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
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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 completedContainer Garden | Rain Drip Irrigation | Rainwater Collection | Raised Garden Beds
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!
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
I’ve tried for 2 years to be successful with a deck garden and it’s just too hot on my deck so I’m moving my focus to harvesting rainwater for drip irrigation on my deck garden. I’m going to move my deck contatiner garden off of my deck where the Summer temperaturs remain in the 90′s and move it down to ground level. I’m going to prototype a system for harvesting rainwater and then using that rainwater coleection system to feed my drip irrigation system. It has been several years of very dry weather in Texas and I’m following the lead of a lot of people I know who are harvesting rainwater for their personal comsumption. I’m not ready to go that far yet, but I expect to learn a lot about harvesting rainwater through this season.
Rainwater Harvesting Parts & Pieces
Harvesting rainwater is pretty simple. You need a roof to collect it from, some pipes to control the flow of the rainwater and a container to collect and store the rainwater. Most commercial systems are 10,000 gallons or more and since I’m prototyping, I’m using a smaller 1,000 gallon container and a small portion of my roof for harvesting rainwater.
Location of Tank for Harvesting Rainwater
It is important that the rainwater collection containers be on level ground that is stable. I’ve created small pads using crushed granite that I purchased from a nearby soils dealer. I’ve seen other systems for harvesting rainwater that used pea gravel for the based pad of the rainwater collection tank. I’ve also located my rainwater collection underneath my deck so that it is not easily visible beyond the boundaries of my property and so that the water stays as cool as possible. My deck has the capacity to hide as many as 5 of these 1,000 gallon rainwater collection tanks in my overall system for harvesting rainwater.
Rainwater Collection Schematic
I’m using a simple system of 4″ PVC pipe to channel the rainwater from the gutter downspouts to the rainwater collection tank. Since this is my first attempt at harvesting rainwater, I’ve taken the extra step of laying out the parts and pieces on the ground in the shape that I want to install them for my rainwater harvesting system.
Installation of Rainwater Collection Pipes
I’ve connected my 2 gutter downspouts to the 4″ PVC rainwater collectors and joined them together to create a single inflow to my rainwater harvesting system. The 4″ PVC fit my gutter downspouts perfectly and a street T allowed me to easily join the two inflows into one. The next step in harvesting rainwater is a wash system that will prevent leaves and dirt from the roof and gutter from flowing into the rainwater collection tank.
Supervision Needed for Harvesting Rainwater
My rainwater harvesting system project was bigger than a one-man-job so I asked my Dad to help me and supervise. He has already installed a 10,000 gallon system for harvesting rainwater for his personal use at his home. Like all good supervisors, he combines verbal commands and pointing very very well.
Summary of Initial Installation for Harvesting Rainwater
I have two years of experience trying to grow a container garden on my deck so I’m moving on the prototype a system for harvesting rainwater. The temperatures during the Summer are just too hat. So, I’m going to move my container garden to ground level and implement a system for harvesting rainwater to feed my drip irrigation system. I’ve installed the rainwater collection tank by building a level pad and then installed 4″ PVC to begin the rainwater collection process from my gutter downspouts. Next, I’ll implement the “washing” system and connect the rainwater harvesting pipes to the rainwater collection tank and that will complete my system for harvesting rainwater.Container Garden | Rain Drip Irrigation | Rainwater Collection | Raised Garden Beds
The long hot Texas Summer has ended, gardening is drawing to a close for the year and it’s time to move forward on my plan to move the deck garden to ground level and the drip irrigation system to a rainwater collection system. After two years of having the garden on the deck, I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s just not a good approach given the very high Texas heat. I’m also interested to see if I can make a rainwater collection system work and then use it to power my drip irrigation system. My inspiration for the rainwater collector is a combination of the work we’ve done at our ranch over the past few years collecting rain for our wildlife and my Dad’s recent implementation of a commercial rainwater collection system for his house.
Drip Irrigation Cherry Tomatoes Recover
My cherry tomato plants are beginning to recover. Too little too late I think though. They were almost dormant through out the Summer and failed to produce any fruit at all. With cooler evening and night time temperatures, they’ve begun producing fruit again but it is almost impossible to stay ahead of the birds who are starved for food due to the lack of any flowering plants during the Summer drought.
Patio Tomatoes Thrive with Drip Irrigation
My patio tomatoes have recovered nicely and are bearing fruit again. I really like these little plants and will continue with them next year. They produce nice little fruits and the plant is quite sturdy and doesn’t require a cage. Again though, keeping fruit on the plant until it ripens is a challenge with all the little critters. I acknowledge that I’m going to have the same issue when I move the garden to ground level but we’ll solve that problem at that time.
Pear Tomatoes Continue to Suffer
I really like my little pear tomatoes and they are trying as hard as they can to produce fruit again. They appear to be the most sensitive of all of my tomato plants to the heat and have not fully recovered yet. They do produce flowers but seldom get to the fruit setting stage.
Pepper Plants Love the Heat?
Not surprisingly, my pepper plants thrived all Summer and continue to do well. We are well into our second crop of peppers for the Summer. That said, without any tomatoes, it’s hard to make any salsa with the peppers so they haven’t seen much harvesting or use this year. I probably won’t continue them next Summer.
I have a large dog – a Great Pyrenees – who guards our yard and keeps most of the critters and deer at bay. She developed a weakness in her hips and the vet recommended reducing her weight. After all, all she does is lay in the yard and bark at things that don’t belong. That’s her job and she does it well. At any rate, after cutting back her daily diet to help her lose weight she showed a distinct interest in ANY additional food. One evening, my wife noticed she was sniffing around the pepper plants suspiciously. Next morning, viola – she’d cleaned us out. Now, I don’t know if dogs have the same intestinal reaction as humans when it comes to peppers but I suspect her next morning daily ritual was something that she’ll remember!
My Dad’s Commercial Rainwater Collection System
We’ve had two years of below average rainfall in Texas and many of the water wells are running dry. While my Dad’s well has not run dry, he is concerned that it might and he decided to invest in a commercial rainwater collection system. He purchased a 10,000 gallon tank that collects rainwater from his 40 by 80 foot barn. An inch of rain is calculated to collect 1250 gallons from his barn roof. I had been considering a rainwater collection system for quite some time but never had the initiative to proceed. Once I was able to learn from what he was doing, I found the initiative to begin my own project.
First Flush Rainwater Collection Cleaning
One of the challenges with rainwater collection systems is cleaning the first flush of collected rainwater. Leaves, dirt, dust, debris, bird droppings and anything else that lands on your collection surface is going to get caught in and carried by the first rain collected. Thus, an initial cleaning system is needed. This is a picture of a custom designed and adjustable system that collects and separates the first flush debris prior to allowing the subsequent rainwater to run into the collection tank.
Making Collected Rainwater Potable
If you’re going to use a rainwater collection system to pwer your daily personal water usage then you must treat the water. This is my Dad’s commercial system that is made up of a pump, mechanical filter and UV light treatment. Water from this system is piped directly into his house and ready for human usage.
Rough Design for My Rainwater Collection System
I want a rainwater collection system to serve three purposes. First, to water my garden. Second, to provide water to soak my house foundation to minimize the ground movement that is causing problems with cracks in my wall boards and floor. Third, as a backup source of potable water to support my survival kit building. This is a rough sketch of my house floor plan with the deck. The circle indicate where I plan to locate my water storage tanks.
Under-The-Deck Location for Rainwater Collection Tanks
My water storage tanks will be placed under my deck. This puts them out of site and protects them from the heat and sunshine which can deteriorate the tanks and cause algae to grow in the tanks. The structure of the deck supports does put some size limitations on the tanks. I can’t utilize a single 10,000 gallon tank like my Dad did so I’ll have to find the largest tanks possible that will fit under my deck. My garden for next Summer will also be located at the base of the stairs.
Rainwater Collection Downspouts
I have a plethora of rainwater collection downspouts and most of them drain to the back of the house – exactly where I want to locate the tanks. This will help tremendously in reducing the cost and complexity of the rainwater collection piping system needed to move the rainwater from the roof to the rainwater collection tanks.
Rainwater Collection Tank Selection
I searched the internet and found 1,000 gallon water tanks that fit my dimension criteria in San Antonio – about an hour drive away. I went to inspect and purchase one tank and was pleased with what I found. My biggest concern was transporting the tank from San Antonio back to my home. Interestingly, the tank itself only weighs 175 pounds. It cost $750 and I suspect that the majority of the cost of the tank is in shipping rather than raw plastic materials. I wanted an opaque green tank rather than translucent white tank to minimize the potential for algae growth.
Small Rainwater Collection Barrels
Right next door to the tank store is a guy who sells used plastic food barrels that are approximately 50 gallons. These tanks are used to ship all manner of food stuffs to restaurants. I’ve used these types of barrel for years for easy and durable trashcans. We’ve also begun using them as cheap alternative rainwater collection tanks for our rainwater collection efforts on the ranch. Just so happens that we used the last of my personal tanks for the most recent rainwater collector and I need some more. I like to keep at least 4 of them in my basement and fill them with potable drinking water in advance of a hurricane.
Transporting Rainwater Collection Tanks
Transporting the tanks wasn’t as hard as I expected it to be but they were definitely cumbersome. I had to borrow my Dad’s trailer to get the big tank properly secured to travel on the highway. Luckily, I had some left over room on the trailer and then in the bed of the truck so I could restock my plastic water barrel supply.
Decomposed Granite for Rainwater Collection Tank Pads
My research into rainwater collection systems indicated that each tank needs to be places on a stable pad. Since my house is on the side of a hill and the dirt is clayish and tends to move depending on rainfall, I decided to get decomposed granite to make individual pads for each rainwater collection tank. I purchased 2 yards of crushed granite at a local stone supply place and hauled it on the same trailer I used to get the tanks. Decomposed granite compacts very very well and is very stable once it is laid.
Gravel Pad for Rainwater Collection Tank
I used a simple set of four boards to make a temporary frame to place and level the granite pads for the tanks. Here, you can see the location of the pad for the first tank and it’s proximity to the rainwater downspout. I’ll use the decomposed granite to build a total of four pads – even though I only have one tank. As with most of my projects, I’m starting simple, making small steps, learning from my mistakes, innovating quickly and moving forward each week. The next step is to place the rainwater collection tank and then design a first flush filter.
Summary of the Summer Garden and New Rainwater Collection System
The Summer heat has broken and the drip irrigated deck garden is attempting to recover but it’s probably too little, too late – even with a drip irrigation system and plans for a rainwater collection system. It’s time to begin planning and work for the next phase of deck container gardening which will use a rainwater collection system to fuel the drip irrigation system. I was inspired my Dad’s rainwater collection system to begin the project and I’ve designed the system, purchased the first of four tanks and created the pad where the rainwater collection tank will sit. The next steps are to finish the pads with the remaining granite, design the rainwater collection system piping and first flush cleaning system and then install the piping system. The last step is to wait and pray for rain to validate my design and move forward with my rainwater collection system.Container Garden | Rain Drip Irrigation | Rainwater Collection | Raised Garden Beds