Many home gardeners or aspiring gardeners take up this activity as part of their efforts toward saving the planet. By growing something in your garden or even on the windowsill, you can conserve resources and increase beneficial greenery in your area.
Whether you’re growing crops for your own kitchen, running a small business, or just gardening because you enjoy it, there are many ways to be more ecological in your endeavors. One major step here is to conserve and save water for your garden whenever possible.
Every plant needs some watering every now and then, especially during its optimal growing time. If we have a decent-sized garden, the water consumption for that alone could run to several hundred gallons per year. By conserving rainwater for our garden, we can save on our water bill and make our gardening greener.
Another reason to use rainwater for the garden is that it is much better for plants than ordinary tap water in most areas. As long as you have accessible water containers that can collect rainwater, you will have a nice advantage for your plants. These containers are usually called water butts or rainwater barrels. You can also look into installing a slimline water tank for your garden.
A Simple Rain Barrel
The easiest and most popular method for collecting rainwater is simply to gather whatever falls off our roof. If you already have gutters around your home, the next step is to install a downspout. Get a water barrel that’s contaminant free and convert it into your rain barrel. Whenever it rains, the water will simply flow into the barrel automatically. Here are some other tips to keep in mind if you go for this method:
- Put a screen on the opening to keep out animals, insects, and large debris.
- Install a spigot near the base
- If you can’t attach the spigot to a garden hose, then raise the barrel enough to put a watering can under it. This will help you get water quickly and effectively for watering your plants
- Ensure that the water barrel stand is large and sturdy enough to support your barrel without breaking, bending, or letting the whole thing slip off. For a quick calculation: a gallon of water is around 8.3 pounds. If your water barrel holds around 50 gallons, your stand should be able to hold around the 415-pound weight of a full barrel.
- In case one barrel isn’t enough, you can connect several barrels to each other. Simply join them near the top using a pipe. This way, the overflow from the first barrel goes into the second and so on. If you buy commercially-made barrels, they might have kits especially for linking up several units.
- If you have several downspouts, you can attach a pipe to each one and link up the barrels that way.
Estimating the Rainwater Runoff
If you want to estimate how much water will run off the roof and into your barrel, multiply the inches of rain by the square foot area of your roof by 0.62. The last value is the volume in gallons.
For instance, a roof that’s 10 feet wide and 15 feet long will be 150 square feet. If there are two inches of rain, we will multiply 150 x 2 x 0.62. This gives us 186 expected gallons.
What Are Slimline Water Tanks?
If you need a lot of rainwater and a more automated system, look into the option of slimline water tanks. These are also known as rainwater tanks; their concept is quite straightforward. Here’s a glimpse at how it goes:
- The tank collects the rainwater
- The water can then be purified for either drinking or bathing. Even if it’s for the garden, it will probably require a little treatment
- You can connect the water to your own irrigation system so that it automatically fills up the water barrels in your garden.
Advantages of Slimline or Rainwater Tanks
- They’re not difficult to maintain. All you have to do is make sure the gutters are clear and that the pipework has no holes, especially where it connects to the tank
- Installing and operating the rainwater tank is also fairly easy and worth your while if you care about the environment
- It’s a cost-effective solution for saving on your water utility bill. As long as the tank is properly installed, it might even be utilized for your entire home plumbing system.
- Most buildings have the perfect roof for catching rainwater with this tank; you can reduce your ground water pump usage, thus saving on fuel as well.
- Rainwater is also better than most groundwater due to the lower level of harmful chemicals in it
- With stored rainwater on hand, you’d be better prepared in areas that are prone to bushfires.
- This tank can even reduce flooding chances in high-risk areas. This is because switching to this clean water source reduces erosion of the soil and prevents dangerous chemicals from entering natural water sources.
Disadvantages of Rainwater Tanks
However, it’s important to remember that slimline tanks aren’t for everyone. Here are some disadvantages of these tanks to keep in mind:
- These tanks are pretty dependent on rainfall, so they’re best suited to places where there are regular downpours.
- Since rainfall is unpredictable in certain places, we can’t depend on such tanks for our sole supply of water.
- Initial costs might be expensive depending on where you live and the kind of system you want. This is somewhat similar to solar panels, where the installation costs are high but the savings are good enough to pay off the system in 10-15 years. Again, though, this depends on the rainfall in your area
- The system will require a lot of upkeep and maintenance. While the actual work is easy enough, you do have to stay on your toes to ensure that everything keeps running smoothly.
- Certain roof types may allow insects, animal droppings, or chemicals to enter the water, especially if it’s utilized for irritating plants.
- The tank capacity will have a limit, so it’s not like you have unlimited water on hand.
Saving Water Versus Having an Outside System Installed
Not every garden will have an outdoor tap or a proper irrigation system installed. Even if you do, setting up the garden hose every single time can be a hassle. Some gardeners end up choosing lightweight hose for their garden, but having water barrels at various points in your garden is a logical long-term solution.
When Drought Hits
If there’s an ongoing drought in your area, which is more and more likely with each passing year, having some sort of water conservation system will be a necessity. In these times, the government usually bans the use of garden hoses, sprinklers, or other irrigation systems. If you already have a slimline water tank or water barrels in place, you can save a lot on water costs and also keep your garden going without breaking the law.
Purchasing Water Barrels
Having rainwater barrels for water storage is a good idea, but you do have to keep certain factors in mind. Some of these are as follows:
- The barrels should be made of food-grade plastic or some other safe material. Otherwise, you can have harmful chemicals leaching into your water.
- The rainwater is not drinkable as is, so don’t think that it can be used as an alternative drinking supply. If you want to drink the water, put it through a simple purification process such as boiling or pouring through a water filter. For more information, you can read up on the different kinds of water purification.
- Water barrels come in different sizes, so analyze how much water you want to store and buy accordingly.
- Some barrels come with their own tap kit; others might require you to purchase one separately. You may also have to purchase a water barrel stand to ensure easy access and operation.
Stay Within the Legal Limits
This warning might surprise you, but collecting rainwater can actually be illegal in certain parts of the world. Before you think about collecting rainwater using any method, make sure to check your local laws and ordinances. A simple online search should clear things up for you regarding state laws, but you can always ask the local authorities for verification about your particular region.
In any case, you should be very careful when storing water anywhere. Without a proper screen on the opening of a barrel of tank, all that water could be a hazard for small pets and children. Always make sure to stay alert and responsible; even if you don’t have kids, there could be curious neighboring children around who might fall into a barrel or tank of water.
The storage of your water barrels is another point to keep in mind. Here are some points to remember:
- If you live in an area with harsh winters, empty out all the remaining water before the frost arrives.
- The barrels should go in a place where they won’t get damaged by any ice or snow coming off your roof
- Even heavy duty plastic water barrels might crack in extreme temperatures. If these are expected, keep the barrels in a shed or garage.
At the end of the day, collecting rainwater and saving it makes a lot of sense. Many people who are living off the grid or just want to be more self-sufficient might be looking for ways to save and conserve this water for later use. Along with saving money, gardeners who have stored water won’t be as affected by dry summers, droughts, or access restrictions.
If you have your water system all planned out, it’s time to think about enhancing your gardening routine. Read up on the best supplies for gardening to make your efforts more productive and satisfying.