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Spring DIYs Bring Summer Savings!

In our beautiful Floridian climate, we are fortunate to have an abundance of sunshine throughout most of the year. The spring season marks the beginning of a surplus of sun that lasts well past what is considered “summertime” throughout the rest of the country. Beginning toward the end of May, the intense heat of each day rises into the atmosphere and creates massive rain clouds, creating daily storms that we can almost set a clock to. This means that the perfect time to prepare to take advantage of this summer’s afternoon rainstorms is right now!

You may be wondering what me mean by “take advantage” of rain storms. No, we aren’t referring to the free car washes they provide, although those are an added bonus. The best benefit offered by our monsoon-like Florida weather comes when we take steps to collect and recycle rainfall. With just a few easy steps, you can put rainwater to work irrigating your yard and save money on utility bills! After all, nearly half of an average home’s water use in the summer is from lawn care.

Capturing rain is also a great way to conserve and protect our natural resources. Holding onto the rainwater instead of allowing it to flow freely over your property and into storm drains reduces the amount of pollutants that make it into the ground. The water you collect is also free of chlorine and minerals, so it is perfect for sustaining plants! Here are a couple of small projects that you can get started on now to get ready for water savings this summer.

Photo of colorful rain barrel
Make a Rain Barrel

Rain barrels are sold at local hardware stores and online in a variety of different styles. Some of them are pricey so it’s worth your while to consider making your own. You may even have some fun decorating it in a fun way or painting it to match your house! There are a few different ways to create your own rain barrel, but the premise is basically the same:

  1. Start with a large drum found at a local feed store or hardware store. A 55 gallon plastic drum works perfectly, and are fairly inexpensive.
  2. Bore a hole at the very bottom of the barrel, one inch in diameter. The lower you can cut this hole, the better because it means less potential for stagnant water sitting at the bottom each time it empties.
  3. Drill another, 1.5 inch hole in the side of the barrel, closer to the top to provide an overflow release – make sure it is placed where you’d want water to run out of the container.
  4. Add a spigot to the first, lower hole that you made. Wrap the spigot with waterproof tape and then caulk around the seams to create a water-tight seal.
  5. Add a hose adapter to the top hole, again making sure that the fit is water-tight by caulking around the hardware. You can add a hose to this attachment if you’d like, or simply use the spigot to collect your water in watering cans or other containers.
  6. Cover the top of the barrel and any other openings with screen to keep mosquitos and debris out.

Once you wait a day for the sealant to dry, your rain barrel is ready for use. Position it below the place where the most water runs off of your roof during storms, and it will be full of free irrigation water in no time! There are plenty of video resources available to guide you as well, such as this one from Clemson University. There are even resources that provide instruction on turning your rain barrel into a masterpiece by adding a beautiful coat of paint.

Create a Rain Garden

As described by the EPA, a rain garden is “a depressed area in the landscape that collects rain water from a roof, driveway or street and allows it to soak into the ground.” Basically, this type of landscaping is all about choosing the right plants, and positioning them correctly so that they require as little supplemental irrigation as possible. The center of the area is the lowest point, and then gradually raises in elevation toward the outer edge of the garden. Plants that require the most moisture are planted in the center, while less thirsty varieties of plants are placed around the border. The flow of water moves from uphill down to the lower areas, where it settles and takes longer to absorb into the ground. Here is a resource that provides detailed steps on how to create your own rain garden. This is an environmentally conscious and cost-effective way to beautify your property. It also requires less effort and maintenance to keep your plants from drying up in the summer.

A great resource to rely on when beginning your gardening project is the Greywater Action group. They offer helpful advice for arranging your landscaping in the most efficient way for water conservation. In their words, an important thing to keep in mind is to “choose plants–primarily natives–that can absorb and hold water in their root systems, or pass it down to the water table.” If you don’t take the time to research and choose the best type of plants for each of the zones in your rain garden, they will receive too little or too much water and won’t do well. Be sure to check back for next month’s UCNSB article, where we’ll explore the different types of water-friendly plants to include in your rain garden that will thrive in our Florida sunshine.