Gravity watering systems

If you’ve put in a water tank (even though you may have town water), then you’ve increased your resilience to failure of the system and your degree of self-sufficiency goes up a notch.

So it makes no sense to use a fossil fuel dependant pump to get the water to where it’s needed.

Good permaculture design puts the tank at the highest point of the property and the food garden at the lowest (or at least, lower than the tank). That way the free energy of gravity is put to use, rather than unsustainable fossil fuels.

My three tanks are near the house. My original vegetable garden was 50 metres away, down a slight slope. There are fruit trees there also. It is being developed as a food forest. Most of my vegetables are now grown in wicking tubs and boxes close to the house (permaculture zone 1), but I still grow some in that original area. It was chosen because it was the only place free of large trees and hence the sunniest.

I have four hose lengths connected to the big (9000 litre) tank by the house, feeding the veggies and fruit trees in the lower area. I get good water pressure down there, even when the big tank is half full, as it was before last week’s rain. It’s full again now.

I’ve put together a few different sprinkler systems for use with the tank, using  13 mm polypipe and the myriad of spray jets, uprights and connectors that are stocked at any good garden centre.

The veggies down there are grown in wire circles 80 cm in diameter and 45 cm high, to keep the rabbits off. The original soil was too compacted to dig, so I’ve built up beds with compost inside the circles.

A circular sprinkler fits inside each ring:

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There are two small upright pieces (5 mm diameter), on opposite sides, with a quarter-circle spray head on top which points into the centre of the ring:

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The pressure is so great in this system that I have to have the gate valve on the tank almost closed, otherwise the water sprays way beyond where it’s needed.

This would also be a good system to use around a single, newly-planted tree.

When a wire ring is full of growth right to ground level, this system doesn’t work so well, as the water only impacts the edges of the crop, so I’ve made another sprinkler which I use attached to a hose-holding stake that pushes into the ground and it sprays over the top of the crop. A short length of tubing, with a stop at one end and a click-on hose connector at the other; a 5 mm upright tube with an in-line tap to vary the flow and a quarter-circle spray head on top. Very effective:

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Another very simple sprinkler is just a length of 13 mm tubing with a stop and hose connector and a series of small holes punched along its length. I usually put the holes in with a hot nail heated on the gas (held in pliers NOT fingers!):

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(Water doesn’t photograph very well). The tube can be any length you wish.

I bought this fascinating wibble-wobble sprinkler from Diggers. It’s been specially designed for use with tanks but it works equally well on town water systems:

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The central wobbly bit oscillates round and round throwing out little squirts of water in all directions as it does so. If this was a video, you could see it wobbling, but sorry, it isn’t so you can’t. Best to buy one and watch your own. I love watching it, it’s a great way of wasting time:

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Green Harvest also have them for sale.

Just a final tip. Most of the micro spray heads you see for sale are moulded plastic. Burrs in the moulding process can impact on the spray and make it irregular so some spots get missed.  It’s worth paying the extra money for brass spray heads if you can find them. They’re finely machined and give a nice regular spray without imperfections:

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2 Responses to “Gravity watering systems”

  1. narf77 Says:

    Another excellent tutorial Bev (and all without 2000+ words 😉 ). Now we just have to find someone who wants to swap some water tanks for Steve’s spoons 😉


  2. Patricia Earnshaw Says:

    That was a great read – thanks. Very informative.



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