*Nearly Zero-Impact Garden Watering.

Posted: May 12, 2009 in 2009, Exclusives

A few ways to beat water issues. Lets get right to it:

Rainwater Capture:

I’ve been wanting to do this post for a couple weeks but held off until I had this part of my water project set up. The best thing I’ve come up with is using 275 gallon liquid “Totes”, but 55 gallon drums work too. Totes are the size up answer to drums. They have cool cages wrapped around them with undersides designed for forklifting, with a large 8″ screw off lids in the center of the top, with a 2″ ball valve drain spigot on the bottom front side.

Gravity is key for water pressure. To water my loading dock garden I needed to elevate it considerably, so I went with pallets. Note the base & top platforms are plywood with 2″x6″ planks running longways. The way the pallets happened to stack non-flush worked out well on the slope in leveling the top platform out.

I don’t have the piping for it setup yet, but a friend does and he confirmed the ball tapper threads are standard 2″ PVC threads. We managed to get 5 of them for a combined $300 off of Craigslist. I always recommend buying things in bulk, and trying to pool money with others to get the best deals possible.

Next you just need less than $10 in gutter downspout fittings and tubing, and then I’m confident you can figure out the rest from there.

You can also place other open topped containers, such as old aquariums, underneath areas where the water pours over or leaks out of the roof / gutters.

Sink Water Capture:

This is probably most practical if you do a considerable amount of your sink work out of a laundry size sink. During the first several weeks of starting my seedlings I was able to water almost exclusively using captured sink water, mainly from washing my hands or rinsing off dishes etc.

You basically just need a suitable rubbermade style bins that fill about half of the bottom of the sink just right, and large plastic containers on wheels. Seal any holes with liquid nails for durability, let it dry, and then go over that with silicone for water protection.

A few designs:

Roll around toolbox thing with lid and insides removed.

Roll around toolbox thing with lid and insides removed.

Sturdy storage box on top of 4 Wheel Dolly.

Sturdy storage box on top of "4 Wheel Dolly".

More flexible storage bin, in/on base part of a cabinet from a scrapped out 60 Phillips rear projection TV.

More flexible storage bin, in/on base part of a cabinet from a scrapped out 60" Phillips rear projection TV. It has castor wheels underneath it.

You can also place these under roof-water pour-over spots if convenient.

Hose Fittings:

I adhere to a spend a few dollars extra to save lots of time ethic, although I do prefer to build anything I can myself. If you’re running different hoses for different things then I advise shopping around to find a good deal on quick disconnect fittings. Also cutoff valves wherever you would disconnect to prevent the water rushing out every time you switch lines. Be sure to use hose fitting gaskets and teflon tape everywhere you can.


Don’t start seeds right in large pots or the ground. I wont explain why. You can use things like those “Jiffy Strip” trays, at $3+ per 50 plants, and keep the $1 trays after the paet pots are removed later. I did this at first and used graph/grid paper for a good way to catalog what was in what.

But I later decided that using small cups is better for a number of reasons. I bought a bag of 455 2″ cups at a Costco type store (BJ’s) for $8, and I can reuse them. They need something around their edges to keep them all from tipping. Be sure to use a solder iron to poke holes in the cups.

About 260, my last wave of plants for the years first season.

About 260, my last wave of plants for this years first season.


Use mulch. If you have a budget get cedar/eucalyptus. If no budget search around for tree guys. Even with mulch having value, most will gladly deliver free mulch.

  1. Max says:

    Great Idea! And while looking at the first image (one up from a 55 gallon drum solution) I realized what you were doing and that is the part of the puzzle I have been missing. Thank You!

    If I raise the level of the vessel(water buttress), I can gain the necessary pressure needed using 14.7 psia, the weight of the water in the column and gravity. I can regulate the flow using a globe valve for weeping water or full open for a good morning drenching of my garden.


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