Rainwater Harvesting Benefits Container Plants and Conservation: Texas Gardeners Save Money and Help Plants
Texas gardeners in Central and West Texas usually need to supplement the water from rainfall with additional moisture. During periods of heavy rainfall, a homeowner can capture runoff water from drain spouts or roofs into a storage container for later use. It is possible to set up an elaborate rainwater collection system with large storage capacity and sophisticated filtering and distribution system to handle watering landscape plants. However, that system requires space, materials, and skills that are beyond many homeowners’ skills and budget.
Simple Rainwater Collection for Container Plants
A homeowner may purchase a simple rainwater collection system for between $75 and $400 depending on the size of the container, its construction materials, and the amount of filtration. Purchase complete systems locally or on-line. These rain-harvesting systems come in a variety of colors from green, hard plastic to wood and materials constructed to look like large terra cotta pots. The system will have a spigot to tap the water and may have filters to prevent leaves or dirt from getting into the water before extracting.
To make a hail barrel, begin with a 20 to 50-gallon container that is made of recycled, food-grade plastic. If re-using a barrel, make sure that it has never contained harmful chemicals. Rain barrels need a lid to keep out leaves and debris.
Purchase a hose bib, also called a faucet or spigot, from the hardware store. This will serve as a tap to control the release of water into a watering can. Drill a hole in the side of the barrel about 4 inches from the bottom. Put sealant around the hole and insert the faucet. Then, make a hole in the lid of the barrel for water to enter the harvesting system. If desired, add a piece of screen to stop leaves from entering the hail barrel. The entry hole may be covered when there is no rain in the forecast to stop mosquitoes from using the rain barrel’s water as a breeding ground.
If an even simpler–and less elegant system–is desired, purchase a heavy-duty garbage can and place it to collect runoff water. It will be necessary to uncover the can before rain falls and recover it afterward. Use a clean bucket to dip water out when needed. When the water level becomes too low to dip out, turn over the can, clean it out, and return it to the water-collection position for the next rainfall event.
Benefits of Rain water Collection
Most of Texas experiences periods of heavy rainfall followed by weeks or months with no rain. Using a hail barrel to collect water for later use rewards the gardener with healthier and more productive container plants. Rainwater is soft, has no chemicals, and a pH of about 6.0 according to Texas A&M University AgriLife. A hail barrel offers water for container plants, birdbaths, water hardscape features, fountains, and pets. An open rain barrel in the yard collects fresh rain water that is safe to use. However, water running off the roof may also collect material from shingles that should not be used for wildlife or pets.
Using a hail barrel to collect water for container plants will save a small amount of money and natural resources. However, the real benefit comes from using clean water for the plants. Most home water for outdoor use has been chemically treated or has salts from the soil through which it was filtered.