Magazine article Sunset

Collecting and Storing Rainwater

Magazine article Sunset

Collecting and Storing Rainwater

Article excerpt

RATHER THAN ALLOW rainwater to flow out through gutters and into storm drains this winter, why not save it to use in the garden? By collecting rainwater, you not only get a clean, free source of water for irrigating plants, but also use a precious commodity that's in short supply these days.

Rainwater collected in barrels provides backup irrigation for valuable landscape plants during dry spells. Stored rainwater is also a high-quality source for house plants, seedlings, orchids, and other plants that may be sensitive to chemicals and salts found in some wells and city water supplies.

If rainwater is directly routed into the landscape as shown on page 54, even 1/4 inch of rain will give plants a deep soaking. When routed underground, water can be directed right to plant roots.



Just a few inches of rain are enough to provide thousands of gallons of runoff from an average-size roof; the amount of water that you can collect is limited only by the size of your containers. Large containers can be expensive, however, and most gardeners don't have room for a huge tank.

Simpler, easy-to-install options (shown on page 52) include garbage can systems that you put together yourself and rain barrels that come ready to use. All capture water from downspouts. If a downspout is too low, or situated where you can't conveniently put a barrel, you can reroute it by adding pipe elbows and extension pieces.

You can get water out of homemade systems in a number of ways: dip it out with a bucket, suction it out with a hose, pump it with a small submersible pump, or add a spigot (manufactured barrels come with spigots).

To make a spigot that allows substantial flow (see top picture on page 52), use pipe glue to attach a 1 1/2-inch piece of 3/4-inch pipe into each end of a 1-inch ball valve. Glue a 3/4-inch male adapter over the 3/4-inch pipe on one end, and a slip-slip elbow on the opposite end. To install the spigot, use a 1-inch bit to drill a hole into the side of the barrel. Slip a 5/8-inch rubber washer over the male adapter, then push the adapter through the hole. Add another 5/8-inch washer over the end inside the barrel; secure with a nut.

If you want the barrel to drain completely, set the spigot low and place the barrel on blocks so you can get a watering can under it. …

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