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 (I also recommend supatank also as a great investment).
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.