Meet the Van Akens

Farming off the grid.
Rain water collection.

Many gardeners would like to cultivate a piece of land and providing water to the sight is expensive. With a solar powered rainwater collection system, it’s affordable, maintainable and can be scaled to fit any garden plot.

Polyprophene tanks in the 1,000 to 2,500 gallon size can meet most gardeners’ needs, while small 50 gallon tanks can be helpful for a backyard plot. Tanks are weakened by exposure to constant sunlight, so a pole barn or shed structure can be made.
Rainwater natural acidity (6.8) can help balance an alkaline soil PH as well as alkaline well water (7.6). Rainwater is better than city water because it has more beneficial minerals. It also has plant algae present which are killed by the chemicals in city water.

To dispense your collected rainwater using solar power you will need :

1. Two 12 volt deep cycle batteries (retail 65.00 each)
2. 60 Minute fan timer. (H.Depot 25.00)
3. 12 volt solar gate charger (65.00 Farm supply)
4. 12 volt Shurflo 5.7 Smart pump (RV supply 165.00)


By using 12 volt DC to power your rainwater system , you will be recharging your system using the sun. Larger solar cells are available online these days that can offer even larger wattage. However we have found that the 12 volt DC system is sufficient to run a fairly large garden area (1000 sq. ft.)

Once the collection system is in place, designing the piping can be very basic. Decide whether the complete garden can be watered at one time or whether two valves are needed. Note: Always maintain a 5/8 inch inner diameter to eliminate restrictions in your PVC tubing.

We recently Automated our watering system with a 12 volt Altronix 4 relay timer board. Bought online, it will allow 4 relays to turn on or off at any time during the 7 day week cycle. All on 12 volts.

 

Soil Management

Watering of the plants can be done through tubing and drip-tape or tubing and spot emitters. Both water systems are available from ”Submatic” , who is a leading supplier of farms in our area.
Once the garden is amended and planted the Organic approach to maintaining a healthy soil has been written by many well known gardeners. Two approaches to your garden that are consistently supported are:

  1. Mulch all areas with 1 inch of compost to add back organic matter and aid in water retention. By mixing grass cuttings, leaves and manure in a ring, 6 feet diameter and three foot high, you will produce great amounts of mulch.
  2. Add compost tea to your fertilize treatment and give the soil beneficial organisms to help in plant growth. Many sizes and types of compost tea are available. Size one that will give you sufficient tea for your garden size. Here is our compost tea system and costs.
  1. 55 gallon plastic drum (Blanco General 17.50)  
  2. 30-50 gallon aquarium pump   
  3. Pantyhose for “tea Bag” (Dollar General 1.00)  
  4. 3/4 cup of Medina Liquid humus  
  5. 1 liter of worm castings and 3 liter of Compost

Optional additives can be corn meal to the tea bag

This method uses 2 liters of Natural Gardener's Re-Vitalizer compost  placed in one leg of a pantyhose and 1 liter of compost and 1 liter of worm castings in other leg. It's ends are tied in a knot to be supported at the top in water with constant aeration. In about 36 hours, it will yield 50 gallons of black compost tea.

This process can be scaled affordable down to a five gallon bucket, for a small backyard garden.




Coming Soon

Renewable, Sustainable Energy

We hope to install wind and more solar power on the farm. Our next project is to supply our greenhouse.

Anyone wanting to give or learn advice on this project please email Fred at

heronsnest@txwinet.com