Built rainwater collection and PVC irrigation system

Keeping up with watering all the new garden space proved to be nearly impossible in the brutal Oklahoma summer. I knew I needed a better irrigation system if I wanted to be successful at growing food in the heat. I’d also been interested in collecting rainwater for irrigation and decided now was the time to take on both projects. I watched hours of video on YouTube and decided on using IBC totes to collect rainwater. I found them on Craigslist for $75 each and connected them to the gutters on my house using standard PVC pipe and fittings purchased from a hardware store. I also connected the gutters on my shed to a smaller 55-gallon barrel using the PVC pipe and fittings. This gave me a total of 605 gallons of water storage. That sounds like a lot, but my garden requires approximately 600 gallons of water a week in the summer. You may think it’d take awhile for the totes to fill up just from rain, but I calculated how much water my roof should collect and I should be able to catch around 500 gallons of water for every inch of rain and I’ve found this to be pretty accurate. 

My next task was to find a way to get the water from the IBC totes out to my plants. I researched all the various drip irrigation methods and decided to stick with PVC. The standard black irrigation tubing is a great option as well, but I went with PVC after calculating out costs and finding it to be significantly cheaper for the scale of my garden. It involved a bit more work, but it’s worked out great and I’m happy with the decision. I simply cut 1/2″ PVC pieces to the width of the bed, drilled 1/16″ holes every 3 inches along the pipe and connected them together with standard fittings along the main arm with a cap at the end of each line. I connected a hose from rainwater totes to the garden and now watering is as simple as turning a handle on the tank and setting a reminder on my phone to move the hose to another bed after 30 minutes.

My next goal is to connect all of the PVC grids together and use a Raspberry Pi to control irrigation. I’ll add a moisture sensor out in the garden so plants are only watered when they need it and my dream if automated irrigation will be complete! Here’s a video of a presentation I gave about this