How to DIY a rainwater collection system

Your gorgeous rainwater collection barrels will be your best friend this summer and you can garden on happily during dry spells.

When it comes to maintaining a lush and thriving garden, one invaluable resource often falls from the sky, completely free of charge – rainwater. As the scorching days of summer loom ahead, it's high time to equip yourself with the knowledge and tools to create your very own rainwater collection system. In this step-by-step guide, we'll walk you through the process of setting up your DIY rainwater collection system, allowing you to conserve water, lower your bills, and contribute to a greener, more sustainable world.

Step 1: Gathering barrels

Ideally, you would want at least 2 or 3 large 200 to 300l barrels (like those blue ones we often see on the side of the road costing around R 300 a pop). Having multiple barrels means you will have reserved tanks and can store any overflow as well. If purchasing a secondhand barrel, be sure to check that it didn't contain oil, pesticides, or any other type of toxic substance. 

 

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Step 2: Collecting barrel accessories

The following supplies can be purchased at most hardware and home stores. These little accessories will make all the difference in the practicality and convenience of your rainwater set-up. The following items needed are per barrel. 

  • 1 hose spigot tap goodies so you can easily access water from the barrel.
  • 1 PVC pipe couplings and 3 PVC bushings to manage water pressure and secure pipe connections. 
  • 1 hose adapter
  • 4 metal washers per barrel (12 in total if you are working with 3 barrels) 
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  • 1 roll of sealing tape
  • 1 tube of silicone caulk
  • 1 s-shaped aluminium downspout elbow to direct water from your downspout to the barrel
  • 1 piece of aluminium window screen to keep leaves, bugs, and other materials out of your water
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  • A water leveler 
  • Drill
  • A few bags of gravel - optional 
  • 4-6 concrete blocks
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Step 3: Level the barrel platform

Make sure that the area where you want to place the barrel(s) is levelled and has good access to the gutter downspout pipe.

Rainwater Collection

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The word is out – it’s going to be a hot summer gardeners! Rainwater collection is a smart, simple technique to green your home and lessen your environmental footprint, providing significant economic, social, and environmental benefits. Join Life is a Garden’s Water Warrior initiative as we explore ways to utilise every drop of our blue gold. 

 

Where and how can rainwater can be used?

1. Watering lawns, beds, and containers

Use rainwater in watering cans or attach the rainwater storage tank directly to an irrigation system.

2. Wildlife, pets, and livestock

You can use harvested rainwater to fill birdbaths and is typically safe for pets or livestock to drink or bath in as well. 

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3. Composting

Water is essential for proper decomposition of your compost heap. 

4. Rinsing veggies from the garden

A bucket of rainwater beside the veggie patch is a quick way to remove dirt from root veggies and other edibles. 

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5, Outdoor ponds and water features

Fill outdoor ponds, pools, and features with collected rainwater.

6, Drinking and cooking

Installing a filtration system, boiling or distilling the water will make it drinkable. 

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7. Bathing pets 

Connecting a hosepipe to a rainwater barrel or tank outside makes water access easy and eco-friendly. 

8. Laundry

Using eco-friendly washing detergents with clean harvested water is a big buck saver. 

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9. Washing cars and outdoor goodies 

Washing outdoor items is an excellent use for untreated water. Wash cars, garden tools, lawnmowers, the driveway, and garden furniture.  

10. Flushing toilets

Toilets use almost 27% of water in your home. Simply use collected rainwater in a bucket and pour it into the top bowl of the toilet.

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Embracing rainwater collection is not just a trend; it's a lifestyle choice that offers numerous economic, social, and environmental advantages. By joining the Water Warrior initiative, you're not only nurturing your garden but also contributing to a more sustainable and water-wise future.

Heroic Hydrozoning

Become the hero of your garden by saving water and protecting your plants from dying in a drought. The new climate cycle, El Niño,

Become the hero of your garden by saving water and protecting your plants during the dry summer ahead. The new climate cycle, El Niño, is predicted to reach us at the start of 2024, which includes heat waves and less rainfall. Luckily Life is a Garden is preparing all green fingers with loads of practical ways you can go about maintaining a lush garden. One of the easiest ways is to begin with Hydrozoning. 

Garden jargon check

Hydrozoning is a landscaping technique where plants of similar water requirements are grouped together, grown in the same area. This can be done in beds as well as mixed containers. You may have to do a bit of admin in the beginning, but once you have made the necessary transplants, hydrozoning will save you hours of maintenance time and many litres of water. 

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Water warriors

Hydrozoning also allows you to keep better track of your watering schedule and it prevents over/underwatering of plants. You can set your irrigation system to only water certain beds as opposed to the full garden that isn't actually at risk of dying soon. For example, a mixed bed with aloes and canna lilies are not the best match as aloes are low water and canna lilies are high. You can see that a bed like this would not be efficient during a drought as the aloes will be receiving unnecessary water. 

The key is not to get rid of your beloved canna lilies, for example, but to provide these plants with a bedding bestie that has similar needs. Your Garden Centre will be able to give you great advice on which plants to pair up. If you are unsure about your current bedding companions, post a picture on Life is a Garden’s SA Seasonal Grow Guide group on Facebook and our experts will help you identify the plants and make helpful companion suggestions. 

The flower tribe has spoken

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Here’s a quick overview of SANA’s stats accumulated over the past two months. How well do you really know your consumers? 

Most-bought seed packets

  1. Flowers
  2. Vegetables

 Big spenders

  1. Perennials flowers
  2. Annual flowers
  3. Trees and shrubs

 Outdoor top-sellers

  1. Flowers
  2. Seedlings

Garden care

  1. Compost and potting soil
  2. Plant food

 Hard landscaping

  1. Hoses and fittings
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A trendy heads-up 

Get your Garden Centres and Home Stores stocked. Here are the gardening trends looking to take root in a fertile bed and container near your consumers! 

Sexy small spaces

This trend is all about unique growing styles combined with sassy plants that may be small in size but large in personality. Our significant townhouse/balcony/patio demographic will be looking for something special that expresses their individuality within a limited space. 

  • Dwarf varieties in mini pots for the patio
  • Stylish kitchen windowsill herb farms
  • Statement-making vertical walls and hydroponics

Stock list: attractive dwarf hybrids, minimalistic rectangular containers for windowsills and all the herbs, leafy greens and cherry tomatoes for hydrophonic growing, hydro set-ups, and vertical wall containers with charismatic indoor and outdoor plant options. 

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El Nino-proof gardens

With the predicted dry and hot summer ahead, indigenous landscaping, rainwater harvesting, and wildlife habitat creation is top priority. Our Earth Custodians will be looking for drought-proof plants, inspiration on how to redesign beds for water conservation, as well as ways to support wildlife. 

  • Indigenous hydrozoning
  • Water collection and storing
  • Pollinators and friendly critters 

Stock list: In-store labels that indicate hydrozone compatibility as well as a large variety of local plants, rainwater tanks and other water harvesting supplies, wildlife houses and plants for pollinators that are grouped together and highlighted in-store. 

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Indoor jungles

As temperatures rise, indoor gardening will see an increase in demand for exotic collectables and classic creepers. Consumers will likely be more willing to spend on indoor landscaping owing to water restrictions and heat.