Kevin Murphy – My Drip Garden Journey

I retired from my career in the federal prison system in December of 2009. It was mentally taxing and consumed many hours of my life.  I was never able to spend much time pursuing one of my passions—gardening—during those 25 years.  Time constraints aside, I didn’t have the energy or tools that maintaining a garden requires, nor did I have a convenient plot in the yard that received adequate sunshine.  If only I had a container garden…

However, I quickly realized that nothing on the market lined up with my vision; in fact, nothing even came close. I wanted a “real” garden and wasn’t interested in growing a handful of leafy greens in a hydroponic system or a few small vegetable plants in one of the large plastic container kits.  There was plenty of space and sunlight to have a garden on our patio and deck, so I spent many hours thinking about what would be needed, combing through gardening magazines and websites.  There were gardening catalogs, research material, and sketches littering just about every flat surface of our house for many months.

Kevin Murphy - My Drip Garden Journey
Kevin Murphy – My Drip Garden Journey

By May of 2009, my patio was covered with containers of all sizes, and upside-down tomato bags were hanging from hooks on every deck post. I was determined to figure out which aspects of current gardening products worked and which ones didn’t.  Spring was in full swing–plenty of sunshine on my patio and deck, the vegetable plants looked healthy and strong.  I could almost taste the fresh tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers and eggplants to be harvested.

By early June, things went south.  My plants were no longer thriving, and by the end of the month, my well-planned garden was barely clinging to life. To make matters worse, my wife and I were leaving on an 8-day vacation, so I knew my earlier dreams of a thriving garden harvest were nothing more than hopeful delusions.

Here’s the problem:  to flourish and produce, large vegetable plants must have a consistent and even amount of moisture in the growing medium. It was fairly easy to accomplish that during the spring, but as my plants began to bloom and fruit, it was almost impossible to keep them adequately watered in the blistering summer sun; I was watering 3 or more times a day and fertilizing weekly, and my plants were still more closely resembling oven roasting bags than plant containers.

So much for all that work.

While reflecting on my garden failures, I realized all was not lost. I had learned some very valuable lessons about container gardening. After all, I had wanted to find out what worked and what didn’t, so that had been accomplished.  First, I could not possibly be the only person on the planet who experienced these problems. I had done due-diligence: researched magazines and books, purchased recommended containers and high-quality plants, placed them in areas that received plenty of sun, and I watered frequently and routinely applied fertilizer.

This got me thinking about another gardening hurdle– homes with little or no yards—especially urban areas where space is limited and plant life is few and far between.  Sure, there was the options of small hydroponic and large plastic container gardens, but those are limited in their capabilities.  Wasn’t it possible to bring the satisfaction of growing one’s own produce to people without large plots of land?  All kinds of things are collapsible and space saving now, so why not a garden?  I began thinking about it more and more.

The idea came to me early one morning in Fall of 2009:  a self-feeding, self-watering, automatic garden – collapsible and programmable.  I rolled out of bed, grabbed the pencil and notebook I kept on my nightstand, stumbled into the living room and began to sketch the first of the renderings of what would become the Drip Garden™ 9 years later.  Initially, my sketches more closely resembled a UFO than a garden, but it was a start.  A pop-up frame, injector fertilizer system, manifold, drip tubing, micro emitters, and collapsible arms to hold six plant bags.

That same day, I went to the local hardware store to purchase PVC pipe, straps, bolts, buckets, bags, tubing, and ordered several specialty items that were not available locally.  I spent the next several weeks revising rough technical drawings and piecing together my invention—thus marking the birth of an obsession and the first of thousands of hours of work.  The unique hubs that I needed couldn’t be found locally or online, so I manufactured the pieces on a wood lathe out of 14” blocks of red oak. Not ideal, but they served their intended purpose…

In May 2010, my first prototype was fully assembled and ready to go!  The plant bags, some purchased and others homemade, were filled with potting mix, a wide variety of vegetables and a few flowers. At this point, I was not using a programmable water timer, but my system had a backflow preventer, filter/injector, manifold, drip tubing and 6 micro drip emitters.

By Summer 2010, I realized plants were still thriving in the hot and humid Southern Illinois climate, rather than shriveling up like last year’s garden.  In addition to the many vegetables, herbs, and strawberries, I planted 7 sunflower seeds.  They did look rather out of place growing in the same bags with fruit and vegetables—sunflowers shooting out the top, while cucumbers, tomatoes and peppers spewed out of the bottoms and sides.  One very hot day in July, I decided to turn off the micro emitters supplying the sunflowers and vegetables. Remarkably, all of the sunflower heads were laying on my patio after 43 minutes without water and perked back up 4 hours after turning the supply back on.  Shortly thereafter, my wife and I again left town for vacation, and 8 days later, we returned home to a beautiful garden.  In addition to the sunflowers, we harvested a huge amount of cucumbers, peppers and tomatoes of all types, and herbs.  Strange as the sunflowers looked, they grew to be an impressive 6 1/2’—and while I certainly don’t plan to grow sunflowers in my Drip Garden™ again, it demonstrated the effectiveness of drip irrigation.  My prototype worked!  Yes, it required further development and engineering, but it was a positive beginning.

Kevin Murphy - My Drip Garden Journey
Kevin Murphy – My Drip Garden Journey

Next came the painstaking task of getting a patent.  Lots of waiting on pins and needles, and big money for a tight 20-year utility patent. It was a daunting thing to do.  My wife and I were investing a considerable sum of money into this dream that could end up falling through; but as my brother often said to me, “if you’re unwilling to bet on yourself, who will?” After three years and several challenges, I was awarded a patent from the United States Patent Office. It was a long and difficult process that had finally paid off. Over 8 years and thousands of hours – and a large chunk of change – I had invented and patented the first programmable, automatic, self-watering, self-feeding, collapsible garden!

Drip Garden™ will revolutionize gardening as we know it with its all-in-one self-watering, self-feeding capabilities and collapsible design that requires only 4’ x 4’ of space — it is the perfect solution for just about any backyard, patio, deck, or rooftop planting.  Easy set up takes only minutes, requires little effort, making it great for both young and old.  Drip Garden™ offers affordable, green, sustainable gardening for serious gardeners, those of us with the blackest of thumbs, and everyone in between. There is no need for pesticides or herbicides to grow your own vegetables, fruits, herbs and flowers. Thanks to the programmable digital timer, you’ll no longer have to burden a friend or neighbor by asking them to tend to your garden while you’re out of town.  Its micro-drip emitting technology saves water, satisfying local codes governing water restriction. Drip Garden™ is designed to last many seasons:  Its aluminum frame is lightweight, durable, and of course, won’t rust.  Its heavy-duty plant bags are made with a durable UV resistant outer shell, breathable mesh liner and reinforced webbing.  Drip Garden™ is made with stainless steel and brass hardware and every last component part is replaceable, so there is no need to buy an entirely new unit if a piece is lost or damaged.

We’ve spent the last two years rigorously testing and modifying prototypes to ensure Drip Garden™ is ready for market and we’re confident in its function and durability.  We stand behind our product–should any issue arise, it will be addressed and corrected; no one will work harder to ensure customers are satisfied.  Drip Garden™ is proudly assembled in the United States.

Drip Garden’s™ unique design makes gardening fun and enjoyable.  After a quick and easy setup, attach a standard garden hose, add drip tabs, potting mix and plants, set the timer, turn on the water and watch your Drip Garden™ grow.  It truly is that simple.

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