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

 

 

 

 

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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.

 

 

 

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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

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End of the Deck Garden and Start of Rainwater Collection

 

 

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

Drip Irrigated Container Red Cherry Tomatoes Growing Again after Texas Summer Heat
Drip Irrigated Container Tomatoes

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

Blooming and Fruiting Red Patio Tomato on Drip Irrigation
Patio Tomato on 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

Pear Tomatoes Bearing Small Yellow Fruit with Drip Irrigation System
Pear Tomatoes with Drip Irrigation System

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?

Deck Garden Pepper Plants in Full Yellow Bloom Despite Texas Heat
Deck Garden Pepper Plants

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hot Dog!

Deck Garden Peppers Bare of all Leaves Ravaged by Dog
Deck Garden Peppers Ravaged by Dog

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

10,000 Gallon Rainwater Collection Inspiration by my Dad
Rainwater Collection Inspiration

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

Small Tank Debris Filter for Rainwater Harvesting System
Debris Filter for Rainwater Harvest

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

Blue Canister and UV Light Rainwater Collection Purification System
Rainwater Collection Purification System

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

Pencil Sketch of Rainwater Collection Site Plan
Rainwater Collection Site Plan

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

Rainwater Harvest Tank Location Under Deck at Back of House
Rainwater Harvest Tank Location

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

Two White Rainwater Collection Downspouts
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

Green 1,000 Gallon Rain Water Collection Tank
Rain Water Collection Tank

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

Blue and White 55 Gallon Food Barrels for Rainwater Harvesting
Barrels for Rainwater Harvesting

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

Grey Trailer Loaded with Three Blue Barrels and Green 1,000 Gallon Tank for Transporting Rainwater Collection Tank
Transporting Rainwater Collection Tank

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

Grey Trailer with 2 Yards of Decomposed Granite for Rainwater Tank Pads
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

Grey Gravel Pad and Wooden Barrier for Rainwater Tank
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.

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Deck Garden Drip Irrigation System Update and Season Change

It appears that the long hot Texas Summer is finally drawing to a close and it’s time to consider what I’m going to do with my deck garden and rain drip irrigation system for Fall.  If I can find some tomatoes I’ll plant those.  My deck container planter boxes really aren’t large enough to effectively grow leafy plants.  Looking back on what I’ve learned, I’m also formulating a new, larger plan for next year’s deck container garden and drip irrigation system.

Survival of Drip Irrigation System Tomatoes

Deck Garden Tomatoes Struggling in Texas Heat even with Drip Irrigation
Drip Irrigated Deck Garden Tomatoes

While my tomato plants did manage to survive the brutal Summer, they didn’t perform very well at all.  Based on my research, it just didn’t ever get cool enough at night for the tomato plants, which are in the nightshade family, to produce very much fruit.  This is the second year of attempting to make this work up on the deck and my efforts to cool the planter boxes and plants, even with extra water from the drip irrigation system, just didn’t produce enough cooling for the plants to thrive.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Drip Irrigation System Attracts Ants

Drip Irrigation System Water attracts insects
Ants Hunting Water from Container Garden Drip Irrigation System

It was horribly dry in Texas this Summer and every critter out there was looking for food and water.  Even the ants, which I seldom have a problem with, came looking for water in unusual places – the drip irrigation system for my deck container garden.  Not to mention the very hungry birds that robbed my tomato plants every day – despite the watchful gaze of my wire’s worthless cats that hang out on the deck.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Baking Your Drip Irrigation System Planter Box

Even Drip Irrigation Can't Save Some Plants from Texas Heat
Hot Dry Texas Summer

The tomato plants were about all that survived.  I occasionally had some weeds sprout in the drip irrigation system planter boxes but even those didn’t stand much of a chance in the heat.  It was so hot that the sun actually took my drip irrigation system and baked my very good potting soil into a hard clay right in the planter boxes.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Headed to Cooler Lands

Shadier Location for a New Deck Container Garden
New Deck Garden Location

My next step in moving my deck container garden forward is to move it off of the deck and down to ground level right off the end of the deck.  I’ve noticed that the ground temperatures are about 20 degrees cooler than the surface temperature on the deck.  The plants should also benefit (or suffer) from a little more shade provided by the house and the deck. This should also be more efficient for my drip irrigation system.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Rainwater Collection and my Drip Irrigation System

Rainwater Collection Storage Under the Deck
Rainwater Collection Tank Location

In conjunction with moving the deck container garden to ground level, I’m also going to implement a very basic rainwater collection system to provide water for my house foundation and drip irrigation system.  My Dad installed a professional grade rainwater collection system at his house because he has concerns about his well possibly running dry in the extended Texas drought.  I’m having some issues as well – not with drinking water because we’re on a water system – but with my house foundation drying out and the house moving enough to crack the sheet rock inside my house and make huge gaps in the planks of my wood flooring.  It is common practice in some areas of Texas to water your foundation to prevent this problem.  I have a problem with paying for water to do this, especially during the horrible drouth we’re having so I’m going to attempt to implement a simple rainwater collection system to provide water for my foundation as well as my drip irrigation system.  Yeah, there are a ton of opportunities and issues to figure out – not the least of which is “will it ever rain again?”.  My plan is to implement the rainwater collection and drip irrigation system in four phases, each with a 1000 gallon tank underneath my deck.  In this picture, you can see two downspouts that collect approximately 30% of my roof run off and they are readily available where I want to install the tank – should be simple, right?

 

 

Keeping the Dogs Cool(er)

Air Conditioner Drain Pool to Cool the Dogs
Drip Irrigation System Dog Pool

My Dad made an interesting  comment one day about the volume of water that runs out of his air conditioning drain.  He claimed to empty a 3 gallon bucket 4 or 5 times per day.  I was tired of seeing my wife drain and fill the dog swimming pool with expensive city water and came up with a handy little idea.  I ran a bit of extra PVC to extend my air conditioner drain and moved the dog water pool.  I don’t get near the 15 gallons per day that my Dad does but it’s enough to keep 3 to 4 inches of very cool water in the pool for the dogs to stay cool.  They like it and I like it too!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Deck Garden Drip Irrigation System Summary

It’s been a long hot Summer in Texas and the deck container garden didn’t fare very well.  Some plants failed completely, some were ignored and some managed to survive.  Even increasing the amounts of water from the drip irrigation system didn’t seem to make a very big difference – you just can’t fight the heat.  So, the next phase will move down to ground level in a attempt to find cooler areas and I’ll begin the process of collecting rainwater to supply the drip irrigation system.

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