When I first started my potager, my intention was to create a self-sustaining space with zero energy usage. That means using home-made compost from garden and kitchen scraps as well as conserving rain water to use in the garden. The first year I installed an open English style 40 gallon receptacle with a screen to keep mosquito larvae as well as other schmutz out. Thus far I have been very successful, only using city water in a couple of desperate days two summers ago. However, as the garden has grown over the last few years adding all sorts of deliciousness (increasing from two raised beds to four, the addition of a culinary and medicinal herb garden, dwarf apple trees, bean trellises and this year the addition of raspberries and blackberries) the need for water has increased right along with it.
This year I added a 60 gallon Earthminded closed system rain barrel to my garden. This system is different in that you attach a diverter system directly to your downspout. This diverter fills the rain barrel until it is completely filled and then allows the overflow water to proceed down the rest of the downspout, preventing over filling of the barrel. This barrel also has two spigot spaces…one that comes with a spigot for filling buckets and another for drainage or to attach a hose to. I am going to attach a soaker and drip irrigation hose to this barrel so it can water the herb garden as well as provide additional water via the watering can. I installed this barrel at the back corner of my house which gets all the run off from the back half of my home, it should be filled in no time flat!
I am very impressed with this barrel system, however, that comes with a cost. At retail, these barrels run around $150-$175. But the good news is that I live in a very progressive town and if you are quick and smart, you can get this type of rain barrel at a significant discount. Last summer (too late to add it to the garden), I received word that the Franklin Soil and Water Conservation District (http://www.franklinswcd.org/) was offering the rain barrels if you were a Columbus Green Spot (http://www.columbusgreenspot.org/), which I am. They also require you to watch a brief video and take a very brief online quiz. After completing these pre-requisites, I was able to purchase this rain collection system for $45. If you live in Franklin County, this is an incredible benefit. Many communities around the country are offering these programs, check your local water and soil conservation organization for details.
Installation is quite easy and only takes minimal use of power tools (thank goodness). And now I have 100 gallons of water saving capacity. Creating a productive and beautiful garden is very rewarding, but creating that space without using expensive city water laden with chlorine and other chemicals is even more so…save your rain, it makes good sense!