Rain is undoubtedly an essential element for all living things and some gardeners swear it’s the best. Unfortunately, rain water just is not as readily available for everyone as tap water but, is it really any better than tap water for plants?
As a whole, rainwater is better for watering plants. It has far less chemical content than tap water, minimizing mineral salt build-up. Rainwater collection also helps reduce overall water consumption. However, proper filtration is required if used as a potable water source.
Below, I elaborate on the benefits of rainwater along with tips for collecting and storing it:
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Table of contents
Why Is Rainwater Good for Plants?
There are 3 main reasons why you should consider using rainwater to nourish your plants:
- It does not contain as many synthetic chemicals as tap water. As mentioned in the introduction, this reduces the risk of having salt deposits in the plant’s soil. Over time, this becomes a problem if they are not flushed out with water, potentially causing plant damage. Rainwater has arguably better, if not safer, trace mineral content from the atmosphere, provided it is not from acid rain. But that’s a whole different dilemma altogether.
- It has a slightly acidic pH between 5 and 7, perfect for plants. This is what plants prefer in their soil environment compared to tap water, which is alkaline. High alkaline water can cause adverse effects on plants over time, such as trace mineral deficiencies. This is not often an issue; however, it’s worth mentioning certain states have different municipal water depending on its source.
- Water conservation by collecting rainwater for irrigation purposes only. Because water shortage is becoming a serious concern, this is one of the many simple ways you can start cutting down on your water bill. You also contribute to reducing storm runoffs into bodies of water by harvesting rainwater for your personal use.
However, if you’re in a pinch and rain isn’t that common in your area, you can opt to use filtered water instead. It’s a safer option than plain tap water. While it may be pricey initially during the set-up, it’s an excellent investment in the long term.
Tips On Collecting and Storing Rainwater for Future Uses
Rainwater collection and storage is a reasonably straightforward process. It requires low to moderate maintenance, but it’s mostly to ensure the stored water’s viability for future uses.
Important note: Check if your local area has a rule or law on harvesting rainwater. States like Colorado have strict rules about this, setting a limited amount for collection. If you go above the approved amount you may need to get a permit for collecting all that rainwater.
Once you got that out of the way, here are some things to keep in mind:
- Acquire a dark-colored, food-grade plastic barrel where possible. These prevent chemicals in the barrel from leaching into the water. Not to mention, the opaque cover prevents sunlight from promoting any algae or bacterial growth in the water.
- Divert the first flush of rainwater. Suppose you’re collecting directly from the roof gutter. This will often contain contaminants such as bird poo and accumulated chemicals on the roof. It’s best to let this flow out freely first so you can harvest only clean rainwater and keep it for longer.
- Ensure your rain barrel has a sealable lid with fine mesh. This helps prevent mosquitoes, pests, and pathogens from contaminating it.
- Ensure the barrel is cleaned every 3 months. This aids in keeping it sanitary for future storage and uses. Any leftover rainwater can be used to wash your car or do general cleaning around your home. However, don’t use it for drinking, cooking, showering, or washing if it hasn’t been filtered. Also, wash your hands thoroughly with soap after handling your rainwater.
- Check on your rain barrel to ensure it’s not overflowing during a downpour. You can attach 2-3 more barrels to collect any overflow on the safe side. Otherwise, you may cause accidental flooding around your house’s foundations and it could leak into your basement/crawl space area. Also, always make sure your rain barrel is empty before starting any collection.
- Position your rain barrel on level ground, preferably elevated, for easier watering. This is primarily to ensure the rain barrel is secured and won’t topple over once filled. It also lets gravity take over when filling up your watering can or using drip irrigation or a soaker hose system.
Harvesting rainwater might sound like a tad more work than you’re willing to deal with. But in the long run, your plants will appreciate it and you’ll get to reap the rewards. If not in the spirit of saving on water, then more for the development of your beloved plants. Happy planting!