We had our first rainfall of the season last night! Here in coastal southern California, we get an average of only 15 inches of rain a year. That’s pretty close to desert conditions, so every drop is precious, especially when I’m trying to grow our own fruits and vegetables under urban conditions.
WHERE IT COMES FROM
Because we live in a near desert, the bulk of our water here in Orange County, CA comes from snow that fell in the Sierra Nevadas and Colorado Rockies. It takes energy to bring that water here, and to purify it. Thus saving water saves energy. And we all know that saving energy helps reduce carbon dioxide emissions, which in turn helps combat global warming. And that’s what I’m all about.
To capture some of that precious rainfall, I set three separate containers under our eaves. First time I’ve tried that. Normally, I’d just turn on the tap when I want water, but I’m rethinking that strategy. Rainfall is better than tap water for watering gardens.
Two containers didn’t catch much, but my new 7-gallon Tubtrug from Gardener’s Supply Company must have been in just the right spot. I managed to save about five gallons of rainfall in that bucket. I’ll use the water to irrigate my container plantings next week.
But that certainly isn’t the end of my water-saving strategy. Here in southern California, houses usually don’t come with gutters, and my husband and I have done without them for the whole 20 years that we’ve lived in this house. But this summer, we decided to add rain barrels to our greenscape. We had a local contractor install gutters and downspouts on the north side of our house, and bought a rain barrel from Gardener’s Supply Company (no, I don’t work for them, I just like their products).
But this early rainfall caught us by surprise. We don’t have the downspout cut short and connected to the rain barrel yet. I’ll get that done later. But I can see that one barrel isn’t going to be enough. If one bucket caught 5 gallons just running off the eaves on the south side of the house, a downspout directing water from the whole north side is going to result in, um, (calculate, calculate), a gazillion gallons. I’m gonna need a bigger barrel.
The solution, of course, is to connect a number of rain barrels in series. Our gutter guy estimated that we’d need three rain barrels to hold the amount of water that runs off the north side of our roof during an average rainfall. I just am not ramped up to that stage yet.
HOMEMADE RAIN BARRELS
When I was in North Carolina a few weeks ago at a garden writer’s conference, I saw some nifty rain barrels made by some teens in Durham at DIG (Durham Inner city Garden). They had constructed a shade structure, under which they had their potting bench. The roof of the structure was a green roof that grew plants. Any runoff was collected in their homemade rain barrels. Neighboring SEEDS had a similar structure, pictured here.
I’m going to attempt to construct similar barrels to connect to my one purchased barrel, which was horribly expensive. Since I have construction skills similar to those possessed by a typical kindergartener, stay tuned for more adventures.
(To read more of Lou Murray’s environmental writing, see her weekly column, Natural Perspectives, in the Huntington Beach Independent at www.hbindependent.com, under columnists.)