Rainwater collection is a great way to make the most of this natural, free resource. You can be ready for the next drought, these tips will get you started implementing a system that works for your situation.
Harvested and stored rainwater can cut city and well-water consumption by providing an alternative source for irrigating landscapes, vegetables, or small fruit gardens. Don’t limit yourself, but instead think beyond the garden – can use your collected rainwater to water your indoor plants, and even wash your car.
Before you begin collecting rainwater, you need to understand the local rules and make sure that it is allowed in your community. Unfortunately, some cities and states have laws against setting up your own water collection system. Once you understand the rules, get started.
Most rainwater collection systems simply gather the rain that comes off of the roofline. This water is usually directed away from your home and toward the local sewer system. Why not use it for the good of your garden and property before you send it into the municipal system?
Start small collect rainwater with a large planter or bucket
The simplest option to start is to position a large planter or bucket under your downspout. This can be empty or filled with a plant or shrub. Choose something that likes a lot of water, like mint. Start with a planter that is solid 9without holes) and drill a hole near the bottom of the planter so you can attach a hose. Seal it with caulk so it doesn’t leak. Make sure the hose is long enough to reach your garden or flower bed.
Place the hole directly into the garden beds where you want to have the benefit of the water. Now you’ve created a system to easily funnel the water from your rooftop into your garden.
This collection system works equally well with a 5-gallon bucket, although you’ll find that in a heavy downpour the bucket will be overrun because the water will not be able to drain fast enough. That’s when it’s time to upgrade to a larget system. You’ll also want to be sure that with the open barrel design, the water is circulating fairly frequently. If it sits stagnent and uncovered you’ll have a mosquito problem on your hands.
Many communities offer free or low-cost rain collection systems. This is particularly true if you live in a community that is dealing with drought or is particularly environmentally conscious. Check out what your community has to offer. They may have a rain collection system ready for you to pick up and start using today.
Some thrift stores, recycling centers, and landscaping facilities have low-cost or even free barrels. Take a look at the barrel and make sure there are no holes. You’ll want to choose a barrel that was used for food-grade purposes. Anything with oil or pesticides will taint the water and your garden. If the interior of the barrel looks suspect, you can try to line it with plastic sheeting. If the seller doesn’t know what was in the barrel, it’s usually best to just pass on buying them.
Position the barrel under the primary downspout for your home, or choose the downspout that is closest to your garden. Tap the barrel and insert about six inches from the bottom. Seal it with caulk and plumbing tape and you’re good to go.
Paint the exterior of the barrel in bright or fun colors. You can add polka dots, flowers, rainbows or whatever you desire. It’s a great project for children too. They can put their painted handprints on the barrel. Don’t get too attached to your artwork though, if the barrel will be in direct sunlight for extended periods of time, the paint will eventually peel away.
Considerations for your rainwater collection system
Now, while these two simple systems can get you started, there is much more to consider before you set up a permanent system in your yard.
- How much rain can you actually collect from your roof area?
- Do you have the gutters and other hardware that is necessary to make the system work?
- What will you do to divert the water if your rainwater system overflows?
- Can you incorporate permaculture swales into your landscape to catch water?
These additional resources will get you started
Harvesting Rainwater for Use in the Garden OSU Extension publication
The Texas Manual for Rainwater Harvesting by Texas.gov
Basic Components of a Rainwater Storage System from the University of Arizona
Catch More Water for Irrigation by Connecting Rain Barrels to a Rain Garden by Tenth Acre Farm
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