The Surprising Efficiency of Rain Barrels
I have a neighbor who has a pretty large yard and uses a good portion of the space for gardening and growing herbs. They have three raised garden beds that are quite large, a greenhouse, and their yard is bordered by an array of berry bushes, flowers and a number of different medicinal plants. Consequently, they use quite a bit of water to keep everything growing, especially as mid-summer temperatures begin to rise.
A Little Goes a Long Way
While water is cheap and abundant in this part of the country, they didn’t want to be using treated municipal water on their garden or plants. So, they decided to install two sets of 50 gallon rain barrels on either side of their house a couple of months ago. I had a chance to talk with her about how effective they were and whether or not the payoff was worth the time and energy to install them. She said that she was blown away at how much water they have been able to collect. She also was surprised that the amount of water they did collect would stretch so far.
I was surprised as well, because 50 gallon barrels don’t seem that big, and each one is only about 18 inches wide and three feet tall. In any case, their total capacity is 200 gallons, and she said that was more than enough to keep her garden watered without emptying the barrels. In fact, it only rained about three times since they installed the barrels, and these weren’t big rains either. We’ve actually been going through an unseasonably-dry summer so far.
If I had to guess how much area gets watered on a daily basis, I would say at least 1000 square feet. Consequently, two pairs of rain barrels that are connected to two downspouts has been able to provide an endless supply.
Keeping Things Simple
They also have a pretty simple system set up, and it follows the common pattern of one barrel being mounted slightly-higher than the one next to it. A hose connects the two together, and the garden hose comes out of the middle of the lower one. They were able to build the bases for the barrels and install the entire system in one day.
I asked her why she chose to put the drain hole for the hose in the middle of the barrel because it seems like such an odd location. The systems that I’ve seen usually place the outflow valve near the top or bottom. Her reasoning is that water near the middle will be fresher and cleaner than what is near the bottom. She also thinks that water pressure is stronger when the outflow comes from the middle as well. Finally, the middle allows her to get a barrel and a half of water before she needs to use the drain spout on the bottom.
Whether or not you agree with this line of thinking, you have to admit that this small system is pretty efficient. It’s also a great way to conserve water and ensure that a supply is available for, pardon the pun, a rainy day.
Take some time to consider whether or not you can also benefit from a rain barrel system on your property as well. Remember that you can use the water for things like laundry, showers or doing dishes in addition to watering the garden, and you’re only limited by the capacity that you install. Chances are that it won’t take long to appreciate how making this small investment can pay big dividends.