When you farm in a small space, like your backyard, your soil can get tired–no matter how much you amend it with organic matter. Over the last few years my garden would always poop out on me in the middle of the season. My plants would grow, but not as vigorously. Even after having the soil tested, and adding the suggested amendments, it wasn’t thriving.
I had to come up with a solution to be able to grow in my garden, but allow the soil to rest. My husband found this idea on Youtube for a rain gutter grow system. I decided to give it a try this year. So far, it’s working great! I did a little step-by-step post below, and there is a video at the end so you can see it in action.
The original design called for 10 foot gutters to be used. I wanted to fit more of them in my 300-square-foot garden, so I bought six 10-foot gutters and cut those into 8-foot sections. This way I could get six of them into my garden cage. Cutting them into 8-foot sections allowed them to fit the 8-foot 2x4s we bought to fasten them to. Next, we put end caps on the gutters using pvc cement:
Next, we placed the 2x4s on either side of the gutter, and screwed the gutters in place. We used roofing screws since the screws are going to be submerged in water all the time.
After each section was finished, we cut another 2×4 into 2-foot sections to make feet for each gutter system.We put those on the bottom of each gutter:
This is what the gutters look like put together:
The next step, which I don’t have pictures of, was to drill a hole in the end cap (only on one side of each gutter system) to install the float.
Then I took my old hose and cut that into sections to make smaller hoses that will run from each gutter to the manifold. We used plumbers tape to ensure that all the connections had a good seal.
Finally we got to the buckets. A hole was drilled in the bottom of each bucket so that a 3-inch net pot could be dropped into each bucket, with the lip of the net pot creating a seal on the inside.
The next steps, which I don’t have pictures of, were to put the rain gutters in the garden, hook up all the hoses and test. I also had to make the potting soil mix. I used well-composted manure from a local farm, perlite, sphagnum peat moss, and lime. This mix was then put into the net pots and those were put into the bottom of the buckets and the buckets were then also filled with the mix. Then I planted and the end result looks like this:
So that’s it! Okay…now you can watch the video:
I am so happy with this new grow system…so happy, in fact, that I wet my plants! (Sorry, I’ve always wanted to use that joke!)
I must give a huge shout-out to Larry Hall in Brainerd, Minnesota who is the inventer of this system. You can see his instructional video here
. It’s funny because I know Brainerd well, since it is the next town over from Crosby, Minnesota, where my paternal grandmother had her farm. That makes this system really special to me.
I’ll be sure to post updates throughout the summer!