Rain

Rain

I awoke to rain this morning, hence the topic. By the time I got outside, it had all but stopped, so I did not get a good rain photo. Seeing the rain inspires me to write about what I do with it.

Weather station showing rain gauge and thermometer, bird feeders and house in background

My relationship with water has not been easy. I killed a lot of plants with either too much or too little. Giving up on house plants, moving outside and discovering the wonders of mulch has really helped me. Still, water is not something I can ignore. Sometimes, a plant needs water that only I can provide, so I have tried to study the best way for me to deliver it. Decades have slipped by in this pursuit. Here is where I am.

I catch my own. Watering with rainwater is noticeably more effective than using house water. After all, house water is managed by a municipality to stay free of growth. The additives that repress growth are not likely to help plants.

300 gal rain basin, 50 gallon rain barrel

I bought two 300 gallon Rubbermaid basins. One basin is next to the garage and receives rainwater. (The other one is a half buried fish pond I will tell about later.) At my house, just a quarter inch of rain fills the basin. A pint’s a pound the world around, so that’s 2,400 pounds of H2O.

It is located on high ground, plus, it is propped up on railroad ties. Water seeks its own level, so once I get the siphon action going by submerging the hose and pulling out one end, (ask me if you want to know how to create a gravity powered siphon), water flows out of the hose to anywhere in the garden.

The photo shows two 50 gallon rain barrels catching rain, one at the corner of the garage, and the other in the background, at the corner of the house. They do not hold the rainwater. They have hoses at their base that carry the rainwater to the basin by the garage. That gravity feed is possible because the barrels are set just slightly higher than the elevation of the basin.

Note the basin is covered. Presently I am using black vinyl window shutters, but you could use anything to block out sunlight. Algae makes an awful mess, but it cannot grow without sunlight. I watch for mosquitoes, but I haven’t had a problem, probably because the basin is covered and the water is frequently moving.

From that basin, the water can be hosed anywhere via gravity. Most often, I let it run into the fish pond, splashing in to make noise and add oxygen. The fish love it. I keep a watering can by the pond. When I feel a plant needs water, I dip in the can and pull out nutrient rich water. Plus, I enjoy the quiet, simple motion of dipping the blue can into the pond and stepping toward the thirsty plant. There is something nice about the moment.

I garden for the sweet moments. I step up on the edge of the pond, which is a foot higher than the ground. I never thought about until just now, but I think that height gives me just enough leverage to make the motion comfortable. I push the can into the pond by the spigot. Water cascades in with a swooshing sound. Sometimes the water is dark with algae, and I think I should do something about that, for the sake of the fish. And I wonder what to do. It is a continuing question, but simply drawing out the nutrient rich fluid, and replacing it with clear rainwater remains the easy fix.

When the can is three quarters full, I pull it out, grasping the handle. From there, I carry it to where it is needed, and water with precision, thinking specifically about the needs of the plants, and what is happening in the garden. It is a gentle pleasant meditation, not at all like the sheer boredom of holding a hose to spray a broad area for a 20 minute soak, which I have done at other times in other gardens.

raindrop on plum tree
raindrop on plum tree

Today, I watered my Chicago figs. I bought them at Lowe’s yesterday, and stuck them right in a bed. They came as dryroots, in a quart sized box, so they need a lot of water. I am not sure they will make it.

My Dad had two fig trees in his yard, so I know they can do well in our climate. As I watered, I thought about my Dad, gone now, but a madcap gardener in his day. I thought of his adventures and smiled. Making things grow takes so much knowledge. When I dig deep in my brain for ideas, my thoughts often drift to the ones I love best, and their wisdom. Composting? Garden joy? Whatever, it’s a fine way to start a day.


Barbie Burr

Barbie Darwin Burr was born in La Jolla, California into a Navy family. Moving every year made gardening difficult, but not impossible for her father, a disciple of Scott and Helen Nearing and a man with a vast ability to imagine and create.

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