Now that we FINALLY have rain, we'd love to hear from members who have found a way to save some of it for our gardens.
I have two 50-gallon rainbarrels, which provides much-appreciated clean water for potted succulents in the summer. I also have my home's downspouts feed into a swale in my front yard, instead of flushing roof water into the ocean.
What do you do?
From SCHS member, Joan McGuire:
"Yes! My husband and I purchased two large, heavy-duty garbage cans. We placed them under diverters from the roof, one in the front (hidden by a Camellia hedge) and one in the back. My husband does the heavy lifting of dipping in a large sprinkling can to get the water and taking it out to individual plants. We keep a half or quarter of a mosquito dunk in the big garbage cans, just in case, although we keep the lids on at all times. When there is just a little left, my husband dumps the cans. In the spring/summer when there is no rain, we put the cans away.
It's totally low-tech, but it certainly works!"
Thanks for responding, Joan!
I have a rain chain into a 75 gallon horse trough and a makeshift rain barrel using an old trash can under a tweaked corner of (old-really OLD!) rain gutter. Two other downspouts have moveable sections of rain gutter I can channel flow into parts of my garden-any other water runs down a long walkway and into the far end of the yard making my trees and a Mexican weeping bamboo very happy. No real runoff to street even in heavy rain.
Yes! I capture 385 gal of water with seven 55 gal rain barrels. This is literally a drop in the bucket! They fill to overflowing with a day of decent precipitation. I had set up 3 of them a few years ago (made from recycled food-quality barrels) and got 4 additional ones through a LADWP program this past summer (free!). Lately, I've been spending several hours on the sunny days between storms using a hose to redistribute water from these barrels to various parts of the garden so that they'll be able to capture more water during the next storm.
We've always had a couple of trash can rainbarrels (20+ years), but a couple of years ago we invested $10 each in MWD's rainbarrel program and installed 4 food grade 60-gallon barrels at each of 4 downspouts. In one case we've daisy-chained it to an overflow 30 gallon trash can. So, we have about 250 gallons of storage, all of it full right now of course.
Like others, we run water from the rainbarrels into garden swales when soil conditions permit, so as to have room in the barrels for the next rain. What a richness this winter has brought! I just wish we'd bought more barrels from MWD - they are high quality, come with mosquito screens and brass hose bibbs. I use the water for the food garden and for containers. Depending on when the rains come, I sometimes have rain water deep into the summer season.
From Catherine Pannell Waters:
"Are we diverting or saving rain water?
Yes, Robert and I are. We have slowly been revamping our entire yard based on our theory, perhaps faulty, that the Sonora/Mojave Deserts were coming to us and that our rainfall, drought or otherwise) would become more monsoonal and possibly come in more months than we were used to. Our first project was to remove 4" of soil and backfill with gravel in a small area, 20' x 20', adjacent to the house to replace a small lawn that was there from the time we purchased the house. It always flooded during light or heavy rain. The project would, we theorized, catch not only rainfall but over half of the run-off from our west facing roof by providing a temporary but walk-on-gravel reservoir that could store about 10 cubic yards of water, keep it from running off to other areas of the property and/or hold until it could percolate. It has worked beautifully for a number of years and until the last five years it also served to keep the roots of the trees and low- water- requirement landscape in and around it, modestly protected from the scorching summer heat and sun. It very recently began generating the unintended side effect of requiring us to begin hanging, in summer, a 90% shade cloth from the eaves to keep the reflective heat from being collected and absorbed into the stucco walls of the house until the trees we planted out there can take over the task (it will be a few more years, sadly).
In 2014 we did a long, 75' gravel filled trench that was meant to serve as a reservoir for a formal Japanese Box wood hedge, a new row of four lemon trees and an existing row of established citrus. It has only been marginally successful and was neither wide or deep enough to work in such a heavily planted area but it looks good. It was disguised as a formally bordered straight path one could use for maintenance of the hedge and the new citrus and it looked great.
In 2014/15 we did a similar project but this one was a gravel reservoir area and a sunken wide border of plants of approximately 70' x 40' designed to catch rainfall and run off from two slightly higher locations, two sides of the garage roof and two solid surface patio areas in the yard. It can hold about 30 cu. yards of water. Again not much but the point was to hold it for percolation if it couldn't absorb when dropped. Our ground is sandy loam and water does move through it, quickly. It has worked as planned so far. In the greater scheme of things this was not a great deal of water but the absorption is by far better than that of the lawn that once sat there and so far, we've had no run off so the area is sufficient to absorb and store water, which was our intent. However it had the unintended side affect of not cooling the yard like the lawn did in the heat of summer and not being as visually cooling as the lawn was.
Our next project will be the front yard and capturing for percolation, all of the run off from the east facing roof of the house and as much water from rainfall as possible. This time we will take a more invasive approach and excavate a grid of 12" deep by 12" wide by 50' long trenches that will be back-filled with gravel in hopes of being able to do a number of things like help recharge the aquifer, support a crucial short (under 4.5') privacy hedge and trees that have been v. severely affected by the drought . A thirty year investment, the hedge represents a distinguishing feature of the yard from the street and the house. The drought, over six summers, also took 5 of 7 full grown trees so we hope the project can help replenish the soil, nurture perimeter beds and revitalize the look of the failing hedge while allowing us to replant at least some trees.
We also recycle 100% of the gray water to our yard from our washing machine using a somewhat time consuming method of distribution via washing machine, to 40 gallon garbage can w/sump pump, to hose, to sprinkler. However, in a yard this size, that amount of water, about 240 gallons every two weeks, is a drop in the bucket and this past summer we simply did not have enough water to go around and found ourselves in the dire straits of sacrificing heritage plants even though we were no longer watering lawns. I am sure all of you were in the same circumstances."
Wow, Catherine! What an interesting set of projects. Imagine if everyone in LA did as much to capture or conserve water. - Laura Bauer