How to Sustain Your Garden with Rainwater

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While many people claim to hate the rain, others will tell you that rain is a good thing. It waters gardens and crops, keeps the lawn soft and green, and cools off the Earth. By harvesting rainwater, you can capture these efficient effects of a good rain, even when it’s not falling from the sky. Here is everything you need to know about storing rainwater and reusing it in your in your garden.

Getting Started

In its simplest form, rainwater harvesting occurs when rain that falls onto your roof is collected by siphoning it into a large barrel. The water is then reused around the house, which helps you be a more cost-saving and self-sustaining homeowner.

Before getting started, check your state laws. In most places, it is legal to collect rainwater, but there are exceptions. Colorado does not allow rainwater harvesting, while other states, like Nevada and Oregon, have imposed limitations.

According Walden Labs, the average home roof can shower close to 600 gallons of water in 1 hour steady rainfall. If the rainwater collection is setup adequately, harvesters can collect nearly 80 percent of rain that hits their roof annually. Therefore, you need to determine how much space you have for a collection site and how much water is enough to care for your lawn and plants. Containers range from 55 gallon barrels to 10,000 gallon tanks. Once you’ve got that figured out, you’re ready to start building your rainwater collection system.

Building Your Collection System

The three main components to harvesting rainwater are catchment, transportation, and storage. A catchment is the surface the rain falls on, like a roof. Gutters are a perfect for transporting the water because they flow the water into a downspout, which hovers right over a barrel or other storage container. The concept is relatively simple, just make sure you aren’t missing any parts or pieces.

You need:

  • Large barrel with faucet
  • 2-4 concrete blocks
  • Screen to keep out bugs and debris
  • Overflow protection
  • Downspout

First, sit the barrel on top of the concrete blocks. This makes the faucet more accessible and allows for more even water flow. Then, place the screen over the opening of the barrel to prevent leaves, insects, and other trash from polluting your water supply. Also, ensure that there is an overflow port to release excess water and doesn’t erode soil as it exits. It’s best to lay down pea gravel for adequate drainage. You could also link two barrels together so that the second barrel receives all excess water. When you’re ready to start collecting rain, redirect the downspout from your gutters so that it hovers over the opening to the barrel. It’s an easy, quick, and efficient way to save and reuse water on your property.

Using the Water

Once you have collected a stockpile of water, there are many ways to use it to benefit your garden and cut down on outside water use. An obvious use is to attach a garden hose to the barrel’s faucet and use the water to hydrate your plants or yard. To determine how much water your garden requires, assume that five gallons of water are needed per eight square feet. Not only can you use it on plants in your garden, but also in decorative elements like fountains or birdbaths.

Enjoying an evening bonfire? Use the rainwater to safely extinguish the flames. Have a pair of muddy boots? Don’t get out the hose, just use your stored water. When it comes to maximizing the amount of water you use and minimizing the costs of your utility bill, think outside the box. You can use rainwater to wash your car, spray off your porch or patio, or wash outdoor tools.

The tips offered here are best for beginner rainwater harvesters. Once you’ve mastered the basics for collecting rainwater, there are more complex systems that you could move on to.