In addition to proper planting techniques, watering plants is particularly important in the early stages of establishment. Water for our garden plants is usually supplied by nature through rainstorms or from municipal water sources.
Add to this water used for laundry and you can see that more than 50 percent of our drinking water is used for non-consumptive needs. According to the United States Geological Survey (USGS), a typical household uses between 80 and 100 gallons of water per person, per day and that's excluding irrigation. On average, the non-consumptive use of water will cost a family of four around $48 a month. This is one reason people recommend the use of native plants. Native plants usually do not require much irrigation, after some initial irrigation the first few months after planting.
Another way to save money is to use rainwater for irrigation. I was amazed to learn that a 1,000-square-foot roof can capture more than 600 gallons of rainwater during a 1-inch rainstorm. At my home, this water would just run down the downspout and flow into my garden. My neighbors had dug a trench and put a pipe in the ground that led the rainwater from the downspout to the roadside ditch that runs in front of our homes. "Out of sight, out of mind," they must have thought.
In a way I felt sorry for them. They were wasting valuable water for their landscape by irrigating with chlorinated drinking water while trying to get the rainwater off their property.
At the same time I felt sorry for all my neighbors. We live in a flood-prone neighborhood, and the roads become almost impassable after a 2-inch storm. Some of the low-lying homes often have water in their garage after a rainstorm. All that water that my neighbors pipe into the ditch is worsening these flooding problems. Thank goodness we live at the highest point in our neighborhood.
Those 600 gallons from a 1,000-square-foot roof were piquing my interest. We have about that much roof on our two-story colonial. If I could capture that water and use it for irrigation, I could:
- reduce my water bill;
- know that I put natural water on my garden and vegetables instead of chlorinated water; and
- feel good that I'm not contributing to flooding of my neighborhood.
So I set off to research the best way to capture rainwater. I found that it is relatively easy to build a rain barrel that saves money and provides non-chlorinated water for garden plants.
I will discuss this in more detail in my next post.
Jan-W. Briedé is a stormwater outreach manager for the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation. He coordinates the erosion and sediment control training and certification program. Jan has worked in the environmental field in countries all over the world, including Uganda, Nepal and North Yemen.