New and Expanded 2014 Season for Rainwater Collection Drip Irrigation Garden

It’s that time of the year to fire up my raised bed garden and make sure my rainwater collection system is ready to feed my garden drip irrigation.  I’ve expanded my rainwater collection system from 1000 gallons to 4000 gallons.  I have a couple of new things to test this year and I’m excited! I’m phasing my plantings into my raised bed garden over four months to see if I can extend and smooth my harvest season.  I expect issues to too much or too little garden drip irrigation but will iron those out if the overall strategy works.  I’m also planting corn in a larger patch on my septic drain field.  The Johnson grass, a close cousin of corn, grows tall there so I thought I’d give it a try.  I’m phasing my corn harvests as well.  Except with the corn garden, I’m doing the phasing with 3 different maturation periods instead of varying the planting dates.  Additionally, since the corn is on the septic drain field, I’m not planning on using any garden drip irrigation from my rainwater collection system – just natural water to start with and then we’ll see how thing progress.  It’s going to be a great season of rainwater collection an garden drip irrigation in my raised bed garden!

Removing the Cover from my Raised Bed Garden

Brown Dirt and Grey Wood Drip Irrigation Garden
Drip Irrigation Garden
I covered my raised bed garden last October at the end of the season.  I wanted to see if this was easier than pulling a ton of weeds that accumulate over the winter season.  It was definitely easier and I highly recommend it. I also added 4 bags of compost to the raised bed garden soil mixture to enhance the nutrients in the soil.

First Phase Cucumbers

White Paper Package of Raised Bed Garden Cucumbers Seeds
Raised Bed Garden Cucumbers
I’m attempting to plant in 4 phases this year.  I’m planting only cucumbers and tomatoes – since that’s mostly what I like and that grows well in my square foot garden.  I’ll continue using rainwater collection to water each plant.  Phase 1 starts on 3/15 and each phase is approximately 30 days after the previous phase so I’ll plant again on 4/15, 5/15 and 6/15.  Hopefully, this will spread out my harvest times.  Maybe maybe not – depends on if the plants use heat and sunlight to trigger fruiting or if plant age is more deterministic – always something to learn.  Even if it only works partially, I’ll be ahead of having everything to harvest at the same time.  I’m also using different varieties of cucumbers and tomatoes in each phase.
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First Phase Tomatoes

Green Plants in Brown Dirt in Garden Drip Irrigation Phase 1
Garden Drip Irrigation Phase 1
Each phase will have two different varieties of tomatoes and one variety of cucumbers.  There were only about 4 cucumber varieties that I like but there are a bunch of tomato varieties that I’d like to try – especially since I have slots for 8 different tomato varieties. You can also easily see where I’ve adjusted my garden drip irrigation lines for each plant.

Tighter Security for my Raised Bed Garden and Rainwater Collection

Orange Electric Fence on Raised Bed Garden
Electric Fence on Raised Bed Garden
My electric fence solar powered generator worked great last year.  But, my electric fence was pretty terrible.  I upgraded from small thin sticks for fence posts to large t posts for fenceposts.  I was able to fence higher and tighter and it is working very well.  Even keeps the puppy out of the garden! I expanded my rainwater collection from 1000 gallons to 4000 gallons so I should have plenty of water for the raised bed garden as well as the corn garden as needed.

Planting Corn in Hard Ground

Yellow Corn Planting with Grey Spike using Rainwater Collection
Corn Planting with Rainwater Collection
I’m planting three varieties of corn on the moist soil over my septic system drain field.  I’ve tried planting corn in my raised bed garden but find that I don’t have enough plants for them to successfully pollinate.  Before you say “yuck”, stop and consider that the thing that brought the drain field to my attention was the enormous Johnsongrass plants that grow there anyway.  Septic drain field water is grey water and should be fine for corn.  We’ll see.  Additionally, while I have some great top soil, I have very tenacious clay just below the top soil.  I rented a roto tiller and tried to make a dent in the grass and top soil but it was very hard.  There isn’t much topsoil left on the drain field due to the way it was orginally dug and then refilled – most of the top soil is gone and the clay is on the top.  Since the roto tiller didn’t make much of a dent, I just marked out straight lines and then used a large nail to poke shallow holes into the clay to plant each seed.  It was LOTS of bending over!  I have no idea if it will work but can’t see a reason that it wouldn’t.

Early Harvest Corn

Early Yellow and Green Corn for Garden Drip Irrigation
Early Corn for Garden Drip Irrigation
I have three varieties of corn and instead of planting them at different times, I got varieties that have different maturation dates.  They are all sweet corn – I mean, why would you plant anything else to eat?  My early harvest variety is Burpee’s Early & Often Hybrid at 64 days. I should have full sun for corn but my corn patch/septic drain field has a bit of shade early and late in the day.  I’ll take that. I’m not sure if or how much water the corn will need but I’m confident that I have plenty from my rainwater collection system.

Middle Harvest Corn

Yellow and Green Middle Corn in Raised Bed Garden on Brown Grass
Middle Corn in Raised Bed Garden
My second sweet corn variety is Burpee’s Buttercream Hybrid with a 73 day maturity.  I like this variety a lot! I’ve read that this variety can require more water.  I’ll start without any rain drip irrigation in the corn garden but have sufficient water storage to implement it if needed.

Late and Best Harvest Corn

Yellow and Green Late Corn Using Drip Irrigation
Late Corn Using Drip Irrigation
My last sweet corn variety is Burpee’s Silver Queen Hybrid.  This is my favorite sweet corn!  It has a 92 day maturity and by July the weather should be hot as hell and the corn sweet as cream. If this corn requires rain drip irrigation, I think I will use something other than my current garden drip irrigation system. I’ll power it from my rainwater collection system but will probably use a broader, less specific method of delivering the water to the plants.  I’ll also need to be careful so as not to over water the septic drain field.  Surely there’s an appropriate but fine balance there somewhere.

The Corn Garden and Garden Drip Irrigation

Green Grass and Brown Dirt in a Rainwater Collection Corn Garden
Rainwater Collection Corn Garden
My efforts to turn my septic drain field into a corn garden were somewhat successful.  I dug through most of the grass down to dirt.  But, It wasn’t deep enough to actually till any rows or furrows.  It was just too hard with clay that had been pulled to the top when they put the drain field in.  So, I marked out 14 rows approximately 40 feet long.  You can see the little orange flags that mark each row.  It should work but you never know.  I need to put an electric fence on this garden as well but I’m not going to invest that much until I see if I need it.  I’ve put a game camera on the garden to get pictures of any critters or dogs that may be in the garden.  I’ll adjust based on what I learn from the pics.

Summary of 2014 Season for Rainwater Collection Drip Irrigation Garden

Spring starts a new season of raised bed gardening with rainwater collection and garden drip irrigation.  I’ve made some improvements from learnings last year and I have a couple new experiments.  It’s going to be a great season!


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!
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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!


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.






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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.






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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.