I'm new to this group, but I've just jumped into rain water collection for my home garden. My wife and I have attempted (relatively unsuccessfully) to have a small garden at our home in illinois. We aren't necessarily garden people, but we like the idea of being able to grow our own vegetables to enjoy at home, and as our kids are 5 & nearly 7 currently, it is a fun project that they can enjoy with us every year.
I'm starting to get things around for next years garden, and I started off by building some rain barrels for my home to use for watering and irrigation going forward. I got some free plastic drums that originally held distilled water and built a bottom fill rain barrel system with them to feed off of my roof. My home has a shingled roof, and the area that feeds the downspout these barrels are connected to is approximately 950 square feet. So I should be able to get plenty of water from the roof when it rains.
For this year, we will probably just continue to water by hand or with a hose connected to the barrel output, but I'm looking to put in some kind of irrigation next spring that I can automate to help take the human forgetfulness out of the equation. Those that have experience with this kind of thing, do you have any recommendations on systems, methods, products, etc that would work for a zero pressure rain barrel system like mine? My garden area isn't going to be very big, maybe 50-75 square feet or so.
The attached pictures are what I just setup. It's a bottom fed system where the downspout diverter is just below the top of the barrels to set the water level. I've got an internal vent tube that runs from the bottom of each barrel up above the water level. Doing that allowed me to keep the barrels in takt without requiring me to drill or cut into them at all. I figured since I'm new to this, I may want to re-configure them once I learn more, which I still have the freedom to do since they are still in once piece.
I'm not sure if the garden hose will end up being a restriction in the system. I've already thought I may need to plumb in something larger there, but I'm going to see how this works for now. I'm also probably going to build a first flush system to try and catch the initial run-off from the roof before it goes into the barrels to help with the water quality in the barrels.
Hi Mark, I don't have any advice for you but I wanted to compliment you on your set up. Looks like you're off to a great start! I'm looking to at least reduce the amount of time/effort in watering from my rain barrels too, and I'm in the market for a low tech, preferably free solution.
We had our first rainfall after getting my system installed and connected up. The national weather service said we got 0.33 inches of rain in my area, but I filled up all three barrels about half way! That gives me about 75 gallons out of that 1/3 inch of rainfall. I think that's pretty decent. I wasn't sure what to expect, but it just goes to show how much water is available to utilize.
Living in central Illinois, it is rare that we ever go for truly extended periods of time without any rain. We are starting to get into the drier part of the year, but you usually don't go more than a couple of weeks without rain even as we get into July / August time-frame. I have a hard timing seeing that I would run out out water from the three barrels. I supposed it is possible, but this just shows that even a light rain can give me a good amount of water that will last a while. I've got a lot of hope for next year and the years to come that we could pull off a no-fuss drip irrigation without supplement it with the city water.
In the attached pictures, you can see the water level in the barrels (easiest to see in the white barrel on the left). I threw the first sprinkler and hose I could grab onto the barrel output and opened up the valve to see what would happen. It was putting out a pretty good amount of water for not being pressurized. I'm guessing my garden bed is about 16-20" below the bottom level of the barrels, so just a little bit of height differential for the gravity feed setup.
There are drip systems you could implement that are low pressure, about 10 psi. You would need to install a pressure reducer on the line that feeds your drip system, and that system you could control with a simple battery powered valve controller. The battery powered valve controller is essentially just a timer, thats battery powered, and goes on the threaded facet, like any ordinary garden hose hook up. Your tote cistern storage system, should have enough pressure to run drip, but it may be smart at some point to identify at what water level, your pressure drops below 10 psi. You can mark that level, and know you'll need to hand water or refill your barrels before your drip system will evenly distribute the water, once it reaches the below pressure designated mark. If it drops below the recomended psi, hand watering may be wise to implement, to avoid dry patches, and plant losses from the ill pressured system.
Nice looking system Mark. Is your goal to collect as much water as possible? The hose & pvc diameter shown will be a limiting factor. I suggest next time it rains hard try observing the downspout & see how much doesn't get caught. Each square foot of roof can provide 0.623377 gallon per inch of rain. Which calculates to almost 200 gallons per 1/3 inch for a 950 sf roof. It appears to be about 75 gallons there. It really is mind boggling how much water can be captured from even a light rain.
I have a similar system. When it's full or expected to be I run the output hose slightly uphill to a hugelbed to allow that to collect as much excess as it can. Cheap & effective.
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