September 11, 2013

Garden Technology

I constructed some very simple garden tech this summer.  This equipment has really helped me out and has set the stage for next year's improvements.

My favorite tool this summer was a simple impulse sprinkler that I hose-clamped to a metal sign post.  I spent the money on an all-metal sprinkler because I was tired of breaking the crappy plastic ones.  The added height of the sign post allowed the sprinkler to cover more area with fewer moves.  That said, I found the effective watering radius to be about 15 feet.  I used a plastic rain gauge to accurately measure the amount of water I was putting on the garden.  I aimed for 1 inch of water every 4-5 days.  The rain gauge, of course, measured rain, so I was able to tailor my irrigation in consideration of the natural rainfall during a given 4 day period.

Next year I would like to hook up 3 or 4 of these in series to irrigate the whole garden with minimal effort.  The disadvantage of the impulse sprinklers is that there are water losses to evaporation, it is reliant on chlorinated tap water, and the plant leaves get wet and are more susceptible to fungal diseases.  I'm not (yet) willing to invest in a drip irrigation system, but I might be temped if I can increase the capacity of my rainwater storage system.

Which brings me to my next piece of garden tech, my rain barrel!  I've had a plastic 55-gallon barrel sitting in the garage for years, and I finally got around the constructing a rain catchment.  I used an electric drill with a hole-saw to make the cutouts for the spigot and overflow.  I used an electric jig saw to cut out the opening for the downspout.  I used simple PVC piping for the overflow.  I purchased a brass hose bib (spigot) from Home Depot and a plastic bulkhead fitting from Tractor Supply.  The bulkhead fitting is the key to a watertight connection since it has rubber gaskets that make a tight seal to the barrel and is threaded to accept the spigot.  Don't try threading the spigot directly into the plastic barrel or it will surely leak.  The debris screen is a colander that was sacraficed for the cause.  I assembled this in about 30 minutes.


I used the rain barrel mostly for field-washing vegetables from the garden (always followed by a tap water rinse in the kitchen), irrigating the blueberry bushes, washing out the compost bucket, and hand washing after yard work.  It would be easy enough to link together several barrels to increase my storage capacity so that I could experiment with a no-pressure drip irrigation system in the garden.

Click on the images below to link to Amazon if you want to buy some of the components and tools to build your own rain barrel.  Find the plastic drum locally, if you can.  The shipping will cost more than the barrel.  Just make sure the drum hasn't held toxic materials!!!

Rain Barrel Components

The last bit of garden tech is decidedly low tech.  My old pallet compost bin rotted away, so I made up a new one with four pallets and some baling wire.  Wiring the pallets together was much faster than using screws, and allows me the flexibility to easily open up the bin to shovel out compost.

What garden tech made your gardening easier and more fun this summer?  Please share your innovations!

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