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Harvesting Rainwater in the Garden

In recent years, the Pacific Northwest has encountered several drought seasons. People here are particularly aware of issues regarding our water resources. Capturing and storing rainwater for our home gardens has gained significant popularity in our area. Amazingly, the average roof receives over 22,000 gallons of rainwater. Below are some ideas to help you capture, store, and use some of that rainwater, and, more importantly, how to do all this in interesting and aesthetically pleasing ways.

Capturing and Storing Rainwater

A plastic rain barrel located at the end of a downspout is an easy option. Since each of these types of storage containers offers no more than 55 gallons of storage each, a number of them would have to be used to sufficiently irrigate an average home garden. The primary value of such containers is that people are motivated to change their watering habits. They use the water they gather more efficiently and turn to the hose less often.

For those interested in a more complex system, larger cisterns or multiple large water storage containers exist that capture a sufficient amount of water for year-round irrigation. For example, 1,500-gallon polypropylene cisterns are available that can be buried underground or stored out-of-sight in dead spaces under decks. Steel, concrete or plastic pipes can be purchased from industrial supply companies that can be installed upright and capped on the bottom.

Beautiful Water Catchment & Retention Options

You can create wonderful displays of water as it flows, drips, cascades and congregates in water features. Below are some ideas for making all aspects of your water retention system attractive and interesting:

Storage Containers - Concrete, steel or plastic pipes can be used as columns framing a trellis, as posts in a fence, or side-by-side as a retaining wall. Beautify concrete pipes with mosaic art. A plastic pipe can be surrounded by a wire grid four inches away from the pipe and planted out as a “living wall.”

Aqueducts - Made of such materials as sheet metal or wood, attractive-looking aqueducts placed on posts can meander through the garden from storage containers to water features, filling the space with wonderful sights and sounds. They can also be filled with recycled glass to enhance the sound of flowing water. Aqueducts can be designed to travel past the windows of the house, offering both the sight and sound of water from the inside, or incorporated into a deck design.

Water Features - From ponds to fountains to water walls, the captured water can be deposited into numerous places in the garden for additional enjoyment. A pond, outfitted with a solar-powered pump, can power the garden’s irrigation system.

Combined with a landscape featuring native plants and soil amendments, a rainwater-irrigated garden is a smart and eco-friendly choice for Pacific Northwest gardeners. So capture this wonderful natural resource that falls so regularly from our Pacific Northwest skies and reap the immense pleasure inherent in a water-filled garden. Happy harvesting!

Cameron Scott is the Owner of Exteriorscapes


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