This should be an exciting year in the AutoGardens. The experiences from Year 1 are the basis for some dramatic changes. I am busy making those changes right now so I can't go into too much detail at this time.
Below are the changes and the reasoning for making the changes
1-New style of water lifter.
The Archimedes-style water lifter takes up too much space since it can't stand vertically. Also the motor that I used to drive it costs around twenty dollars. The new style of water lifter is based on a spiral pump made from 1/2" PVC piping and took all winter to develop and test. It is run by a $4 motor and three AA batteries.
The issue with the failure of the vertical water lifter while I was on vacation has convinced me that I need a bit more redundancy in my set up. So now I have developed racks that are 2 feet wide and 6 feet long and each rack has a water lifter. The high number of racks (currently 13 racks with 10 buckets on each rack) means that I will be able to collect a lot more information for improvements next year.
Everything is painted in Rustoleum Hunter green oil-based paint.
4-Integral water tanks
Each rack has its own water tank. This keeps everything neat and tidy. No need for interconnected tanks and siphon hoses.
5-No solar collectors
The new pumps will run much less often because I will have new style water controllers on each rack. The three AA batteries are estimated to run for half the summer. I can buy them for 25 cents each
6-Intensive use of Pink Foam Board.
Wherever possible this light weight insulating material (1" thick) is used for the construction. It can be painted with the Rustoleum paint and can have nice water-tight seams using silicone caulk adhesive and long decking screws. It isn't strong so I am using various support layers in the racks