Friday, 18 September 2009

Solar powered tomatoes

We've installed a small solar panel on the water butt just outside the greenhouse and it's now taking care of all our tomato watering, along with our sweet peppers and a large basil plant. All we're having to do is sit back and enjoy the harvest!

And of course it's classic permaculture stuff, using Holmgren's principles 'catch and store energy' and 'use and value renewable resources and services'.

The solar panel fits on top of a long tube that goes down into the water butt - you can just see the top of the tube in the photo here.

Behind the solar panel is a small control box and battery pack. You basically just turn a dial to tell the thing how long you want the solar panel to charge up the batteries for. Every 6 hours the battery fires up and runs the pump until it runs out of power.

The pump pushes water out along narrow tubes and the kit comes with a number of T junctions and drippers, so it was a simple job to set up. You can just see the pipes coming up the side of the planters in the left photo above.

So our kit is running 5 large planters (the ones in the photo above) + 3 large plant pots. Not bad for such a little panel and battery pack! It could be doing more - the pots are getting too much water really, but there are no individual controls for each dripper with this kit.

There are loads of kits available over the internet. Having seen how well the system works, I'm tempted next time to have a go at making my own or to experiment with a gravity fed system somewhere. My veggie patches would love this!

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