Central Iowa's amazing rains this summer have saved us gardeners the worry and work of irrigating our precious digs! We expect not to need to use our precious buffer of stored water, right? I want to share my "mistake" which proved to be a boon, and to learn what you think of just 'using it anyway!'
We have rain barrels strategically situated around "Gettys' Gardens" including two 300 gallon rain harvesting tanks at our garage. Last week as I gardened, serenaded by our wrens, I found the carefully amended soil in our raised bed for pepper plants was a bit dry. We have a filter on the tank's ball valve connected to a poly hose to supply soaker hoses in that pepper bed. So I turned the ball valve of that handy 300 gallon tank and kept weeding, giving the peppers a good drink as I worked.
A week later I went to that tank to rinse a compost pail. I found the ball valve open and the 300 gallon tank empty! All the rain in the tank plus the fresh rain that had fallen on the back half of our garage that week - about 300 gallons more - had run slowly through the soaker hoses into our raised pepper bed. BUT! We instantly harvested thick green bell peppers, great for stuffing, shown below. I closed the valve and it rained again last night, so that rain tank (and all of our others) are again full. I'm delighted to have left the tank open for continuous slow irrigation through our soaker hoses!
Sometimes we hoard our stored rain water, though the rule is to use it in 30 days. When rain is coming, it may be best to use what we have, and let Nature replenish it with fresh rain.
Have you used your stored rain water to give your plants extra luxury? What difference does plant type or soil type make? Please Comment with your experience, so we can learn and share with our many gardening friends!
Joel Gettys is the co-founder of Rain Barrels Iowa. He is our resident gardener, product designer, chief of installation at our Rain Barrels Iowa store.