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Rain Gutter Growing System

Adventures of Old Nebraska DaveI've promised this post for quite some time and it's time to make good on that promise. The weather here has been warming with night time temperatures in the 50s and day-time temperatures in the 70s. Finally I think the Winter grip has loosened and allowed Spring to settle in. The Daffodils and tulips are in full bloom and life is good on the Urban Ranch. One little update before we get started with the promised post. My potato bed had nary a sprout showing so I dug one up to see what was happening way down under. The potato was just starting to sprout with a little nub of a sprout starting to grow. I suspect the 45-degree soil temperature was a bit too cold for potato growth. With advancing warmer weather I am hoping for some potato vines to show up soon. Four out of the five replanted cabbages made it through the last frosty weather. Half of the onions made it but I have a reserve to replant them.

Some time ago I mentioned a new growing system that I wanted to try that was invented by a fella up in Minnesota that used rain gutters to automatically water the plants. I now have one working system and hope to have another working by warm weather planting time of May 15.

Rain Gutters

First thing that needed to be done to build the system was to use roofing screws to attach the gutter to two 10-foot 2X4s. A 3/4-inch hole was cut into the end caps for water transfer. Since these two gutters have the same water source, they must be perfectly level with each other. In order to do that great pains were taken and a leveling system was devised to get both perfectly level from end to end and side to side. The first layer of leveling was accomplished with landscaping timbers. Lag screws were used for the next leveling.

Lag screw adjustment

This picture is a little blurry but it's the best I could do with my low budget Kodak easy share camera.  You can get the idea of what I've done with the screws. Each 2X4 got a lag screw on each end, which was a total of four on each trough. Now the screws can be tweaked with a wrench up or down to obtain perfect leveling even after water is in the trough if need be. Water in the trough will seek its own level and be the final leveling test.

Now the two troughs must be connected and the leveling process gets a little more complicated.

Tying two Rain Gutters Together

Here you can see the two rain gutters tied together so whatever the level of water is in one of the troughs will be the same in the other trough. We'll come back to the buckets later, but for now we have to move on as to how the water gets into the gutters. Rain water is collected in the big tank that is seen in the background so that water has to be automatically transferred from that tank to the gutters. So let's see how that's done.

Water entry to the Gutters

Here you can see how the water will enter the gutters and supply both gutters. The parts for this system are all glued together with PVC adhesive and so far has not leaked. The hoses for this system are cut to length and fitted with two female ends. Cheap hoses can be used as there is very little pressure on this system, which is entirely gravity fed.

Water leveling Valve

I wanted originally to attach this float valve to the gutter, which would monitor the level of the water and allow water to be added when needed. The ones that I ordered were from Amazon and came with no float adjustment hence the bucket system was used. The yellow hose is the other end of the hose in the previous picture attached to the gutter. This float valve will keep the water level in the bucket at a constant level. By raising or lowering the bucket the water level in the gutters can be adjusted. With a little tweaking with different width boards the water level was matched perfectly.

Final hose connection

This is the final hose connection. Since the float valve has pipe threads and the hose has, of course, hose threads, an adapter had to be fabricated to match the two together. Now the water valve from the big tank is turned on and the water flows into the bucket. This water level is maintained by the float valve, which in turn maintains the water level in the gutters. It is all done mechanically without the use of timers as in the last system I built.

Your head is spinning by now so I think I'll leave the buckets for the next post. Really, I won't take so long to post again.

Until the next time, keep your hands in the soil. You never know what you can get to grow until you try.

11/20/2014 9:13:14 PM

That looks like something that I should try. Our area (AZ) is so dry that I have long pondered what kind of system could send a consistent amount of water to the garden in between rains.

5/25/2014 11:57:46 PM

Hey Dave, I like your system. It's quite ingenious with the fine tuned leveling. I've gotten the gutter system bug this year also and I'm doing quite a variety of plants on gutters and in pools. The "guy in Minnesota" is Larry Hall, and he has some excellent videos on YouTube about the mechanics and success of the system. You can also find him by searching for "Rain Gutter Grow System" on YouTube, or his Facebook page of the same name. He's a square shooter and would love to see your work.

5/13/2014 12:17:03 PM

Hi, This is Mary from Old Dog New Tricks. I just noticed your archives list and "WOW" you have been blogging for a long time! I just want to thank you for commenting on my blogs off and on. That is so nice of you! We still need to do lunch! Larry mentioned it again last week.