Eco-Friendly Gardening with DIY Network: Go Green

Prime gardening season is upon us! You know what that means….it’s time to strategize about how our landscapes and gardens are going to receive the water necessary to thrive, without being wasteful.

A quick tip is to keep a small bucket near your bathroom. As you are warming the water for a bath or shower, let the bucket collect the cold water so it can be used for watering plants. This works especially well for those of us who have the frustrating experience of living in a home that takes forever to heat the water! There’s no longer a need to be frustrated while all that precious agua goes down the pipes…at least it can be put to use, now!

But one of the most effective strategies for water conservation involes that wonderful 2,000 year-old solution called…a rain barrel. Yes, our progressive cavemen really knew what they were doing when it came to watering their lawns. Um, ok, maybe not their lawns. They most certainly had native gardens!

Residential irrigation is said to account for 60% of all water used in the United States. If 100% of our water need were met by rain barrels, the conservation effect on underground aquifers could be tremendous. The use of rain barrels also reduces runoff and thus reduces pollution of surface water sources. So we may not be able to get to 100%, but again, using rain barrel water for your garden is a great start!

How much water does a rain barrel save? Using a rain barrel to collect runoff, one inch of rain could save you 600 gallons of water.

How does a rain barrel work? A rain barrel is a closed barrel, usually connected to a downspout where it collects water from a “catchment area,” typically a roof. Rain barrels can also be left in the garden to simply collect what falls into it, though this method is obviously much slower. The square footage of the roof or other catchment surface provides a basis for calculating how much rain water is likely to be collected. A rule of thumb is that a catchment area of 1,000 square feet will yield the 600 gallons of water referenced above, for every inch of rain that falls. With average rainfall in the United States ranging from approximately 4 inches to 187 inches, a rain barrel can provide a significant portion of a household’s water supply.

Near the bottom of the rain barrel is a spigot, through which the water flows. The spigots should be designed so that a hose can be attached directly to the rain barrel for ease of watering.

Where can I get a rain barrel? Purchasing a rain barrel will usually set you back between $100 – $200. Tip: find a local retailer or an online supplier who doesn’t charge for shipping. Good resources for rain barrels are Rain Water Solutions and

Can I make my own? Rain barrels are easy to make. Here are a few resources that provide simple do-it-yourself instructions: eHow, BayTec Containers, and HGTV.

How much money will it save me? According to the Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission, a one-half inch diameter hose at 60 pounds of pressure per square inch running for one hour uses 630 gallons of water. With charges running $3 and $4 per 1,000 gallons of water used, those who do extensive daily watering of gardens and lawns can expect to see some significant monthly savings on their water bills by installing a rain barrel.

Still need convincing? Watch this video from the DIY Network that demonstrates this practical water conservation technique for gardening.

Jason Cameron of Desperate Landscapes demonstrates how to garden responsibly and conserve water.

Desperate Landscapes airs Tuesday at 9 as part of the “Nailed at 9″ lineup on the DIY Network.

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