Rain, Rain, Come and Stay

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If you have a garden, or even a few flower pots, you understand the importance of water. You also understand that it can get quite expensive to run the hose for a few hours each day: what many plants and gardens require. To save a few dollars, I created a rain collection system.

With some trial and error over the last two and a half years, we now have three barrels (left over from construction sites that my husband works on) full of rain water, oxygenating plants, and a dozen guppies (my goldfish never survive for several reasons).

A few months ago, I spray painted each barrel a dark green (they used to be a bright blue). It is really much more pleasing to the eye. A rain gutter empties into the top barrel, which sits on a stand that my husband made. I am still learning the basics of woodworking so don’t ask me any particulars on that design (it’s pretty simple anyway). Some plastic piping feeds the next barrels.

Only the top barrel has a nozzle; I use the other two barrels as wells and make sure to leave plenty of water for the fish. The fish are necessary for eating mosquito larvae and do not require much attention. The fish do much better with plants in the barrels because they need some source of oxygen. Hornroot is what is currently floating in my barrels.

To keep the water from stagnating, I purchased a small fountain that operates on solar power. It is completely submersible and helps keep the water crystal clear.

This water is not clear because the fountain was “missing” (thank you Sergio) for a few days. However, it’s chock full of fish fertilizer.

The water is not treated because it comes from the sky. The fish add nutrients to the water and everything goes right back into the ground. I always have plenty of free water on hand, as long as the rains are favorable. There is work involved, however, and I have a few quick tips.

  • Get a long hose, and try to use it on a slope. The water that exits the top barrel is not pressurized, so gravity is your best friend when transporting the water via a hose.
  • Use a watering can, or recycle big plastic containers like the one above (it’s an old Cheese Puff container) to carry water.
  • Empty your barrels often if you don’t have fish or a fountain yet; mosquitoes go crazy for these barrels when there are no predators to snatch them up.
  • Cover the tops with grates. Fortuna once leaped right into one, and had to be pulled out before she drowned (I was right there so no time was lost). Children also love to look into them (it is cool to see the fish!) so use supervision or make it impossible to fall in.
  • Make ’em pretty by placing pots around the bases, floating bog plants on top, hanging vines above. The barrels often overflow so any nearby plants will get water also. This year, I have been adding rocks (large, small, pretty, ugly) to the area. Invent a place around your barrels: an oasis, if you will.
  • Save lots of money by upcycling. There are wood barrels on the market that are quite expensive. If you use a little paint and some flower staging, any plastic barrel can be just as pretty. An old garbage can could work too.
  • Downspouts can be shortened or lengthened depending on your desired height of barrel. Take a look around your house and decide which downspout you would like to modify. Make sure your barrels will be in an easily-accessible place. Make sure they’re not too far from your garden; carrying water across the yard can really wear on your shoulders and back.

Collecting water is a great way to save money and give your plants some extra nutrients. If it doesn’t rain much where you are rain barrels are even more helpful. Check your city’s rules and regulations first (I have heard of laws against them so do some research in your area and especially if you live in the Southwest) and don’t start without a plan: mosquitoes are a serious problem if you don’t care for the water correctly.

However you decide to collect water will save you some money and help your plants in the end. There are so many ways to save in the garden and this is only one of them. Happy rain collecting!

This post had to be updated to fix grammatical errors and such so many times later in the day. That brings me to another tip: drink lots of water while you are bringing it to everyone else.