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  1. Dear all, I would like to share with you a pictorial of this ‘self-sufficient’ watering table I recently constructed. I was looking for a solution to avoid having to continuously water my (mainly) Sarraceniaceae collection and especially during holidays etc. I came up with a design for a setup which collects rainwater in a reservoir and automatically pumps it to the highest watering table above the reservoirs with a solar powered pump in a continuous cycle. This is the original design (sorry, this part is in Dutch): Because I grow my plants on the balcony (I live in Amsterdam and unfortunately don’t have the luxury of a ‘real’ garden) I first had to find a way to collect the rainwater. Our rain pipe is square and there aren’t any pre-made rain water collectors available for square pipes (only for round pipes). That meant I had to make and weld one myself from zinc metal. Next I had to make a hole in the side of the rain pipe and slide in the adapter. To make the cross-over between pipe and adapter inside the pipe as smooth as possible I overlapped the edges with aluminum isolation tape (which is normally used to attach reflective isolation foil behind radiators etc.). Aluminum isolation tape is thin, strong and relatively resistant against corrosion. I also use it to cover the outside of plastic containers when they are in full sun. This reflects the sunlight and keeps the pot and roots cool. I left the top of the adapter open so in case we get a Dutch ‘flooding’ shower the excess water can find a way out and doesn’t take down the adapter or cause other kind of damage. I made a ‘safety valve’ cover from aluminum which just slides in and isn’t attached permanently. If need be it will just ‘pop’ out so the excess water can escape. Because the rain pipe is on the shady end of my balcony and the plants are on the sunny (other) side of the balcony I had to put in quite a lot of length of rain pipe (40 mm) to get it all the way to the other side of the balcony (to make the pipes as less visible as possible I hid it behind the plant pots which sit on the outer wall) I used two reservoirs which contain 2x 150 litres = 300 liters of rainwater. The watering tables themselves contain another 100 liters (= 400 liters in total) and offer a little over 2 square meters of growing space). I hope 400 liters of water will proof to be enough during longer hot periods without rain, if not I will have to put in another one or two reservoirs. I believe I once read somewhere that one Sarracenia can use up to a liter of water per day on hot days. Any growers who have experience or can confirm this? I connected both reservoirs with a standard ‘rainwater butt connector’ as low to the ground as possible. I wanted to filter both the water collected from the roof (it could contain leaves and dirt etc.) and the water which comes back from the watering table above to avoid damage to the solar pump. First I covered the reservoirs with thick polystyrene isolation boards (to reduce evaporation). I then made a square hole to fit in a basket which is normally used for pond plants. I lined this with a filtering cloth used for aquarium pumps. In future I can just take this out, rinse it and put it back. I covered the basket with the cut out lid and made a round hole for the rain pipe. To catch the water which will be running back from the watering table above I connected an extra pipe to the diagonal rain pipe going down. In this the hose from the watering table above will be inserted. (You may notice I made an mistake here, because the parts were already glued together I couldn’t correct it anymore and had to fit in the additional second (correct) one later on after discovering my error) On the left I inserted a vertical rain pipe all the way to the bottom into the reservoir which at a later stage will function as a water level indicator. The first water table from Zinc has been placed on top. The size of both tables is 175 x 61 x 20 cm. To pump up the water I use a solar pump which is normally used for garden fountains (Esotec, Napoli). To prevent damage this pump will automatically shut itself of as soon as the water level is too low. Not all solar pumps have this essential feature. This pump also has enough power to pump up the water to the required height (not all pumps do). I connected a piece of garden hose (13 mm) and placed it in the left reservoir; this to ensure the maximum possible water flow between the reservoirs and to avoid stagnating water. The pump has suction cups to prevent the pump from drifting and to secure it to the bottom. The other end of the hose is connected to a bronze connector (normally used to connect a garden hose to a watertap) I then placed the second supporting structure to carry the lowest water table. Behind the doors it’s possible to store, pots, potting medium, plantlabels etc. These are three close-up pictures of the standard 32mm plumbing connectors I used. These are glued to one end of a standard ‘rainwater butt connector’. In order to tell how much water the reservoirs contain I made a water level indicator. This is a simple wine cork to which I attached multiple drinking straws (which are very light and strong). On top I glued a colored bead. As soon as the bead is the same height as the top of the pipe I know I need to temporary water my plants until the next rainfall. I will replace the cork every year as I suspect it will eventually become waterlogged Here you see the solar panel itself. It’s of a decent (not too big) size and can be placed in an angle with a support on the back (inclusive). A few days after completion the first rain fell (10mm) and I could finally test it. The reservoirs were full to the brim and once the sun came out the pump came into action and filled both water tables quite rapidly. To my opinion it was flowing a bit too fast (600 liters per hour is the maximum capability of this pump) so I had to find a way to reduce the flow. First I shaded just one side of the solar panel. The pump simply wouldn’t work so I had to come up with another way. I then wrapped the solar panel twice in green agricultural sun filtering material. This worked very well and not only is the flow optimal now it also ‘hides’ the solar panel and makes it less visible (you can see the water flowing on the background). I have been using this system for over a month now and I am quite pleased with it. I can enjoy growing them without having to worry about having to water them on hot days (especially when on holiday). An extra ‘bonus’ is the sound of trickling water which has a bit of ‘Zen’ feeling to it. I haven’t fully used all the new growing space (I haven’t got enough plants yet to fill the space). To reduce evaporation on hot days as much as possible I use the same white polystyrene isolation boards. Over time I’m sure both water tables will be full with plants. The container with green agricultural sun filtering material on top contains a few Cephalotus plants and one Heliamphora nutans (which all survived the frosts (-5 degrees Celsius) this winter). The plants showed on the picture are still in dormant state. In summer I will post a picture with plants in optimum condition. In the coming months I will keep a close eye on it and see whether the system will continue to work well. I suspect the sun will warm up the zinc metal in full frontal view quite a bit and over time slowly warm up the water. If this is the case I will cover the sides with reflective isolation foil (normally used behind radiators etc.) If there are any other adjustments required I will report it in this forum. I hope you have enjoyed this pictorial and wishing you happy CP growing this season. Reinier
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