Ok, so here’s the thing. Two years ago I was sitting in my comfy chair penning a blog post all about how we were expecting the inevitable drought, and how you, the lovely gardener, could be preparing for that categorically inevitable onslaught of heat and dearth of precipitation. It was all quite dramatic, really.
Queue one of the wettest summers on record.
Didn’t I feel silly.
The following season I was a bit more cautious and did my very best weatherman impression. We needed to be prepared for anything, clearly. Our expectations for a hot, dry summer were met, as you may recall, ranking as one of the hottest summers on record. Lucky us. On top of the heat, has anyone noticed the insane winds over the summer into this spring? Maybe I am just noticing it more being outside for hours day after day, but it feels very different to me. The point of the rambling is just to say, we obviously must be flexible and ready for just about anything.
We are “lucky” (ish) to not experience the voracious wildfires of the West, but we should still take some of those prevention techniques to heart. Keeping shrubs and plants away from foundations is good practice not only for fire prevention but also for pests and mold as well. And while I am absolutely not crossing my crossables for another wet summer, I think it is more than likely we will experience a drier one. I know it can be difficult to look past the April showers and think about drought, but being well prepared can go a long way in keeping our gardens happy through the dog days of summer. Now is a perfect time to start setting your landscape up for success. Installing rain barrels are a sustainable way to capture and utilize the rain coursing down your drainpipes. Not only can that help mitigate flooding during heavy storms, but it can give your plantings a real boost when it comes time to plant. Erosion is also a huge concern during the spring, because we don’t have much by way of plant matter slowing down the movement of water.
It’s really quite astonishing how much water can be captured off of a roof during a single rain storm. There are ways to calculate how much water can be captured, which can help you determine appropriately sized storage. It’s simple math, I promise! Take the approximate square footage of your roof (serviced by gutters) and multiply that number by 0.56. This is going to give you the approximate number of gallons available for capture for every 1 inch of rainfall. This formula already takes into consideration some loss, so you can work straight off these numbers. A single, 55-gallon barrel such as the ones we sell could potentially be filled with one afternoon storm!
There are a bunch of ways to utilize this captured rainwater. You can use it to supplement your watering regime during town water bans, or to reduce the wear and tear on your home well. You can set up drip irrigation systems with a timer and a pump that will push water through to your beds on the far side of the yard. You could use the water to care for wildlife, putting out dishes and baths during the hot days, hopefully providing a source so that they don’t eat all of your plants in search of hydration. If stored water concerns you, it is perfectly safe (and advisable) to add BT dunks to the barrels to prevent mosquito infestations. These dunks are safe for wildlife and will not cause harm to birds or dragonflies.
Of course, if we do have a return of mushy weather, there will be a host of other issues that come along, not the least of which, fungal diseases, insect explosions, and most importantly, very soggy nursery owners…