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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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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