Rainwater Collection and a New Raised Bed Garden

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

The Right Mix of Rainwater and Raised Bed Garden

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

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

Survival Seeds and the Next Generation

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

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

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Thwarting the Deer Who Want in my Garden

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

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

Rain Drip Irrigation Main Hose

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

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

Sixty Days into a Garden Season

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

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

Rainwater Collection Expansion!!

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

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

Big Rainwater Tanks

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

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

Site Pads for Collection Tanks

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

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

Rain Water Harvesting Tanks Installed

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

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

Rainwater Line Leak

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

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

Yeah, That Needs Fixin’

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

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

Summary of Rainwater Collection and New Raised Bed Garden

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

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Funny Stuff in the Raised Garden Bed

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



Failure of Leafy Greens in my Raised Garden Bed

Brown Dirt Shows No Progress in a Raised Garden Bed
No Leafy Vegetable Progress in a Raised Garden Bed

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




Heritage Watermelons

Funny Oblong Green Watermelon in Raised Bed Garden
Funny Shaped Watermelon in Raised Bed Garden

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








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Funky Little Heritage Corn

Stunted Yellow Corn in a Raised Bed Vegetable Garden
Stunted Heritage Corn in a Raised Bed Vegetable Garden

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









Small Heritage Melons

Small Grey Cantaloupe from Raised Bed Gardens
Small Heritage Cantaloupe from Raised Bed Gardens

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






Summary of Funny Stuff in my Raised Garden Bed

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

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Raised Garden Bed Summer Version 1

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




Beginning a Raised Garden Bed

Green Weed Infested Old Raised Garden Bed
Old Raised Garden Bed From 4 Years Ago

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









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Square Foot Raised Garden Bed

Reworked Raised Bed Garden with Brown Soil and Green Plants
Newly Reworked Raised Bed Garden

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








Healthy Raised Bed Vegetable Garden

Overgrown Green Raised Bed Vegetable Garden Gone Wild
Raised Bed Vegetable Garden Gone Wild

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







Weekly Harvest from Raised Bed Vegetable Garden

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

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







Summary of Raised Garden Bed Summer Version 1

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

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