Rain Barrel for Irrigation

I'm moving into a house in the rural area and I picked up three 50 gallon plastic (clean) barrels that I would like to use to collect rain water and then use the water to provide water to flower beds and brushes around the house. The problem that I'm seeing is that the barrels are around the back of the house, and the plants to be watered are around front. Does anyone know of a pump that I can use that can problem the pressure needed to pull water from the barrels and apply the neccesary pressure 15 to 20 psi (I think) for a drip irrigation. Does anyone have a simular set-up? I don't think the height of the barrels (raise 1.5 feet above the ground) will provide enough pressure.
I also plan to have the pump placed on a timer so that it only runs every other day (also, a rain sensor will be added).
Thanks for any comments or ideas.
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I'm interested in the answer about the pump, because I have similar set-up and problem. I had thought of using a cheap sump pump, but don't know if that will work.
I can tell you that you're right -- 1.5 feet of elevation won't do it, although it will help. We have ours elevated almost three fit and it still isn't enough.
The one really cool thing about our rain barrels is that we have them connected by siphon using sump pump hose, so we can draw from and fill to a single barrel.
Frances
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On 11 Nov 2003 09:02:14 -0800, snipped-for-privacy@spyring.com (Zbox) wrote:

experiment first before buying stuff. it may be that gravity feed will be sufficient for a drip system. or that raising the barrels only a bit will be enough of an adjustment...i have LOTS of needed equipment for a larger system, but we still do use gravity feed for some of it, if only to save on the electric bill and to avoid buying yet another pump. you will never know if you don't give it a try!
snipped-for-privacy@endangeredspecies.com
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We have 7 rain barrels, 55 gallons each, one of them has 75. We're also on a slope, but in the side yard we don't have sloping so built a tiny deck to put the barrels up on. The deck is about two feet tall and is easy to build with 2x6 boards. That gives plenty of pressure to water, but it will never be forceful enough to go through a drip irrigation or sprinkler system...if that's what you mean.
On 11 Nov 2003 09:02:14 -0800, snipped-for-privacy@spyring.com (Zbox) opined:

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snipped-for-privacy@spyring.com (Zbox) wrote in message

i had one 55 gal about 15 feet up the hill from my solarium which would make it about 2.5 vertical feet above it and ran a 1/4" tubing from it into the solarium and put a brass shutoff valve on it and then syphoned it into the areas of the solarium . had about 50 feet of it so it would reach the full length of the solarim and since the valve was off when not in use it never lost its prime so was always ready when i needed it. just used it like a hose. since it was so small it took quite a while to water but when the barrell was full it wasn't too bad. lee h
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Hello gardening friends:
I use only rain barrels to water my flower beds. Unfortunately, I don't have a choice. We live in a somewhat rural area. We do not have city water. (The county has told us that we will probably never get it, not enough houses in a mile. A mixed blessing.) We use cistern water for our household (rain water from the roof is directed into the cistern which is a stone lined big hole in the ground with a lid). The biggest problem with roof water is dirt, leaves, etc. With the cistern we use a piece of guttering which has 3 openings. The gutter pipe coming from the roof goes in the top opening, then there is a lever type thing that directs the water to one or the other openings. The rule is to let the rainwater run for at least 10 minutes through the opening which goes to the ground, then turn the lever and direct the water into the cistern. We also have a roof washer which is a galvanized box with washed gravel and a foam filter type liner (we invented our own and had a fabricator make it for us). Absolutely amazing the amount of dirt.
My rain barrels for watering are the 55 gallon plastic kind, with one large plastic tank enclosed in a galvanized exterior that used to hold soda pop syrup. In about a year's time, I get about 6 inches of crud from leaves/dirt/roof buildup in the bottom of the barrel, I don't use any diverter for these barrels. I have enough of a slope from my one barrel to water my one front bed. However, I cannot use any type of irrigation system. The reason is that the dirt/crud clogs up all those little holes. I get a forced relaxation because I have to use a hose and manually water the beds, slowly. The other beds I have to carry my watering cans. When I fertilize I have to use two 5-gallon buckets on a wagon. I add my fertilizer to the bucket and then gravity feed the water to the bucket. It takes a while to fill the bucket so I can use my watering can to take from the full 5 gallon bucket while the other bucket fills.
And don't forget about mosquitoes! Those little guys appear in a matter of hours into a water barrel. We have frogs by 2 of our barrels and they lay their eggs and as they grow the eat the mosquitoes. The other 2 barrels have a sunfish, or bluegill, in them. I can't figure out how, but the bluegills survive the winter. We are in Northern Kentucky, so we can get pretty cold and freezing. When I'm digging or just checking the flower beds I try to find bad bugs or nightcrawlers and throw them into the barrels.
A long answer for your question. Sorry for the length. I'm not sure if I even answered the question. ;o}
Judy
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Judy, this is similar to my barrell watering.. i access the water for syphoning from the top of the barrel by attaching my syphone line to a piece of styrofoam so it will float and secure screen wire over and around it to form a fiter.. then what i did to my barrell was to take a piece of screen wire and tape it with ,,,what else but the wonderful duct tape!!!.. over the barrell to keep out leaves and mosquitoes. of course you have to thread the hose through the screen before puttiing the styrofoam and screen on it...
any way, this really worked quite well.. no mosquitoes.. no way for the hose to clog and it got plenty of air to do it's thing. i also added compost to the water at times to make it into a tea. wonderful for the plants. didn't even have to have an air pump on it. just an idea for you to kick around. lee h
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Hi Lee
I like this idea. Thanks. I'm gonna try it.
Judy
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incidentally, i had the barrell placed under the eves behind a storage shed so rain went into it, but also supplemented from the water company. put bits of composted cow manure ( chips rom sons ranch), egg shells, fish emulsion, and a bit of superthrive in it occsionally.
lee h
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Zbox wrote:

I've not been a fan of rain barrels since they're only full when it rains and then you don't need to water. Rain water stored for any length of time in containers can grow algae which will clog drip systems (if light is excluded from the interior of the barrel, this can be avoided to some extent, but the barrel has to be really opaque). Also, 150 gallons of water doesn't go very far on a garden. If you want 1" of rain equivalent per week, that's 30,000 gallons/acre, or about 0.7 gallons per square foot. Your 150 gallons will water around 200 square feet of garden at that rate. 100 square feet if you have to water twice, etc. Of course, that's assuming you're applying 1"/week of rain equivalent.
Having pointed out the negatives, I should also point out that you can use maybe 10% of that just to keep plants alive, so it can be used on a larger area if necessary, just not as effectively. You will find other people who love their rain barrels. If the barrels take water from an extended area (such as a large roof), you can multiply the amount of rain water you get onto the garden by the ratio of the area of the roof to the area of the garden.
The most effective way to use the rain water from the roof is to direct the downspouts directly to the garden. The only drawbacks to this approach are (1) the extra downspout plumbing (possible elevation and/or routing problems) and (2) the possibility of erosion from a large flow of water from the downspout. Don't try to restrict the flow of water in the downspout: it needs enough flow to be able to clean out leaves and debris.
I do use a barrel for water. I have a greenhouse with a buried hose from the house to supply water. In the spring, the buried hose is frozen, so I have to use a barrel in the greenhouse to supply water when I first turn the greenhouse on. I bought a portable submersable sump pump at Home Depot (about $50 10 years ago). It has a hose outlet. It provides around 30psi for watering plants. In the greenhouse the 50 gallon barrel lasts about 3 days tops before I have to fill it again. At that time I have around 100 square feet of flats to water. (Some water is wasted in the process, mostly by runoff). I don't use a rain barrel system for the home garden, which is about 1/4 acre. My home water system (a well) can supply it when necessary. The garden soil drains well, but not so well that it can't retain some rain water for a week or two. We generally get enough rain (in MA), so I only have to water it about once every other year. I use a drip system since that's the most efficient type and I have the equipment at hand.
Check into the pressure needed for the drip line. Some drip line will operate on as little as 8 psi.
Rule of thumb: 1 foot of elevation equals 1/2 psi of water.
When you consider the cost of the pump, it may be cheaper to water the garden from the house water supply, assuming you have a well. When you consider the maintenance on the system, it's certainly a lot easier to use the house water supply. Have you considered using grey water for the garden? (Do not use it with a drip system -- it will clog quickly).
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snipped-for-privacy@spyring.com (Zbox) wrote in message

Three barrels will go quickly. I have one, and only use it so I have unchlorinated water for my mushroom pile. If I were to water my veggie garden, I guess I would need ten barrels, and I only have 400sqft of garden.
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Thanks everyone for your comments and suggests (and stories). As some of you have stated how you use the rain barrels for gardens, please understand that I'm only planning to use this to water a few bushes and flowers around my house. By the way, I leave in the Dallas/Fort Worth area and as far as roof size, the house is about 5000 sq ft (2 stories). I'm hoping that it will not take much rain to fill the barrels. The barrels will be connected together so that once the first one fills, it will overflow into the second, and once the second one fills, it will overflow into the third. The third barrel will simply overflow into the yard (out from the house). One thing I didn't take into consideration was the fact that dirt will fill the bottom of the barrels. I was thinking of having hoses connected to the bottom of each barrel have having all three flow down into one hose. This way I would be able to obtain water from all three barrels. My orginal idea was to place an in-line pump on the hose leading from the three barrel to provide added PSI for the drip hoses located on the other side of the house.
As far as alge, the barrel are made of thick, black plastic. The water going into the barrels would come from a downspout diverter (with manual control). I'm hoping that the manual control will allow me to divert the water after waiting a few minutes to allow the dirt from the roof to wash away.
thanks again for your comments.
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If you also live in a mosquito area, be sure to buy some mosquito-eating fish. You can usually get the little buggers free or nearly so from your local Ag dept. zemedelec
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