHTF and we have to depend on heritage seeds, food is not going to be as easily available or plentiful as we’ve become accustomed to.

Thwarting the Deer Who Want in my Garden

New Season Raised Bed Garden with Orange Electric Fence Controller in Green Grassy Yard with Brown Weeds in Background

New Season Raised Bed Garden with Electric Fence

I have a lot of deer in my area and since they aren’t hunted they think they have free reign to pillage my garden. My stupid big dog does as well when she needs a snack between the limited meals I feed her to manager her weight. I found a very nice little solar powered electric fence controller and put in a very simple two wire electric fence around my raised bed garden. It’s worked very well thus far – I have a small game camera on the garden as well – and I’ve been pleased. As long as I remember to switch it off before hoping the fence, I’ll be fine.

Rain Drip Irrigation Main Hose

Early Start on Raised Bed Garden with Young Green Corn Plants and Brown Soil Mixture with Black Drip Irrigation Pipe

Early Start on Raised Bed Garden

I’m using the same rainwater collection system to power my drip irrigation system – no changes from last year. My drip irrigation system is fed by a large 1000 gallon rain water collection tank through a hose bib timer. When the valve is open, water flows through a large U shaped main hose that then feeds smaller hoses and emitters for each square foot section of my raised bed garden. This allows me the flexibility I like to vary flow rates for each different plant type during it’s growth and fruiting cycle and keeps it simple enough that it doesn’t require a lot of maintenance or have a bunch of breakage.

Sixty Days into a Garden Season

June Raised Bed Garden with Aging Grey Wood Sides Going Strong with Healthy Green Plants and Grey Equipment Storage Container

June Raised Bed Garden Going Strong

I got off to an early start this year by planting in mid March before Spring Break. We had an uncommonly cool and wet Spring this year and I may have planted a bit early. So much for getting a jump on Mother Nature. Nevertheless, the tomatoes and cucumbers in the middle are going big guns and the corn on the ends is struggling along. Some of the corn is doing very well but that’s not the survival corn. The survival corn is on the near left corner and is well behind all of the others. I’m not holding out great hopes for it even with plenty of water from my rain water collection system.

Rainwater Collection Expansion!!

Black and Green Plastic Rainwater Collection System Expansion Tanks Connected to Grey Trailer on White Truck in Green Grassy Yard

Rainwater Collection System Expansion

I have a single 1000 gallon rainwater collection tank and that has served me very well to support my 8′ x 4′ square foot garden. But, I have a LOT more roof to collect rainwater from and plenty of room for additional tanks so I’m expanding my water storage tanks from 1000 gallons to 4000 gallons! As you can see, the tanks are large and bulky but not heavy at all. It does require a trailer though.

Big Rainwater Tanks

Black Plastic Rain Water Harvesting Tanks Waiting for Install in Green Shady Lawn with White Casita in Background

Rain Water Harvesting Tanks Waiting for Install

I use 1000 gallon rain water collection tanks. I selected this size primarily so that they will fit easily under my deck at the back of my house. My dad has a much larger, 15,000 gallon rainwater collection tank but his is a more elaborate system that was designed to provide drinkable water directly into his taps in the house. My rainwater collection system is designed to collect and store water for my garden, my new duck pond and for emergency drinking purposes through a portable filtration system.

Site Pads for Collection Tanks

Rainwater Collection Tank Pads Built Using Red Gravel Under Brown Wood Deck with White and Red Dog

Rainwater Collection Tank Pads Built

Getting the rainwater collection tanks level and stable is very important. 1000 gallons of water weighs a LOT and if the ground underneath the tanks is unstable or not level, they can cause some big headaches. I use crushed granite pads to build a stable base for each rainwater collection tank. My hunting dog likes the new cool dirt.

Rain Water Harvesting Tanks Installed

Blue and Black Plastic Rain Water Harvesting Tanks Installed Under Brown Wood Deck

Rain Water Harvesting Tanks Installed

Once the tank pads are set, it is relatively simple to maneuver the rainwater collection tanks into their proper place. It is important that the tanks are mostly in a straight line. Last year’s tank is plumbed and feeding my rainwater collection system drip irrigation system. When I went to begin plumbing the new tanks, I noticed that the original tank is not perpendicular to it’s outflow pipe and this will cause leaks when I try to connect the original tank to the new tanks. But, the original tank is full of water, too heavy to adjust and I need the water for the raised bed garden. So, I’m going to delay plumbing the new tanks until I finish this year’s gardening season and can drain it an plumb all of the tanks properly. Every time it rains, I realize again just how much water I’m NOT collecting in my rainwater collections system.

Rainwater Line Leak

Brown Wet Spot in Red Gravel Path Shows Rainwater Collection System Line Leak

Rainwater Collection System Line Leak

I noticed a suspicious moist spot on the ground where I had run my main water line from my rainwater collection tanks to my raised bed garden. I hoped for a few days that it was just a low spot in the ground but then I noticed that a mud hole was being created just off to the side. The original trench wasn’t perfectly straight and there was a little bit of tension on the PVC coupler at a joint in that very spot. I’m not sure why it waited this long to start leaking. The real indicator was that my rainwater collection tank was draining water much faster than it ever had before. When I saw that I knew I had a leak.

Yeah, That Needs Fixin’

Green Grass and Red Gravel Surround White Rain Water Harvesting Line Leak Isolated

Rain Water Harvesting Line Leak Isolated

Yeah, not only does my main line from my rainwater collection system have a leak, it’s in a low spot that easily fills with and hold rain so getting it to dry out so I can pinpoint the leak is a real challenge. In in the interim, I’ve run a garden hose from the rainwater collection tank to my raised bed garden that bypasses the buried PVC. There is a flexible connection available so I’m going to give it a try to see if it solve the problem – soon, real soon now…..

Summary of Rainwater Collection and New Raised Bed Garden

My raised bed garden that is watered from my rainwater collection system did very well last year. I ended the season with a bountiful garden. My trial run at survival seeds was less than successful but wasn’t a complete failure. The second part of the test will be to plant seeds from last years crop. My drip irrigation system, which is fed from my rainwater collection system continues to work very well. It works so well that I’m expanding my water tank holding capacity to 4000 gallons. Installing the tanks is the easy part – getting them properly plumbed is a challenge that will have wait until this fall. As with any system, there will be problems and I have a leak in the line running from my rainwater collection system to my raised bed garden that powers my drip irrigation system – gotta get that thing fixed….

Container Garden | Rain Drip Irrigation | Rainwater Collection | Raised Garden Beds

 

Funny Stuff in the Raised Garden Bed

I experimented this summer with heritage plants in my raised garden bed using the square foot method.  My results were quite interesting.  Most of the heritage plants sprouted and produced fruits – strange looking fruits, but fruits nonetheless.  In general, the heritage fruits were smaller, strangely shaped and less tasty than food grown from hybrid seeds or purchased in the store.  The advantage to heritage fruits is that their seeds will reliably germinate.  Hybrid seeds don’t have this capability.

 

 

Failure of Leafy Greens in my Raised Garden Bed

Brown Dirt Shows No Progress in a Raised Garden Bed

No Leafy Vegetable Progress in a Raised Garden Bed

Leafy green vegetables failed completely in my raised garden bed.  It was probably due to the hot Texas Summers.  I replanted several times to no avail – I just couldn’t get the seeds to germinate and sprout.
 

 

 

 

Heritage Watermelons

Funny Oblong Green Watermelon in Raised Bed Garden

Funny Shaped Watermelon in Raised Bed Garden

The heritage watermelon seeds in my raised garden bed quickly produced large and spreading vines.  It seemed to take a very long time to get them to produce any fruits.  Since I’m using square foot gardening, I trained the vines upward – not sure if this had an impact or not.  Nevertheless, when the watermelons did bear fruit, they were small and had funny shapes – and they tended to rot on one end.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Funky Little Heritage Corn

Stunted Yellow Corn in a Raised Bed Vegetable Garden

Stunted Heritage Corn in a Raised Bed Vegetable Garden

My heritage corn also had some size and quality issues in my raised bed garden.  I planted 4 different varieties and every one of them produced small or misshapen ears.  The raised bed garden had plenty of water and sunshine so I’m not sure if this was due to the heritage seeds or something else.  My experiment next summer will be to plant a hybrid raised bed garden garden along side a heritage garden so that I can compare.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Small Heritage Melons

Small Grey Cantaloupe from Raised Bed Gardens

Small Heritage Cantaloupe from Raised Bed Gardens

My heritage melons in my raised bed garden also were quite small.  However, they were very tasty and we enjoyed eating them.  However, there weren’t as many as I had hoped for.  My general sense is that if you’re going to use heritage seeds you’re probably going to be eating like a pioneer – which means not very much.  Or, maybe I’m just doing it wrong.

 

 

 

 

 

Summary of Funny Stuff in my Raised Garden Bed

My heritage seeds that I planted in my raised bed garden did perform but not very well.  The fruits were slow to produce, small or misshapen and quite scarce.  Next year, I’m going to plant an additional raised bed garden using the square foot method and have one with heritage seeds and one with hybrid seeds to see if there really is a difference or if I’m just a bad farmer.

Container Garden | Rain Drip Irrigation | Rainwater Collection | Raised Garden Beds

 

Raised Garden Bed Summer Version 1

It’s been a bountiful summer with my raised garden bed and square foot gardening technique.  I converted an old raised bed garden into the square foot gardening method by cleaning the weeds and replacing the soil mixture.  I also installed drip irrigation from my rain water collection system.  I also used survival kit seeds with the exception of my tomato plants.  The raised garden bed has performed well in come cases and poorly in others – mostly my fault I suspect.

 

 

 

Beginning a Raised Garden Bed

Green Weed Infested Old Raised Garden Bed

Old Raised Garden Bed From 4 Years Ago

My original raised garden bed had not been used in approximately 5 years.  I first confirmed that my rainwater collection system would adequately power my drip irrigation system.  The raised bed garden has 32 square feet and that could have been a serious load on the 1000 gallon rain water collection system but the slight uphill position of the rainwater collection tank was more than sufficient to provide hose bib level water pressure down to the raised bed garden.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Square Foot Raised Garden Bed

Reworked Raised Bed Garden with Brown Soil and Green Plants

Newly Reworked Raised Bed Garden

The raised garden bed looked especially nice right after I replaced the soil and planted the tomatoes.  The drip irrigation system was simple with a single loop and 32 emitters.  I had extra hog wire to form cages for the tomatoes and other vining plants.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Healthy Raised Bed Vegetable Garden

Overgrown Green Raised Bed Vegetable Garden Gone Wild

Raised Bed Vegetable Garden Gone Wild

A month or so in and you can easily see how the raised garden bed thrived.  The plants on the inside did better than the plants on the outside.  The inside plants were mostly vining plants – tomatoes, beans, cucumbers, melons and the plants on the outside were leafy plants like spinach, chard, lettuce, etc.  I’m not a terribly attentive gardener and the weeds have grown to appreciate the new raised bed garden as well.  The inner row plants did very well but the outer row plants did not perform well at all.  A little research told me that my leafy plants don’t do well in the hot Texas summers so I will retry them in a Fall garden.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Weekly Harvest from Raised Bed Vegetable Garden

Green Cucumbers, Green Corn and Red Tomatoes is the Harvest from my Raised Bed Vegetable Garden

Vegetable Harvest from my Raised Garden Bed of Vegetables

I used survival kit seeds with the exception of my tomatoes and the production of vegetables has been moderate.  It is clear after a single season, that the benefits of hybrid vegetables are enormous.  My heritage seeds produce less fruit of a lesser quality.  They are still good and edible but definitely NOT what I’ve come to expect after 50 years of living on grocery food food.  The production level of the inner rows of cucumbers, corn and tomatoes has been sufficient to feed me salads every day each week throughout the summer.  The corn production was very poor but I only had 4 plants of 4 varieties.  I will plan better next summer for an expanded raised garden bed.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Summary of Raised Garden Bed Summer Version 1

My raised garden bed using heritage seeds has been moderately successful.  It was relatively easy to build and start.  My rainwater collection system is adequate to power the drip irrigation and I can collect a nice basket of vegetables each week.  Some of the leafy plants did not do well in the Texas Summer – they are Fall garden plants.  In the end, the small raised garden bed was sufficient but just barely and better planning and an additional 32 square feet next summer will probably bring it into full production for a family of four.

Container Garden | Rain Drip Irrigation | Rainwater Collection | Raised Garden Beds

 

 

Rainwater Collection Powering Drip Irrigation in a Square Foot Garden

My rainwater collection system to power the drip irrigation on my square foot garden is working very well.  I have a 1000 gallon tank for rain water harvesting that sits approximately 20 feet higher uphill in elevation than my garden and the hose bib pressure is more than adequate to drive an inexpensive drip irrigation system. I was concerned that the rainwater collection would not provide sufficient pressure to water the raised bed garden so I’m very pleased with the initial results.  I’m very pleased with this particular use of my rainwater collection system.

 

 

 

Rainwater Collection Drip Irrigation Working

Rainwater Collection Irrigated Brown Wood Raised Bed Garden

Rainwater Collection Irrigated Raised Bed Garden

I configured a rainwater collection system pipe to my raised bed garden.  I planted my square foot raised bed garden with heritage seeds from a survival seed bank along with a few commercial tomato plants and basil plants.  The seeds responded well to the square foot garden approach and the tomatoes went nuts!  I allocated about a cup of water per day from my rainwater collection system through the rain drip irrigation system and that seemed to be more than sufficient to get the seeds to germinate properly.

 

 

 

 

 

Harvesting Rainwater to Feed Garden Plants

Brown Soil with Green Plants Garden Irrigated from Rain Water Harvesting

Garden Irrigated from Rain Water Harvesting

Each square in my raised bed square foot garden has a drip irrigation emitter that is filled by harvesting rainwater from the roof of my house.  I can vary the flow of each emitter to increase or decrease the amount of daily rain water supplied to each square in the raised bed garden.  Some plants are doing very well but I planted some leafy vegetable seeds too early and the Texas Summer heat is not serving them very well. Harvesting rainwater can only solve a portion of the challenges with a raised bed garden.  The experiment with the rainwater collection system is working very nicely – a nice change from last year’s failed experiment.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Rain Water Harvesting Drives Drip Irrigation Emitters

Black Irrigation Emitters in Brown Soil with Green Plants Powered by Harvesting Rainwater

Irrigation Emitters Powered by Harvesting Rainwater

I use a drip timer at the end of the hose from the rain water harvesting system to control the daily water flow into the rain drip irrigation system in the square foot garden.  The timer is set to allow water to flow for a few minutes each day at 6PM.  I’ve measured the flow rate controlled by the emitters with a gallon jug and the pressure from the rainwater collection system is adequate to provide an accurate water flow into my rainwater collection system and out to each specific plant.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Summary of Rainwater Collection Powering Drip Irrigation in a Square Foot Garden

I installed a rainwater collection system to collect rain water from the roof of my house.  The rain water harvesting system feeds my rain drip irrigation system nicely and the water pressure is more than adequate to power my rain drip irrigation system.  I planted a mix of commercial plants and heritage seeds and they are performing nicely with sufficient water from harvesting rainwater.  The emitters in my rain drip irrigation system are variable and the flow check out accurately. This has turned out to be a very nice use of a rain water collection system and is saving me quite a bit of money on my water bill each month.

 

Container Garden | Rain Drip Irrigation | Rainwater Collection | Raised Garden Beds

 

Rainwater collection is key to developing a semi-sustainable garden. Read about our first forays into a deck container garden and why growing your own food is a great idea for anyone here.

Rain Drip Irrigation Installed in Square Foot Garden

I really enjoy my gardening and learning more with my projects – especially as it relates to rain drip irrigation and square foot gardening. There is always something to learn. Yes, the setbacks are disappointing but there are occasional wins and doing and sharing these with my daughters is really fun and provides us some time together. Square foot gardening recommends that I hand water the plants every day but my busy schedule doesn’t allow for that. I also installed a rain water collection system last Fall and I really want to see if it is useful for garden drip irrigation in my container gardening. I added some piping from my rainwater collection system to feed a drip irrigation system and built a rain drip irrigation system.

Permanent Piping for a Rain Drip Irrigation System

Green Water Tank to White PVC Pipe Rain Drip Irrigation Master Feed

Rain Drip Irrigation Master Feed

I tested my rain drip irrigation system with a long water hose to make sure that I sufficient water pressure at the hose bib to drive the drip irrigation emitters. Once I determined that the combination of approximately 6 feet of downhill slope coupled with 10 feet of water column volume was enough to drive the emitters, I installed permanent PVC piping down to the container garden to install a permanent hose bib. My water supply for my drip irrigation garden system is now fully implemented.

 

 

 

 

 

Rain Drip Irrigation Drainage Valve

Green Cover and White PVC Pipe Drip Irrigation Garden Drain

Drip Irrigation Garden Drain

We don’t often have very cold weather in Texas but it does freeze occasionally and I only buried my water supply pipe a few inches under the surface of the soil. I don’t want a freeze to burst my pipes and destroy my rain drip irrigation supply line. So, I put a hose bib at the end of the rainwater collection system supply line so that I can drain my rain drip irrigation system each Winter. There is only about 150 feet of pipe so I think this simple solution will be fine.

 

 

 

 

 

Splitter for Garden Drip Irrigation Options

White PVC Pipe and Green Garden Drip Irrigation Timer

Garden Drip Irrigation Timer

I installed a simple hose bib splitter at the hose bib of my rain drip irrigation system. I’ve had trouble with hose bib splitters in the past but I think I was trying to do too much with them. This arrangement is much more simple. I have one side of the hose bib splitter to feed my rain drip irrigation system and the other side feeds a very short hose for incidental watering as I need it. The hose bib needs to be full on to supply enough pressure to drive the emitters in the drip irrigation garden system.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Drip Irrigation Garden Details

Black Hose on Brown Sticks Rain Drip Irrigation Final Install

Rain Drip Irrigation Final Install

I used the separator lattice from square foot gardening as the supports for my rain drip irrigation master hose. Each square in my garden has a dedicated small hose and emitter. I can vary the emitter volume and count to supply a sufficient amount of water for each different plant type.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Rain Drip Irrigation Full Installation

Green Plants, Brown Dirt and Black Hose Garden Drip Irrigation Working

Garden Drip Irrigation Working

The full rain drip irrigation system makes a very simple U shaped loop across the top of the square foot lattice and provides a dedicated drip irrigation garden feed to each square in the garden. I’ve come to appreciate simplicity in gardening as each time I’ve tried something complex, it seems to fail. Rainwater fills my collection tank and now provides daily water to my square foot garden through the rain drip irrigation system.

 

 

 

 

 

Summary of Rain Drip Irrigation Installed in Square Foot Garden

I tested my rain drip irrigation system with a simple garden hose and then installed permanent, underground piping to my square foot garden. I also installed a drain valve and a hose splitter at the garden hose bib for options in my garden drip irrigation system. I used the lattice boards from square foot gardening as a support for my master drip irrigation garden hose and then installed a dedicated feeder hose and emitter to each square. My rain drip irrigation is installed and working nicely with a timer controlling the daily watering times.

Container Garden | Rain Drip Irrigation | Rainwater Collection | Raised Garden Beds

 

 

Raised Garden Beds and Square Foot Gardening

I’m moving from my deck container garden to a raised garden beds using the square foot gardening technique. I’ve had raised bed gardens in the past but used garden soil from a local organic gardener. I haven’t used these raised bed gardens in almost 5 years so I’m going to replace the top six inches with the specified square foot gardening soil mixture. The square foot gardening book was quite specific about the soil mixture and depth so I’m going to follow that approach to implementing my raised garden beds exactly.

 

Cleaning the Old Raised Garden Beds

Excavated Raised Garden Beds with Green Hose and Brown Wooden Sides

Raised Garden Beds

I removed the years of weeds and top six inches of garden soil from my raised garden beds and saved the soil in a pile on the side. This is different and yet similar to the approach I used in my containers for my deck garden. This raised bed garden still has another six inches of soil and then six inches of river rocks and a drain pipe to help with drainage so that the soil does not get too moist. My raised bed gardens also have a water hose run to them and I will install my rain drip irrigation system when I’m finished.

 

 

 

 

 

 

A New Soil Mixture for the Raised Garden Beds

New Soil Mix Packages on a Blue Tarp for Raised Bed Garden

New Soil Mix for Raised Bed Garden

The soil mixture specified in square foot gardening was very specific – especially with respect to the compost variety for us in the raised garden beds. This is very different from my traditional approach using garden soil for my garden containers. I had to go to several stores to find all of the materials and the large amount of vermiculite was the toughest and most expensive to acquire. I also sacrificed an inexpensive tarp, as instructed in square foot gardening, for a place to perform my mixing of the 3 soil components instead of mixing it directly in the raised bed garden.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Thoroughly Mixing the New Soil for the Raised Bed Garden

Mixing Brown and White New Soil on a Blue Tarp for Raised Bed Vegetable Garden

Mixing New Soil for Raised Bed Vegetable Garden

The compact packaging of the soil components expanded dramatically when I emptied them to prepare the soil mixture for the raised garden beds. Using the tarp helped a lot to preserve and use all of the square foot garden soil mixture in the raised bed garden. The mixture was surprisingly light as it consists of only peat moss, compost and vermiculite. It appeared very much like exactly what is in the little pots when you purchase plants from a nursery. It was a calm day and with a little water sprayed on the mixture, it was easy enough to mix thoroughly.

 

 

 

 

 

Revitalized Raised Garden Beds Ready to Plant

Refilled Raised Garden Beds with Newly Mixed Square Foot Garden Soil, Dividers and Cages

Refilled Raised Garden Beds

I filled the top six inches of my raised garden beds with the square foot soil mixture. I then added small divider rows to clearly mark out each square foot in my four foot by eight foot raised bed garden. I also went ahead and put in some support structures so that the taller plants in the middle of the raised bed vegetable garden will have something immediately to begin growing upwards on. Now we’re ready to plant seeds and young plants in the raised bed gardens.

 

 

 

 

 

Summary of Raised Garden Beds and Square Foot Gardening

Raised garden beds are ideal for implementing square foot garden techniques. I cleared the top six inches of old garden soil first. Then, I carefully mixed the specified square foot garden soil mixture on a tarp outside of the raised bed garden to insure that I got a thorough mixture. I refilled the raised bed vegetable garden with the new soil mixture, put in square foot marking grids and growth support structures for the tall and vine plants. Next, we’ll plant the seeds and young plants in the raised garden beds.

Container Garden | Rain Drip Irrigation | Rainwater Collection | Raised Garden Beds

 

Rainwater Collection and Rain Harvesting Improvements for Rain Drip Irrigation

I’ve finished the next step implementing my rainwater collection and harvesting to supply my rain drip irrigation system. I made a few improvements in the rain harvesting collection system and expanded the piping system to run a water supply down to the raised bed garden. Previously, I had installed my own drip irrigation system when beginning my container garden. The raised bed garden is over 150 feet slightly downhill from the rainwater collection tank and I was concerned that it might have insufficient pressure to power the rain drip irrigation system. I also needed to allow for future expansion of my rainwater collection and harvesting system by connecting multiple rainwater collection tanks into a single, balanced system for harvesting rainwater. Lastly, after prototyping the rainwater collection and harvesting system supply line with a garden hose, I needed to allow for a more permanent solution with pipe buried under ground instead of a garden hose running 150 feet to my garden. I was successful in this stage. The rainwater collection and rain harvesting improvements to power my rain drip irrigation system were completed without a single issue.

 

Problems with the Rainwater Collection Wash Drain

Original Rainwater Collection Wash Drain with White PVC and Brass Hose Bib

Original Rainwater Collection Wash Drain for Rain Harvesting

The drainage method for the wash collection tube in the rainwater collection system was a simple hose bib. The hose bib was opened just slightly which allowed for the wash tube to drain easily after each rain. This worked fine when there were relatively heavy rains. I thought this might present a problem for slow gentle rain harvesting where the drain rate from the wash tube was faster than the collection rate and the wash tube never filled sufficiently to allow water to flow into the rainwater collection tank. This proved true

 

 

 

 

 

A Simple Solution to the Rainwater Collection Wash Drain

White PVC and Green Plastic Timer for Improved Rainwater Collection Wash Drain

Improved Rain Harvesting Collection Wash Drain with Automatic Timer

I used the simplest solution I could think of to fix the problem – a simple drip irrigation timing unit to control the outflow from the rainwater collection wash tube. The timer is set to run for 5 minutes each Sunday evening. This allows rain harvesting water to build up from a slow rain during an entire week. I can’t imagine that there is enough build up of debris on the roof that would warrant draining the wash tube more frequently than once per week. I guess I could remember to drain it manually each week but I doubt that is a sustainable solution for harvesting rainwater. This drip irrigation system timer costs less than $30 and solve the problem of too much wash drainage from my rainwater collection system.

 

 

 

 

Initial Rainwater Collection Outflow

Original White and Red PVC and Green Plastic Tank Rain Harvesting Outflow

Original Harvesting Rainwater Outflow

The preliminary outflow connection from my rainwater collection and rain harvesting system was a simple butterfly valve. This served it’s purpose nicely to contain the rain water and easily allow for future expansion. It also allows me to easily isolate this tank if problems occur in the future. I like lots of valves – they give me options!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Parts and Pieces for Rain Harvesting Flow Control

White PVC and Brass Hose Bib for Rain Harvesting Modification Parts for Rain Drip Irrigation

Rainwater Collection Modification Parts for Rain Drip Irrigation

The outflow valve system from the rainwater collection and rain harvesting system to support both tapping it to supply the rain drip irrigation system and allow for future expansion turned out to be pretty simple. I extended the outflow with a T connector for a hose bib, a T connector for a permanent pipe and another end valve. The hose bib connection will power the initial rain drip irrigation prototype and allow for controlled drainage of any and all tanks in the future. The second T connector allows me to make the rainwater supply to the raised bed garden permanent once I’ve worked out the kinks. The final butterfly valve allows me to control the flow from this single tank but also allows me to isolate the rainwater supply to the rain drip irrigation system in the event that the tanks run dry from harvesting rainwater and water needs to be supplied from the city water system.

 

 

 

 

 

Flow Control Header for Harvesting Rainwater Installed

White PVC and Green Hose for Garden Drip Irrigation Setup for Harvesting Rainwater

Garden Drip Irrigation Outflow Pipes and Valves Setup for Rainwater Collection

The final installation of the piping control system for the rainwater collection and harvesting system turned out to be simple and easy – both things that I I like. The valves on both ends of the piping control system allow for flow balance and isolation. The hose bib connection supports both a rain drip irrigation system prototype with a garden hose and allows me to either fill or drain the entire system from an external source. The additional T connector will be the head end of the permanent piping of the rain drip irrigation system at the raised bed garden.

 

 

 

 

Summary of Rainwater Collection and Rain Harvesting Improvements

The expansion of the rainwater collection and rain harvesting system for the rain drip irrigation system at the raised bed garden is complete. I’ve added a flow control valve to balance harvesting rainwater into the rainwater collection tanks, a hose bib connector for prototyping and additional inflow and outflow. I’ve also added a stub to make the rainwater collection and rain harvesting system supply of rain drip irrigation to the raised bed garden more permanent once the prototyping stage is completed

Container Garden | Rain Drip Irrigation | Rainwater Collection | Raised Garden Beds

 

Rain Water Collection for a Rain Drip Irrigation System

Spring has arrived in Texas and I’m excited to try a new adventure using my rain water collection system to power a rain drip irrigation system with a new planting and management approach from Square Foot Gardening.  My past two years of experiments with a deck container garden and a rain drip irrigation garden have failed due to the very high temperatures up on the deck.  I’m going to move the deck container garden containers down to the ground level and also restart my raised bed garden from several years ago.  I’m going to experiment and rig up my rain water collection system to power a rain drip irrigation system for both the deck container garden and the raised bed garden. I have a lot to do and learn about rain drip irrigation systems!

The Old Deck Container Garden – Too Hot!

Drip Irrigation Garden from Previous Year on a Deck

Drip Irrigation Garden

The six deck garden containers and cages have gone fallow over the winter.  Weeds have taken them over as well.  They are very heavy even though they are not completely filled with soil and moving them back to ground level will be an adventure.  Additionally, the containers are over two years old and showing signs of decay – they may not make the trip down to ground level.  These drip irrigation garden containers use a regular, hose bib powered, drip irrigation system and I’ve wanted to develop a rain drip irrigation system for a couple of year – now is the time.

 

 

 

 

 

Ground Level Deck Container Garden

New Location Under Deck for Garden Drip Irrigation

New Location for Garden Drip Irrigation System

This is the new location for the rain drip irrigation garden.  It is still very close to the deck and right at the bottom of the stairs but has the advantage of being on ground level and also having some shade from the deck and trees.  I’m not sure how the additional shade from the rain drip irrigation system might impact the plants in this location but I do know that the soil temperature will be cooler than it was on the deck.  It is also only about 25 feet away from the rain water collection system so it should be easy to rig for a rain drip irrigation system.

 

 

 

 

 

Source of the Rain Water Collection and Rain Drip Irrigation

Start of Rain Drip Irrigation System with Green Tank

Start of Rain Drip Irrigation System

This is my home made rain water collection system which I will use to power my rain drip irrigation system.  Drip irrigation systems in drip irrigation garden require hose bib level pressure and I’m just betting that a nearly full tank of rain water will provide enough pressure to simulate hose bib pressure and sufficiently power my rain drip irrigation system.  I have quite a bit of work to do to get this setup properly. The rain water collection system also needs some additional work on the filter pipe discharge.  The filter pipe catches the initial roof wash and based on Pie R Squared Math it holds approximately 138 gallons.  The approximate rain water catch area on the roof for this tank is 690 square feet which produces 379 gallons per inch of rain.  The tank is 1000 gallons so it only takes a 3 inch rain to fill it.  However, that means that it requires 0.15 inches of rain to completely fill the filter pipe and if the filter pipe drains constantly that means that I have the potential to waste a lot of small rains.  Additionally, the roof does not need to be washed with each rain so I can improve my system by putting a flow timer on the drain outlet of the filter pipe.  More on that later…..

 

 

Raised Bed Garden and Long Distance Rain Drip Irrigation

Raised Bed Garden in a Field of Green Weeds

Raised Bed Garden

This is the old raised bed garden and it hasn’t been used in over 5 years.  It is 8 feet by 4 feet by 1 foot high and contains gravel and a drain pipe in the bottom.  It will work perfectly for the square foot gardening methodology but needs some serious work to get it in shape.  In the past, I’ve felt a little pressured to get the garden in for the start of the growing season but the square foot gardening techniques seem to make the timing of planting much less important.  I also have quite a bit of work running a water pipe 150 feet from the rain water collection system to power this rain drip irrigation system down at the raised bed garden to turn it into a drip irrigation garden.

 

 

 

 

 

Square Foot Gardening

Square Foot Garden Book

Square Foot Garden Book

I recently purchased a copy of Square Foot Gardening and really like the approach even though he does not advocate using a rain drip irrigation system.  He writes from the standpoint of loving gardening and I work from the standpoint of loving the results with as little effort as possible.  Nevertheless, I do like his approach and am excited to give it a try this year in conjunction with using my rain water collection system to power my rain drip irrigation system.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Summary of Rain Water Collection to Power Rain Drip Irrigation

Spring has sprung and it’s time to get busy harnessing my rain water collection system to power my rain drip irrigation system and drip irrigation garden.  I’m moving my deck container garden from the top of the deck down to ground level and more shade.  I’m going to experiment with rigging a rain drip irrigation system into my rain water collection system to power the rain drip irrigation for the deck container garden and the raised bed garden which is 150 feet from the rain water collection system.

Container Garden | Rain Drip Irrigation | Rainwater Collection | Raised Garden Beds

 

Finishing the Install of a Rain Water Collection System for Drip Irrigation System

I’ve finished installing my rain water collection system that I will use to power my drip irrigation system for my container vegetable garden.  We actually accomplished all of the work in about a half a day and it was fairly easy.  We levelled the tank, finished installing the collection and filter pipes and then installed the filter pipe drain and overflow piping.  I’m not ure of the roof surface area that this collector drains but will measure and report back next month.  All in all, installing a rain water collection system to power my drip irrigation system for my container vegetable garden was relatively easy and inexpensive.

Leveling the Rain Water Collection Tank

Red Levelling the Green Rain Water Collection Tank

Leveling the Rain Water Collection Tank

This rain water collection tank holds 1,000 gallons and that should be plenty to supply several months of water for my drip irrigation system.  It is approximately 9 feet tall by 5 feet wide.  I think it’s important that it is level because water weighs a little over 8 pounds/gallon and 1,000 gallons means the tank weighs approximately 4 tons when full.  That’s more than a large vehicle and it is definitely more top heavy than a large vehicle.  I doubt it will be subjected to the side to side movement that a vehicle is but I still think leveling the tank is important.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Rain Water Collection Tank Pad Adjustments

Green Rain Water Collection Tank with Red Crushed Granite Pad

Rain Water Collection Tank Crushed Granite Pad

I save some of the crushed granite from when I originally built the pads for the rain water collection tanks and used some of that saved excess to push under the tank to level it.  The location of my tank, under my deck, is on the side of a hill and leveling this tank, as well as the drip irrigation system and deck container garden will be a challenge.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Rain Water Collection Pipes

White Rain Water Collection Pipes Under Brown Decking for Drip Irrigation System

Rain Water Collection Pipes for Drip Irrigation System

The rain water collection piping system consists of collection pipes and a filter pipe.  The primary collection pipes are connected directly to the rain gutter down spouts running from the roof of my house.  In this case, we’re collecting from 2 downspouts and running both of them into a single tank.  I do have the ability to add additional downspouts collections in the future as well as adding additional tanks in the event that I want to expand my drip irrigation system.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Joining Rain Water Collection Pipes

Purple Gluing White Rain Water Collection Pipes for Container Vegetable Gardening

Gluing Rain Water Collection Pipes for Container Vegetable Gardening

In some cases I have cemented the pipe joints together.  I’ve done this where I know there will be water weight stress or that the rain water collection system design is close enough to final to be permanent.  In other cases, I’ve simply hand fitted the pipe joints together to allow for ease of movement if I find out that my system design has a flaw or I have a bad location for my drip irrigation system.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Rain Water Collection Filter Pipe

Assembled Drip Irrigation Rain Water Collection Filter Pipe

Assembled Drip Irrigation Rain Water Collection Filter Pipe

Most commercial and personal water rain water collection systems have a complex filter system to make the water potable.  In my case, the water is not intended to be potable, only to run my drip irrigation system.  Thus, I only really need a filter system to remove debris.  This filter system is the simplest but least efficient.  The design is intended for the first rain wash to fill the vertical pipe.  The first rain wash will contain the majority of the debris.  Once the vertical pipe is filled, the remaining collected rainwater fill flow into the tank.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Rain Water Collection Filter Pipe Drain

Outflow from Rain Water Collection for Container Vegetable Gardening

Outflow from Rain Water Collection for Container Vegetable Gardening

The vertical filter pipe in my rain water collection system needs some method of draining.  I am not reliable to remember to manually drain the filter pipe after each rain.  So, I’ve installed a faucet at the bottom of the pipe and opened it slightly to allow the filter pipe to drain slowly over time.  Although I can’t use this drainage water to directly supply my drip irrigation system, I will use it to supply my rained bed garden and another drip irrigation system I’m planning to try down there.  This design fails in two ways that are somewhat acceptable to me.  The first failure point is that it does not account for drainage of the debris.  The debris will still have to be manually cleaned by removing the entire end plug from the filter pipe.  The second failure is that this system will fail to collect rain water when the run off collected is less than the outflow from the faucet.  That means that a very slow drizzle or light rainfall may fail to collect in the tank.  I’ll have to use trial and error to determine rainfall amounts and collections versus the faucet settings for drainage so that I collect as much rainwater as possible without collecting too much debris.

 

 

Summary of Rain Water Collection System for Drip Irrigation Installation

I leveled my rain water collection tank, which is top heavy, to prevent any future problems.  I cemented some of the rain water collection pipes but only hand fitted others, depending on the water weight stresses and expectation of potential design changes.  I’ve installed the vertical filter pipe, faucet and drain hose and will begin recording rainfall and drainage amounts to optimize the outflow faucet settings and collect as much rain water as possible for my rain water collection system to power my drip irrigation system for my container vegetable garden.

Container Garden | Rain Drip Irrigation | Rainwater Collection | Raised Garden Beds