About the SFMGA

Monday, June 01, 2009

Gray Watering – & – Make Your Own Rain Barrel

By Melanie Deason, Master Gardener

Water your trees with collected water (especially those fruit trees that need extra water in warmer weather to help produce a nice crop of fruit). Move the garden hose around to a new tree every time you have bath water, and you'll save lots on your water bill.

Bathtub Water

Some folks save bathtub water (use biodegradable soaps shampoos and pump it out a window, using a little electric fountain pump attached to a smaller hose/brass adapter) that fits a regular garden hose.

  • Whether you are upstairs or on the ground floor, that little pump can move the water out of the tub and to the ground – into an old trash can with water spigot at the bottom, or straight to the tree.
  • Just stay nearby and listen to the pump because as the water lowers to the last inch, the pump will start to "slurp."
  • Turn off the pump by pulling the plug from the GFCI wall receptacle, WITH DRY HANDS, PLEASE, and not the pump cord, so as not to risk shock.
  • Also be sure the pump cord is NOT anyplace wet – like sitting on the wet bath towel.
  • By following these guidelines, you'll likely save lots of water on your water bill, and your trees will appreciate it.

Barrels for Water Catchment, with Spigot and Garden Hose Attached

You can buy one ready made for $80, or you can adapt an inexpensive plastic trash barrel with another $10 in parts.

  • Buy: ONE brass water faucet spigot (male with threads) that is straight and not curved down, and ONE short piece (3-4 inches) of white PVC (female/outside) that the spigot will screw into. Add TWO rubber washers (round, not garden hose flat) that fit snugly around the threads of the spigot.
  • Use a wood bit (has a center point plus two cutting side points) that is the exact diameter/size of the threaded part of the spigot to drill the hole. This type of bit will easily drill through the plastic barrel – on the SIDE of the barrel, about three inches from the bottom, but NOT TOO LOW, or you won't be able to hook the garden hose up to the faucet. (Of course, DO NOT DRILL THE BARREL BOTTOM.)
  • Each washer will be the 'bread' that sandwiches into EITHER SIDE of the barrel. To assemble, place one washer onto the spigot. Insert spigot into opening from outside the barrel. Attach second washer onto spigot inside the barrel. Attach PVC section. Tighten by hand and wrench lightly so to not stress the plastic barrel. Compression flattens the two washers and ensures the barrel does not leak.
  • Be sure the angle of the faucet is slightly horizontal, not pointing downward so the hose can be hooked up. (Test this hose hookup BEFORE filling the barrel with water.)
  • It's a little time consuming to convert trash barrels to water barrels, but if you're doing a few for catching water at your roof canales (or down spouts from the roof), then it's worth the effort.
  • Caution about Birds and Pets: Save the lid from these barrels and invert them; the curved part is down. Drill 3-4 holes around the side of the lid and 3-4 more on the top edge of the barrel. Fasten lid to barrel with wire. This way the lid is securely attached to the barrel and no wildlife or pets fall in to drown. ALSO, drill a half dozen or more large holes in the lid, so that water falling as rain or canale runoff can easily drain into the barrel.
  • At the end of the warm season, unhook the garden hoses and open the spigot, so any water trapped inside can drain out. If it catches canale runoff and freezes later, the barrel usually handles the stress.