Monday, October 25, 2010

Getting the most out of (and into) your rain barrel

It's gardening time in South Florida once again. Remember we are the opposite of most of the country, while our northern cousins are getting ready for the cold weather we are planting for the slightly cooler, usually drier, South Florida "winter."

How do you water the vegetable garden to keep it green while living green?
Rain barrels and raised bed vegetable gardens are a perfect match! You capture sweet, ph neutral rainwater while it is abundant and then water is available during the dry season without tapping into our Biscayne Aquifer.

I use my red "pickle" barrel (top left picture above) with a soaker hose at home, but what of you have alarge garden area or a community to garden to water? Water from a rain barrel is not under pressure like outdoor faucets.  Water flows out of rain barrels under only gravitational force, this means the water does not move far from the barrel.  Also, how do you capture enough water if your vegetable garden is located far from a roof top with gutters?

Below are a few interesting possible solutions:
1. At the Extension office we will soon be using a solar powered pump to move the water out of two rain barrels to a drip irrigation system.

2. To collect more water in a rain barrel which is out in the open (not connected to any gutters) there are ways to increase the area from which the water is collected. This next picture is also from the Extension Service. We are using a 4' diameter umbrella turned upside down in top of an open rain barrel (with screen mesh covering to prevent mosquitoes). The umbrella has been securely laced to the barrel, but would still need to be removed in the case of tropical storm or hurricane force winds.  

3. An FIU student invited us to explore ideas to capture rainfall for their organic garden. There is no building or structure nearby to utilize for rainwater capture.  There is however a double fence system surrounding one shade house.  A tarp has been used as a giant "sail to capture rainfall which flows through a guttering system back to the barrels. The rain water is then supplied to the garden using a small horsepower pump and drip irrigation. 

We would love to hear from you to share your ideas and creative solutions!

Barbara McAdam
305-248-3311 ext. 245


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