Friday, June 27, 2008

More on Catching Rainwater

I have gotten several requests from people for more details about how I connected my barrels. So here are some detail photos and more information.The above shot shows the five barrels coming downhill. Each barrel feeds into the next with an overflow hose. "Barrel 4" has an overflow pipe as it is a steel barrel.

This is "Barrel 1". It is the primary barrel and is fed by the flexible downspout from my roof gutter. The downspout simply pours into the top of the barrel which has a screen top with a perforated plastic support insert. Sometime junk from the gutter collects in the top of this barrel and I just have to gather it and put it in the compost pile.
I drilled a hole in the top of the barrel to accommodate the fittings that I got in the plumbing department of the local hardware store. The fitting slips into the hole and has a screw on piece that hold it in the barrel. The hose then fits onto the outer piece which has barbs on it to hold the hose in place. Works pretty well. I wish that I had drilled my holes a little lower as the angle of the fitting and the arc in the hose means that the water level needs to be above the arc before the overflow begins.
During the first rain I had to adjust the hoses a bit to make it work better. Some wire and an old tent spike wedged under the hose pulls it down just enough to make it work better. The other option is to have more height difference between barrels.

This next photo shows "Barrel 3" into "Barrel 4". The tops of "Barrel 4" and "Barrel 5", my two steel barrels, are made of window screen stretched over the opening and held on with bungie cord. It is important to keep mosquitos out of your barrels. This will do it! I also like that I can open the steel barrels and soak my mushroom logs in them. The openings on the plastic barrels are too small for log soaking.

These photos show the spigots of "Barrel 4" and "Barrel 5". Again outfitted with parts gotten from the plumbing department. "Barrel 5" (silver steel barrel) has soaker hose feeding into the nearby Asparagus bed. This is the final overflow of my system and I open it when all barrels are full and more rain is coming.
The steel barrels were scavenged but the plastic barrels were purchased at out local healthy grocer, EarthFare. They came outfitted with spigots and cost $70 each. The parts to connect them all cost about $30 from the hardware store. I figure that the savings on my water bill will cover this well within the first year. Not to mention that my plants are happier without city water and I am doing my small part to conserve resources.
The barrels each hold approximately 60 gallons. So together they give me about 300 gallons. Because I have such a drop from the collection site and the garden, which is below... I can hook up a hose with a sprayer to a barrel and run it down hill to the garden and have a gravity watering system.
Generally I only water what needs watering and use a large amount of mulch to keep watering needs to a minimum.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Catching Rainwater

When I first started the garden, we set up one barrel for rainwater and we watered from that one 60 gallon barrel for the first year and a half, then added a second barrel. And this year I have added 3 more. The three orange barrels have the added value of having begun their lives as olive barrels and have been recycled into rainwater barrels. I really like that!
Each barrel overflows into the next. They are each outfitted with a plumbing fitting with a piece of hose attached that runs water into the top of the next barrel. Together they give me a 300 gallon capacity! The set-up for this system was easy. I did it myself! And it works. I had a great time during the first rain watching one barrel fill and then overflow into the next and so on. Better than watching TV! The lower steel barrel has a soaker hose that runs into the asparagus bed around the corner from the barrels. This soaker hose is the controlled overflow for when all of the barrels are full. And the Asparagus is happy to have some extra water.

I like not needing to use city water to water my garden. I like the honesty and connection when you water with a watering can. The attention that I get to pay to each and every plant seems important to me. I only water the beds that need watering. I use lots of mulch to hold the water and conserve as much as possible. During really hot and dry spells I need to resort to the sprinkler for overall watering.. But for the most part I water from the barrels.

How much water is it possible to catch in your barrels? Consider the following formula...
1 inch of rain on a 1000 sq ft roof yields 625 gallons of water. To calculate the yield of your roof, multiply the square footage of your roof by 625 and divide by 1000.
One good rainfall, and my 300 gallon capacity is overflowing!

Here in the East we have been in a severe drought for a few years now. Anything we can do to conserve will make a big difference to our environment and add to your sense of self-reliance. Catching rainwater and saving it for when you need it is a good first step.