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Collecting Rainwater for Lawn and Garden

by Karen Lawson, All About Lawns Columnist

Homeowners concerned about rising utility costs and the effects of chemical-laden tap water on lawn and garden plants are collecting rainwater as a cheap and safe method of irrigating their plants. Collecting and storing rainwater can be part of a comprehensive plan for green gardening, or you can collect enough rain for patio gardens and houseplants.

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Gardeners frequently report improved plant vitality when using rainwater; it hydrates plants without the chemicals used for treating tap water. Although it's possible to collect rainwater for human consumption, the scope of this article is limited to using rainwater in your lawn and garden.

Rain Barrels 101
Taking a cue from ancient civilizations, modern homeowners are collecting and storing rainwater for use throughout the year. Runoff, or rain that pours from an impermeable surface such as a roof, can accumulate quickly during storms and provides an abundant source of free water. The Texas A & M Extension Rainwater harvesting Web site suggests that collecting rain offers community benefits including:

  • reduces demand on municipal water supplies
  • reduces erosion caused by rainwater runoff
  • helps prevent pollution caused by runoff

If you have a small yard, you can install rain barrels under your downspouts. Modern rain barrels are constructed of materials suitable for a variety of home styles. Rain barrels may be made of wood, metal, or plastic. Dark colored plastic barrels are popular as they discourage algae growth and are easy to clean. Semi-circular rain barrels are great for placement flush against walls. Rain barrels may also include screening for filtering debris, and they also have spigots or other mechanisms for removing water.

Rainwater harvest suppliers offer rainwater collection systems from simple setups to more complex systems with tanks capable of storing thousands of gallons. If you're considering a large scale rainwater collection system, it's important to check zoning and building requirements in your area before installing large storage tanks that may violate local laws.

Rainwater Collection as Art
Suppliers specializing in rainwater collection equipment also offer a variety of decorative urns and other options for catching rainwater. You can also construct your own rain barrels with do-it- yourself kits and hardware available from home and garden shops and rainwater collection suppliers.

Texas A&M Rainwater Harvesting Website

About the Author
Karen Lawson is a freelance writer with an avid interest in gardening and horticulture. She earned BA and MA degrees in English from the University of Nevada, Reno.

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