Greetings from the South Central Region! I am pleased and honored to be your new regional reporter for Birds and Blooms magazine, and I look forwardto an exciting year of blogging ahead. I have many interests, most of which revolve around nature, gardening, cycling, and sustainability, so blogging here and posting the regular regional reports feels like a good fit to me. I am also honored to be in such fine company with the other regional reporters and bloggers. I’ve enjoyed reading their initial posts, and I know you will, too. And now that that little introduction is out of the way, let’s start the conversation!
Well, we’ve both had our rest, and probably like most of you, I’m now itching to get back out there. Unfortunately, unless you live on the southern coast, it’s probably still a little too early to do much garden planting. That doesn’t mean there aren’t things we can get started on, however. In fact, now is the time I always like to work on garden structure—the hardscaping and doo-dad building that I won’t have time to do later in the growing season.
One of the projects I turn to on a yearly basis is the collection of rainwater. This is an ongoing enterprise of mine as I continually work on increasing my storage capacity. Storage, in fact, is the primary limiter on the ability to catch and put rainwater runoff to use. According to a number of websites devoted to rainwater harvesting, 2000 square foot can capture around 1000 gallons of water for every 1” of rain (this figure assumes about 80% efficiency in capture). So if, as I do, you live in a climate where the average rainfall is 18”, it is theoretically possible to harvest 18,000 gallons of water a year.
Unfortunately, I have no place to store 18,000 gallons of water. Things would work out nicely if those inches of rain were regularly spaced out, so that I could count on replenishing supplies as soon as I run out. As we all know, though, rains come in seasons, so I tend to run out of my water harvest in the long stretches between thunderstorms.
Consequently, I am always looking to add storage tanks to my collection system. The kinds I prefer are galvanized stock tanks, as with these seen here (in a photo I took last year), covered with a blanket of snow and waiting for spring, just like me:
There are other options, however, including commercially made plastic barrels. In any case, unless you are fortunate to find something to recycle as a rain barrel (like old trash cans), you can expect to pay around a dollar a gallon for whatever collection system you use.
Many barrels can simply be placed where water rolls off a roof top corner, but to work most efficiently, a gutter system should be used. You can either install one yourself, or have it professionally done. The gutters themselves will have to cleared of debris about four times a year.
Finally, care must be paid to sealing off every entry to the stored water with a mosquito screen. This includes the top of the barrel, where the water comes in, the exit, where any hoses connect to drain the water, and any overflow tubes. If mosquitoes do manage to get into your barrels, you must drain them completely and start over, making every attempt to locate and seal all potential points of entry.
First, however, I need to scrape and re-paint our house trim, and then hire someone to install professional gutters. The limiter in this case is the scraping and painting, which is not a favorite chore of mine. But painting the house and installing two more tanks gives me something to do while I’m waiting for spring to arrive, and with it, the return of the garden.