Urban Balcony Irrigation From A Rain Barrel – Look No Spigot!!

Poetry hasn’t come so easy for me lately so In absence of exercising my poetic creativity, I have worked on other projects; I love nature and Texas/Dallas living hasn’t done much to satisfy my need to connect with nature.  In my attempts to find something to suffice, I took up growing plants on my balcony.  While Balcony gardening isn’t as rich in as a backpacking trip through Yosemite Park, I have  found it to be rewarding and have received much enjoyment and satisfaction growing plants on my balcony.  Since I found the hobby to be a positive step in the right direction, I decided to turn it up a notch or two!  This year I acquired a bonsai tree, some gorgeous dwarf Japanese Maples, a flower bed and have planted Tomatoes, Peppers, Squash, and various herbs. Growing these plants in containers through a hot Texas summer equates to a commitment much like owning a dog, only, you can’t take the plants with you when you want to get out-of-town. Texas heat can dry a container plant out in 1-day if it doesn’t get water a couple of times daily. I attempted to alleviate the water requirements by purchasing an automated watering system. After many internet searches, I learned they don’t make anything like this for a large Apartment or Condo Balcony that lacks a patio spigot.  I wasn’t going to let that stop me. After more research, I decided to engineer an automated drip irrigation system that would have the ability to water my containers for 2-weeks so I can leave town without worry if the plants will be watered.

It took many nights studying ideas to gain an approach to how I might make the idea come to life. I set my sights on a pump driven system that takes water from a pre-filled rain barrel. I learned that understanding irrigation, flow, pressure and pumps was like understanding Algebra.  Finding the right pump was a chore.  The pump turns on and off automatically using a battery operated irrigation timer. I can set the watering intervals based on the climate for any particular time of year. On days where the temperature climbs above 100, I will set the timer to open two times a day for 1-minute at a time.

In a perfectly green world, I would harvest the rainwater from the gutters, but I am renting so I was not able engage that fantastic technique. I actually fill the rain barrel, which I placed in an inconspicuous area on my patio, with a hose I connect with an adapter to my kitchen faucet.

I created the embedded video to document the finished product. I love this irrigation system. I really enjoyed figuring it out and making it a reality!!  Now I am free’d up to write some poetry…


6 responses

  1. Hi, I own a small urban gardening company in NY, & I stumbled upon your post when researching this idea for a client of mine who has a terrace garden, but no outdoor faucet or rain gutter/downspout to collect water in a rain barrel. Could you please give some more info about what pump you used, & how the timer activates the pump? Also, where did you find an adapter to fit your kitchen faucet? (So many kitchen faucets are super-modern & odd-shaped these days, so it’s hard to find adapters that will fit some of them.) Thanks so much in advance for your reply! carissa@greensapcenyc.com

    • Hi Carissa,

      The pump used is a “Leader EBS 800. Just google the pump and you should get a lot of results. The project I took on took a lot of research regarding how much water I would be pumping and how much pressure I would need. When setting up a drip system of any sort, you will need to consider the amount of lines you will be using, how much each drip line will require i.e., some drip lines use more water then others…my Bonzai can get a mister while most of my other pots get micro sprinklers. The pump I have is enough to feed about 25 lines.

      The pump has an automatic pressure gauge built in to it so it turns on and off based on how much pressure is in the tank that is also built into the pump. When I attach a battery operated Clabber valved timer to the pump, the pump will turn on automatically when ever the timer opens the valve releasing the pressure from the pumps tank. So as long as the timers valve is open, the water gets pumped through the drip lines until the valve closes. When the valve closes (I set for 1 minute), the pump continues on until it builds up enough pressure into its tank which causes the pump to automatically turn off.

      Regarding the faucet I have – it is not one of those modern ones. I just screwed off the screened attachment from the kitchen faucet and there remains some male threads. I found the adapter at a hardware store which has female threads for the kitchen side and regular male garden hose threading on the out side.

      I had to get fairly creative at every turn to make this project a good experience as finding the right pump was a task and plumbing the pump to the timer required special threaded parts I had to find on the internet. The hardware store did not carry them.

      The project took me about 6 weeks to complete but could have been shortened had I known what pump to get. There are other ways to skin this cat, using other types of pumps, but I feel that a booster irrigation pump that is automatic and has its own 2 gallon pressure tank is a great way to go. I have more then enough horsepower for my garden and can always add to it.

      Here is a link to an ebay auction to the type of pump I purchased. http://www.ebay.com/itm/EBS-800-Self-Priming-Electronic-Pressure-Boosting-Water-Pump-System-1-2-Hp-230V-/261542974310 I believe I got mine for about $280.00 plus shipping. on my second year with it and it still works great. very quiet…

      Happy urban gardening

  2. Hi! I recently found this post as I am trying to duplicate your efforts on my balcony, where I also have no water. I was hoping to tap the gutter, but when I visited a place that sells rain barrels, they were skeptical because the barrel I want (super skinny and closed) doesn’t allow for a submersible pump. But I forgot that yours is external too. How do you have this powered? Do you have it all still up and running? Lessons learned or improvements?

    I really appreciate you posting this, even four years ago. There aren’t many who have blogged about their urban balcony irrigation schemes!

    • Hi, it’s still up and running. Outside irrigation pump with a storage pressure tank that holds about a gallon of water. My water container is about 30 gallon and I got it from a car wash. I fill it bi weekly from my kitchen tap using a coiled hose.
      Scheming the right pump for the job and Plumbing the pump – gathering the hardware was the toughest part. You will have to be creative and tenacious in your search for the right parts. If you need pics, I can send.

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