Jun 032013

I’ve finished with all the automatic watering systems in the garden boxes and in the greenhouse, here’s a few pictures to share:

I tried both PVC pipe and poly pipe (also called “funny pipe”, really).

I think I wasted my time with the PVC pipe. It will undoubtedly last longer, but the poly pipe is cheap (500′ for $45), easier to install, allows you to bend around things and has a lot of fittings (drippers, sprayers, micro-tubing, hose attachments, etc.) readily available.

PVC on the other hand… required shopping for adapters not easily found.  3/4″ pipe has pipe thread, hoses have hose thread, it’s not the same thing. You need a 3/4″ mpt to 3/4″ hpt adapter. I ran out, so had to delay finishing the project.

The plastic bags were a desperate attempt to save the cucumbers. Immediately after planting these (and they were growing very nicely), it dropped to 40 degrees. They’ve now all died, so this box is now turned off and new cucumbers were reseeded in the greenhouse.

One thing I’ve learned – DO NOT DEPEND ON YOUR GARDEN TO FEED YOU. This is a huge mistake. Things can and do go wrong. This is why food storage is so critical. Farmers in the “olden days” always set food aside for a least an entire year or more. You have no assurances that you won’t lose your crops, or discover too late that you didn’t plant or harvest enough or lose it to spoilage (or other hungry mouths to feed).

My gardening / greenhouse intentions are only this: fresh fruit and vegetables when available, in season. Nothing more. I doubt very much if I will even achieve 10% of what we eat around here. The rest will be purchased or eaten from food storage.

There are also quite a lot of things you can’t grow at home, or never will. Wheat, rice, olives, beans, fruit, etc., the list is actually quite large (see Your Food Preparedness Score for examples).

If you still doubt this – go to your cupboard (all of them). Right down the descriptions of everything you have purchased to eat. Do the same thing in the refrigerator and any storage you have. Compare this list against what you actually grow at home. Not what you “will grow” (once you learn how, and make the effort), but what you “are growing” right now.

I did this and it’s quite staggering how little we grow. I’m making improvements in that area, but it will never be enough, not even close. Then, when you consider the actual nutritional requirements to stay energetic, healthy and properly nourished, you finally start to realize just how important food storage really is (or constant trips to the supermarket, take your pick).

Growing your own food is fun, enjoyable and rewarding. I just don’t hold any illusions about how much I can do. Especially when the zombie hordes start raiding my greenhouse.

This is a “button dripper”. Green is 2 gpm (two gallons per minute). Easy to install. A simple tool will puncture the poly pipe, you insert a barb fitting, force on the micro-tubing hose and run it to your plant. Install a button dripper, mister, fogger or even an inline dripper.  Inline dripper are used in a series, from plant to plant, shown farther down below.

It takes a ton of fitting to do a large job. This is but a fraction of what I required (four times this much).

This is a 1/2″ shutoff valve.  Each greenhouse table has a shutoff valve so I can turn the water on or off as needed.  Easy to install, but the upper poly pipe to valve connection leaks a bit. I’ll install hose clamps, but it’s just a minor leak.

This is an inline dripper. This brand (Digg), found at Home Depot, is a red and black connector with holes on one side.  It’s rated at .5 gph.

You can string quite a few of these together. The most I did was about 6 or 7 I think.  I had good pressure everywhere (no pressure regulators were used anywhere).

Picture showing the elbow connector, barb connector and micro-tubing.

It appears you can use as many barb connectors as you like. None of mine seemed to leak.

The greenhouse tables have poly pipes running down both sides, or in the case of the sidewall tables, down just one side.

Aerial shot of the roof-mounted PVC pipe.  Essentially, I built a boxed shape PVC framework with T-connectors to drop a pipe down to each table.  This worked pretty well, I was able to center the entire thing in the middle of the greenhouse, using far less pipe then running down the length of it.

PVC isn’t hard to work with. Cut it clean with a cutoff saw, or use a hacksaw and clean up the “burrs” created with a knife.  Purple is used to primer the joints, or you can sand them lightly, and PVC joint compound is used to glue everything together.  You only have seconds to put the joints together after you glue, so have everything ready, press firmly. I’ve done a ton of PVC work over the years, and even more poly pipe, must be over 1000′ installed around here.

A “finished” greenhouse table, poly pipe installed, inline drippers, micro-tubing, C-clamps (left over electrical pipe clamps, which is why they’re gray).

Even harvested some young onions!  Stored correctly (these are too small to bother with) onions will easily keep through the winter. We just now finished up eating all of last years crop of onions, which was pretty good.

The verticle PVC pipes are connected to the overhead “box” built, then connected to the poly pipe using hose connectors. No adapters are needed if you find the gray / black hose connectors (has a gray screw collar).  I had to make several trips to get this step right, nobody had these.

A few more shots of how things can be done with poly pipe and micro-tubing:

Micro-tubing can also be bought as “drippers”. It’s just perforated micro-tubing. I used it here to water the corn rows planted in this box.

I’ve run out of plants to plant, so new ones are seeded in the greenhouse.

I even found the ambition to drop my remaining “problem tree” in the chicken yard. Discovered yet another rotten core to the trunk, so it’s a good thing it came down on my terms and not the next windstorm. The damage would have been significant, either the chicken house would have been destroyed or the fencing.

Next will be a new rabbit “shed”, expanded chicken yard and probably a quail run.

  7 Responses to “Garden Boxes, Greenhouse Watering Setup”


    Wow, nice job! Could you comment on what gpm rate you have on your well/wells to service this system? Is the house on the same well and is the water pressure affected?

    I’ve gardened in raised beds for over 40 years using Ruth Stout’s system which, if done correctly here on the “wet” side of the Cascades, requires no watering even during hot spells. I kept this quote from one of her books (don’t remember which one):

    “My no-work gardening method is simply to keep a thick mulch of any vegetable matter that rots on both my vegetable and flower garden all year round. As it decays and enriches the soil, I add more. The labor-saving part of my system is that I never plow, spade, sow a cover crop, harrow, hoe, cultivate, weed, water or spray. I use just one fertilizer (cottonseed or soybean meal), and I don’t go through that tortuous business of building a compost pile.”

    So I’m curious if you’ll be using any kind of mulch in your raised beds, and also how often you will be having to use your wonderful irrigation system in your neck of the woods. Again, congrats on an excellent creation!


      Hasn’t seemed to change the house pressure, but I haven’t tried to shower yet while the watering is being done, so I can’t really say. I doubt if anything like this will affect it, using a hose around here (which has a much higher flow rate) doesn’t seem to change anything. I built a elaborate watering system, it’s huge, well(s), cisterns, pressure tanks, very elaborate.

      Watering the garden is required here, daily or every two days. It was hot and dry, then instantly switched to warm and wet. Strange spring.

      No mulch here, at least not much, not yet. Simply nothing available that you don’t go “get” somewhere. Mulching with pine needles is a no-no, as far as I know. It’s just pine forest here, nothing else. Could go out and destroy shrubs, grasses and green leafy things and make mulch, but that goes against my ethic of letting the land “be” (I’m a guest here). Only trying to take what I need or remove what should be taken.

      This isn’t like the burbs where everybody is mowing lawns or trimming bushes and dumping it somewhere. No lawns here. No green things to chop up (except various species of pine trees). Some ranches around here have manure, but I actually failed to find a nearby source. I did find goat manure / hay mixture, put that on the garden area and in the vermiculture bed. Tried it for growing strawberries, tomatoes, carrots and a few other veggies I can’t remember, but it didn’t do that well (so far). Also tried it on my grape vines, but they’re also not real happy with it. Might be too cold to grow grapes here, but I like the idea.

      I’ve been reluctant to go out and buy “fertilizer” (well okay, got a box of Miracle Grow, but that’s all), mostly because it’s an input that would always have to be available for the garden to grow right. So I’m trying to figure out how I can do this with what is available locally. Don’t want to count on outside inputs if I can help it. No soybeans around here and definitely no cottonseed. Trees, grasses, ferns, some berry bushes, shrubs, all “wild”. Took a walk the other day, have wild strawberries EVERYWHERE this year. Pretty cool. No berries though, not yet. Deer will beat me to them anyway and they’re always very tiny.

      I did use a topsoil mixture in the beds (locally made), and in the new planting pots in the greenhouse. Probably have a few hundred plants now growing in various places, but it’s not enough. We’ve been able to eat radishes, onions, carrots, lettuce and some small pea pods is all, not hardly enough to feed a hungry rabbit so far, but if recent experience can be relied on, it’ll be a bumper crop later in the season and I’ll turn vegetarian. Our season is short here, thus the greenhouse, but the lack of decent soil messed up our early start. My hope is now that everything is finally “here” (including warmer weather), it will get going good. Tomatoes are maybe 12″ tall is all, so it will be a while yet.

      Plenty of wood here, for building, posts, fences, houses, whatever, but I haven’t logged anything large-scale yet. Don’t plan to either. Humans do enough damage, I don’t need to contribute.

      I’ve done composting, but this too was not successful over the winter in the chosen spot (sigh). There is a lot of ice here in winter and the compost got too cold, poor mixture, etc., and I’ll move / do it again in a better spot. It’s already all gathered up and ready to be moved. I compost “everything”, but the truth is, there isn’t much to compost. That’s the main problem with this idea. Little comes out of the house. Not enough growing yet in the garden. No lawn clippings. No bush trimmings. Could probably try composting a few deer and see if that helps.


    Just spotted this, fits right in to what is happening here:

    He says the climate will see some of the marginal areas in the south of the state become even more marginal as they become hotter and drier and areas in the north may see an increase in rainfall as well as a increase in temperature.


    You’re pulling our leg about buying Miracle Gro, right? I couldn’t bring myself to buying that shit. Scotts is the parent company of Miracle Gro products and even buying their organic stuff is still supporting everything you rail against. Why not buy some chickens? I realize the manure is hot but a little bit of straw and some green manure won’t take long to compost. Anyone with rabbits, alpacas? Even horse manure is better than Miracle Gro. I personally wouldn’t use anything before using that, the only vote we have is with our dollar and I know you know that.

    Our latest post is here with some pics and ideas for raised beds for those not wanting to use wood.


      Nope. I didn’t buy it, someone else did. But it’s definitely better then having nothing.

      Chickens are all dead. Will have 10 more this week if all goes as planned. I do prefer rabbit manure as being best of all, can use this right away with no risk to the plants.

      I think we have the cartridge box vote yet remaining to us. Should see that start up pretty soon.

      You’ve got a really nice garden there, looks like great soil too!