How can you recycle water for your outdoor garden?

Collecting Rainwater

Do you know how much water rolls off of your roof when it rains? It's probably more than you think. A good estimate is a half a gallon of water per square foot of roof during a one-inch shower. That's 500 gallons (1,893 liters) of water on a 1,000 square foot (92.9 square meter) roof!

You can easily divert this water to your outdoor garden, particularly if your home is equipped with a gutter system. There are just five simple steps:

  1. First, you'll need a big container, known as a rain barrel, to capture water channeled through the downspouts. Fifty-five-gallon (208-liter) food-grade plastic drums work great because they're never used to hold harsh chemicals and they won't rot or rust. The walls should be opaque, as clear or translucent vessels can encourage the growth of algae. Before using your rain barrel, clean the inside with solution of 1/8 cup of bleach and 5 gallons (19 liters) of water.
  2. Next, you'll want to install a spigot. Don't place it at the very bottom of the container where settled debris might clog the flow. Instead, drill a 15/16-inch (2.4-centimeter) hole a few inches above the bottom and thread it with a 3/4-inch (1.9-centimeter) spigot similar to the ones found on the exterior wall of a house.
  3. Now build a platform for the rain barrel. This gives you some clearance to fill watering cans and provides more water pressure to push the water through a hose. Use something strong to construct this foundation, though, as 55 gallons (208 gallons) of water weighs almost 500 pounds (226.8 kilograms). Concrete blocks work nicely.
  4. Once the platform is in place, you can link the downspout to the rain barrel. Mark the downspout a foot or two above the top of the drum as it rests on its elevated foundation. Cut the downspout with a hacksaw or tinsnips and connect it to the container with a flexible plastic pipe known as a downspout extender. The bottom end of this pipe should fit tightly into the barrel to prevent mosquitoes from entering and laying eggs.
  5. Finally, drill a small hole near the top of the container to drain excess water and prevent overflow. You can connect this opening to a hose and divert excess water to your garden or to an additional rain barrel. Place a screen over the hole to keep mosquitoes out.