Welcome to the first growing season here at Farmtina3, my brand new apartment with a brand new concrete alley "yard". Yes, this is the third apartment where I've been on this gardening adventure. And like I have with every new space, I'm discovering new problems-- no, wait-- new challenges to be conquered. Challenge Number One:
I do not have access to water in my new gardening space.
There is no outdoor water supply for watering my plants, which is sort of a big issue. I know how to get around having no soil, and even no sun, but no water? Doesn't work!
So I'm researching rain barrels. A rain barrel is just what it sounds like: a container that catches rain water and stores it to be used to water your plants.
But, oh! A rain barrel is more than just a bucket of water! It needs to be sealed off enough so you don't lose water to evaporation and don't become a mosquito breeding ground, yet open enough to actually catch the rain. It needs to have a hose connection to make it functional for watering plants. And it has to be durable so it won't rust and my friends the NYC rats don't chew through it to get to the water on hot days.
Even if you do have access to water in your garden, you might want to consider supplementing it with a rain barrel. Here are a few benefits:
- Rain water is healthier for your plants. Tap water is filled with additives meant for humans, such as fluoride, and purifiers, such as chlorine. Plants don't need (or want) these things, and high enough levels can negatively affect their health.
- Rain water is recycled water. This might seem obvious, but really think about it: I know you recycle your cardboard and your plastics, so why not recycle your water?
- Rain water saves money. Your water bill (or your landlord's water bill) will be lower if you're using recycled water for your garden.
- Reusing rain water lowers pollutants in our rivers. This is an interesting fact I found on the NYC.gov website: Rain water in the city ends up in the sewers after it runs through NYC streets, bringing pollutants into the sewer and eventually into our rivers. The more rain water your divert to your garden, the less water ends up in the sewer.
I have a few rain barrel options. First, of course, I could make one. I do love making things. This video shows how easy it is:
When I see a great project like that, my first thought is, "Can I bring that barrel home on the subway?" Probably not. This project is very smart and easy, but when I add up the time and cost of the materials and paying for a cab, it makes more sense for me to buy a premade rain barrel. Sometimes it's ok to say, "I could make that. But I won't." It doesn't ruin your DIY-cred, I promise.
Since I don't have a downspout (you know, controlled runoff from a roof gutter), I need a rain barrel with an open top as opposed to the kind that connects directly to a downspout. I found this one on the Home Depot website for $99. They also have quite a few fancy ones that look like gigantic fake rocks or urn planters. (Maybe I'm a rain barrel purist, but I want my barrel to look like a barrel.)
So now all I have to do is place it in my yard. If you do have a downspout, it makes the most sense to put the barrel right underneath the spout to catch all your gutter water. But if you don't, just be sure to place the barrel somewhere open (so, not under a tree or an awning). Connect a hose to the spigot, and make sure the hose has a nozzle at the end to turn it on and off, and you've got yourself an almost endless supply of recycled water! Heck, if you get TWO barrels, you'll collect twice as much water. Maybe three? FOUR??
I'm anticipating a time in August when the weather will be hot and dry and I'll use up my rain supply. At that point, I guess I can use a bucket to manually fill the rain barrel with tap water (or, I guess, manually water my garden?) This won't be an ideal situation, but having to do this once or twice is much better than doing it every day.
Problem Challenge Number One: Solved!