How to Harvest Rain Water

When a drought strikes you will thank yourself for having a store of rain water harvested.

  • Rain Barrel
    Harvested rain water can be a lifesaver during a drought.
    Photo by Fotolia/dplett

  • Rain Barrel

Q: What can I do to help improve my results during a dry season? We deal with drought occasionally and still want to grow a great garden. — Mandy in California 

A: There’s nothing more worrisome in the garden than long stretches without rain. The first tip is to collect as much rainwater with rain barrels attached to gutters. One decent rain can provide hundreds of gallons of water for the garden. There are lots of plans online showing how to build your own, or purchase one ready-made from a garden supplier. If making your own, be sure to use only food-grade barrels — never anything that once contained chemicals.

When placing plants in the garden or landscape leave a slight depression at the base of the plant to hold rainwater. This is easy to do in the vegetable garden and I also like to sink a 4- to 6-inch pot into the soil and when I water, the pot is filled up, slowly dispersing the water.

Mulch, mulch and more mulch will help keep the soil evenly moist and also has the benefit of reducing fungal diseases. 

Improve the soil with lots of compost. Good garden soil is well drained, but also able to retain moisture. Choose plants that are drought-tolerant like succulents and other tough perennials. 

There’s a group of gardeners experimenting with dry farming: the 19th century practice of growing crops with only what nature provides for water. There’s lots of information online about techniques and successful varieties to grow. 



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