A Slice of Organic Life – Rainwater Barrels

Did you know:

  • If you leave a sprinkler on for an hour, it can use the same amount of water that a family of four normally uses in two days?
  • Outside watering during the hottest part of the day can mean that 90% of the water evaporates?
  • Up to 70% of the water demand on a summer’s evening is due to garden use?
  • In developed countries, we each use THREE TIMES the amount of water considered sufficient by development agencies for a person’s safe and hygienic cooking, washing and sanitation needs?

A Slice of Organic Life, Sheherazade Goldsmith

In our quest to try and lead a more “organic life”, we decided to purchase a rainwater barrel. Since we pay for city water, have a small organic garden and so many decorative flower plants, it only made sense to save a bit of water and a few bucks.

Rainwater collection units come in many different sizes and styles. We wanted a rather large (65 gallon) barrel that matched our outside “decor.” To be honest, the idea of putting a bright blue or green plastic container in the yard didn’t thrill me all that much. For those of you who don’t care about being “decorative” – go with it…they are cheaper and still do the same job. You can even make one yourself. Check with your local extension or recycling office for Rain Barrel Workshops. (Northwest Indiana Schedule)

A few “things” we ran into:

  • The container needs to be placed on a flat surface. You can also buy special stands for them, which allows you to fit a watering can under the spigot. Raising the barrel would also give you more water pressure. As you can see, ours isn’t raised but we did make a flat sitting surface out of a pile of bricks.
  • This model offered a depression in the top to be used as a flower planter. After watching the first rain fill the barrel, our spirit was crushed when that area filled up with water as well. The water comes down at such a rate that there is not enough time for draining. Oh well…planter fail.
  • Within that planter depression, there are drain holes for excess water to go down into the barrel. Makes sense, right? When installing the unit, they recommend leaning the barrel forward a few degrees, so the water can flow easily from the spigot. Again, makes sense, right? Then…why in the heck did they put the drain holes in the BACK of the planter? Planter fail #2. My husband drilled a few drain holes in the front and now it all works fine. Begin rant. Attention, Attention…has anyone seen quality control? They seem to be missing in EVERY SINGLE THING WE BUY. Rant over.
  • You’ll want to place your unit in an area where you need water the most. A longer run of hose means less water pressure. Let me warn you…water is NOT going to come spraying out of the hose. Matter of fact, it’s only going to run out at about half pace. If you are not using the rainwater for only watering can filling, you may want to just invest in a soaker hose. It’s very slow and frustrating to try and water garden plants at a one-at-a-time rate. Time would be better used to just turn the water on and let it empty on it’s own.
  • To maximize your water collection, empty your barrel as often as needed. If you hang on to the first collection all summer, how much water did you miss out on collecting?

Using a rain barrel isn’t the only way to conserve water. How about those gallons of water collected in your dehumidifier? Use it to fill a birdbath or water household plants. If I don’t need my dehumidifier water right away, I just pour it into the rain barrel for later use. Also, applying a layer of mulch around your plants will help slow down water evaporation and keep away those pesky, H2O guzzling weeds. Be sure to water your plants directly at the roots during the coolest part of the day. If you use a sprinkler, you are only throwing water up in the air for most of it to evaporate. I don’t know about you, but I prefer my water to stay in the ground where the vegetable plants can use it.

Considering a rainwater barrel yet? The Earth will thank you.

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