Build A Rain Water Collection System
If you enjoy gardening as much as we do, but live in the city, you will want to create your own rain water collection system. Having fresh and organically grown vegetables is extremely important to us and the only way to be absolutely sure that you are getting the best, most chemical-free produce is to grow them yourself. One big part of this is the water that you use. If you are like we are, you are connected to a community water system filled with fluoride and many other potentially harmful chemicals. Now I know the intention is to kill bacteria found in public water supplies, but if you can avoid it and avoid feeding your garden plants with it, why not.
In Minnesota we do get ample amounts of rain water, but on occasion we can also experience periods of drought conditions. Depending on the season, you may use your rain water collection system very little or a lot. So sizing your system is important for the volume and size of garden that you have. You can use the water for other purposes, but communities frown upon collecting water and disposing of it into the city sanitary sewer systems. So be consciences of how your water is used and where.
I have my system made up of two fifty-five gallon water tanks that can be purchased at most home and garden stores. You may also be able to find fifty-five gallon drums that can be recycled as long as they did not contain weed killer or some other nasty chemical that you don’t want to spray on your garden. In any case, two drums should be good for most average to medium size gardens.
The water source is derived from a system of rain gutter from my house, over to my garage and then ultimately collected into the two rain barrels. When you figure the square footage of any structure and multiply it by an inch of rain the barrels will fill up faster than you can use them. Just a slight rain can accumulate a large amount of water in very little time.
Once you have the rain collected into your rain barrels you will need a few more things to make your system work properly. You will need a pump and flexible plumbing connections. I just purchased a simple electric transfer pump that also can be purchased at most farm and home stores. You just need to move water from the barrels to a distribution method such as a standard garden hose. These pumps are not overly expensive and will provide enough pressure to power any typical garden hose. You will also need some flexible plumbing tubes that are generally used to connect a household water supply to a kitchen of bath faucet. They are easy to find and simple to hook up to your tanks and pump.
Because I am using two water barrels, you will need a splitter and two flexible tubes to connect both barrels. You will also need one flexible tube to connect your splitter to your pump. Generally all barrels will come with a valve to open and close at the bottom. Because it is sometimes hard to attach your flexible tubes to the valves, I built a treated lumber platform for the barrels to sit on and to also provide me enough room to attach my flex tubes. Since this is a gravity system, keep your pump lower than your tanks and you should never have trouble feeding the pump until you run out of water.
From the pump you can either connect the hose directly with some hose fittings or you can purchase an actual hose reel in which case you may need another flex tube to make that connection. The pump will require an electrical connection so either put it near an outlet or extension cord. Since you are working with water I would highly recommend a ground-fault electrical outlet for safety. This will assure no unnecessary shocks.
Once you have everything properly connected you are ready to go. Some pumps require priming, but since it is a gravity based system you should not have to prime the pump.
I believe you will like this system. I have been using mine now for several years and other then the weatherization aspect, it requires little or no work. If you live in Minnesota like I do then be sure to drain your barrels for winter and I turn them upside down to be sure they do not fill in winter. I also disconnect all my flex tubing and drain the pump before putting it away for the winter. If this is neglected, you may find your rain water collection system has been damaged from frozen pipes, pump or barrels.
There is nothing better than good rain water to feed your plants throughout the season and to know that for the most part is also chemical free. So for a few hundred dollars you will have built a great rain water collection system that can be used throughout your growing season. Give it a try and let me know how it works for you.