All living things need water; even more so when it’s hot and dry. Of course, this also happens to be when there’s the least amount of water to go around.
If you’re trying to keep your plants healthy at the height of summer, chances are you’re contending with water shortages and hosepipe bans in your area due to decreased supply and excess demand.
This can absolutely devastate some of your more delicate plants; shrubs, seedlings, herbaceous perennials and vegetables all require careful watering and a tough heatwave can finish them off.
As climate change and population growth really start to impact water supplies, more gardeners are beginning to fully appreciate the benefits of collecting rainwater for year-round use.
Rainwater can be collected during the wet months and stored for use during the dryer months without the need for tapping into the water supply.
In many cases, rainwater is actually much better for the roots of your plants than water from the main supply as it has a lower pH and as such has less of an impact on nutrient availability.
Collecting rainwater is easy, effective and lowers the amount of carbon emissions you contribute to. Here, we look at some of the best ways of going about doing so.
Using Rain Barrels
Rainwater is a readily available source of soft water, which is the best water for gardening.
Water from your supply is not only often hard thanks to its mineral content, but is specifically treated to make it safe for human use.
This won’t harm your plants, but you are essentially splurging treated water with a hefty price tag for plants which will happily thrive off water which is not treated.
If you are seeing a water bill spike in the hotter months because you are trying to keep your garden nourished, you are wasting an awful lot of money when you can simply be collecting rain.
Rain barrels are a one-off expenditure which quickly begin paying for themselves as you start saving on water bills.
They are a relatively cheap purchase- or can easily be made yourself.
In fact, many of the components of using a rain barrel as a water collection system can be made with pre-existing features of your home.
This will be a large area for water to run-off when it rains- and for you, that area is your very own house’s roof!
With a large roof, you’d be surprised just how much water you can collect during a single 1 inch rainfall.
Directing The Flow
This will be how you siphon and funnel the water away from your roof.
Luckily, your house already does this too- the guttering around your roof directs this water to a drainpipe, which usually leads to the drains and onto the sewers.
Obviously however, this water now has a use. Your water barrel will feed directly from the drainpipe.
This is important for keeping debris and bugs out of your rain barrel. Debris quickly builds up in your guttering and encourages the growth of bacteria.
It’s especially urgent that you keep insects from your barrel at all costs- still water sources are excellent breeding grounds for many types of nasty insects, such as flies and mosquitoes.
Clear your filter regularly, and clean your water barrel once a year.
These drums can be bought from gardening stores or fashioned simply from household items, such as waste bins.
One thing that you will need is a spigot at the bottom of your drum so that you may use the collected water, for filling watering cans.
Another hose should be installed at the top of the barrel leading to a drain or another drum, so that any overflow can be easily drained away.
This method of collecting water for gardening is hugely traditional, and widely-used across the world as a necessity.
There’s no reason why you shouldn’t take the opportunity to easily and efficiently apply it to your own gardening in times where supply is low and where being more considerate with how we use is of huge importance.
Minimizing Risk From Collected Rainwater
Collected rainwater is neither clean nor safe to drink, but it is optimal for many other forms of life- not just your plants.
Harmful bacteria such as legionella and parasitic insects such as mosquitoes will breed in warm, still bodies of water- and that includes water butts and drums all over the world.
To reduce the risk of harming yourself by owning a water drum, follow these simple steps:
- Keep the drum in an area that receives around-the-clock shade. This will keep the drum cool and make the conditions less pleasant for bacteria and insects.
- By all means necessary keep the elements of your water collection system free from debris, as these can encourage the growth of bacteria
- Use a watering can or a coarse spray with your water drum. Fine sprays can aerosolize the water from the drum, meaning that bacteria from the water can be easily breathed in by the person watering. This is also true if you are using a pump to extract the water.
- Wash your hands thoroughly after using the water from the drum.
- Use the water the drum constantly- a rotation of fresh rainwater will help keep the water clean by diluting its contents
- Smelly water won’t harm your plants, but may imply a build up of debris and the flourishing of bacteria. Empty and cleans the drum and your guttering. Do not use chemicals.
- Disconnect any hoses when you are not using the water butt to discourage the growth of bacteria, and allow them to fully drain.
- Cover your barrels well so that they present no risks to small children or family pets, and seal them well so they are less inviting as breeding grounds for nasty insects.