The first step to building a small-scale irrigation system is choosing the right-sized rain barrel. The most common household rain barrel is made from a 50-gallon drum. These can be purchased, pre-made, from a number of places.
Connect with your local garden clubs, nature conservancies and other similar organizations to inquire about where to purchase a rain barrel in your area.
You can also easily build you own from a repurposed 50-gallon barrel. But many situations may require a larger capacity catchment system for their water needs.
At Small House Farm, we use a 250-gallon IBC storage tote. Although this sized container will still fill with water rather quickly, it’s certainly more practical for our needs than a smaller, household-style rain barrel.
Location Matters (& the Higher, the Better)
Once you have chosen your receptacle, you’ll need to decide where to place the barrel and where to run your gutters. The water pressure of a rain barrel is provided by gravity. So the container will need to be placed up off the ground.
Build a support system with cinder blocks, which will be able to support the weight of a full container. Remember, a barrel full of water is very heavy!
With your gutter in place, and the downspout run into the top of your container, you’ll be all set to capture the rainwater to store for later use.
Setting up a Drip Line
Next, you’ll need to set up your drip line. You can certainly purchase soaker hose or drip line from a garden supply center.
But you may also consider making your own from old hoses. Simply lay the hose out along your garden row, then drill holes along the hose wherever the plants are located.
If you’re using a hose bib attachment of a 50-gallon rain barrel, just connect the hose and you’re ready to go. A larger IBC tote will require an adapter piece in order to attach the hose to the drain valve. But these can easily be found at a hardware store or online.
Once you have your system in place, you should mulch around your plants and over the drip line hose. This will help to reduce evaporation and retain soil moisture, which is very important during the hot summer weather.
And it’s just that easy! With a little bit of old gutter, a rain barrel and some repurposed garden hose, you can build an awesome drip line irrigation system for your garden or hobby farm. Check out the video above for step-by-step instructions.