Saturday, July 17, 2010

Use rainwater in your yard


Using chlorinated tap water on soil kills the beneficial microbial life in the soil. Use rain water instead.

Tap water typically contains a small amount of chlorine. Chlorine is used as a disinfectant which keeps bacteria from multiplying in the municipal water system and becoming dangerous to our health.

The soil is alive with all sorts of bacteria, fungi and other microorganisms. Plants need these microorganisms in the soil because they make it possible for the roots to obtain the nutrients and minerals they need.

If you water your garden or your lawn with tap water, you're applying chlorine to the soil, which kills the beneficial microorganisms. This makes life harder for your plants, because they can't get the resources they need.

Chlorinated irrigation water locks you into a downward spiral of needing fertilizer, so that the nutrients can be absorbed along with the water. It can make your plants look nice, but the soil is dead, and you're stuck fertilizing forever.

The better approach is to use rain water collected from your roof as irrigation. It doesn't contain the chlorine that will kill the life in the soil.

There are two approaches here. Swales and tanks.

Swales: If there's land available, plant your water. Dig a shallow level ditch or swale. If you want to use it as a path as well, fill it with 3/4 crushed gravel. Run a downspout from your house over to it. When it rains, it will fill up with water, then slowly infiltrate that water into the soil. The ground will stay nice and moist without you having to intervene.

Make sure that the swale is big enough for a heavy rain event, or that it has someplace intentional that it can overflow to, so that it doesn't flood during extreme events. Irrigating trees this way is great, because they can use lots of water.

Tanks: Water tanks like rain barrels accomplish a similar thing, but with less landscaping. Adding rain barrels to your downspouts will collect the rainwater off the roof allows you to store the water and use it when necessary. Once established, you need to manually use the water by filling up watering cans with it. Tanks with a drip line irrigation system are an effective way of watering a garden with rainwater.

If you can't use rainwater, then your next best option is to let the tap water sit uncovered for at least 24 hours. That allows the chlorine to leave the water and then it will be better for your plants.

Don't kill the life in the soil. Use rain water instead of tap water.

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