We get a lot of rain in Florida. It’s known as the sunshine state but this is kind of a misnomer. In the summer (the “rainy season”) it rains almost every day for a half hour in the afternoon, and in the winter (the “dry season”) it rains about every three or four days when a cold front blows through. With all of this rain it would seem like the plants would be just fine on their own, but there’s some nuance to the weather that led me to install some rain barrels to the downspouts on my house.
First of all, I live pretty close to the coast, which means that the sea breeze can keep the summer storms just inland. It can go weeks in the summer without raining at my property, while every afternoon I can look west and see huge thunderstorms. So it’s good to have a free source of water for all of my plants in case the thunderstorms don’t make their way over to me for a few days.
Additionally, since the rain comes down so hard so quickly, the water management organizations in Florida actually encourage people to get rain barrels because it reduces stress on the storm drain systems. Always nice when the local government is on board.
So I have one system with a 165 gallon capacity in the back which is hooked up to a pump and a hose, but I recently put in a smaller system closer to the house for filling up watering jugs. This is just a 55-gallon drum that the city gives out to property owners for free, which is already equipped with a spout, a screen on the top (to keep debris and mosquitoes out) and an overflow hookup. I have a small section of roof with its own gutter, so this small system is perfect for this spot.
First, I had to grade the area a little bit and limit erosion. There was a little slope leading down to the only crawlspace access point so I found some concrete blocks in a neighbor’s garbage and used them to build a little retaining wall. Some other concrete blocks serve as the platform for the rain barrel itself.
When I bought this house there was a hot water heater tank in this spot in its own little house. It was horribly constructed and took up way too much space, so I pulled it out and put in a tankless hot water heater. That freed up some space for the rain barrel and, as a bonus, I can take hot showers of unlimited length now.
Rain barrels are a great way to get water for plants or for whatever you need (although it’s not good to drink it without proper preparation) and they can help your local ecosystem too! I plan to add a few more and do a more thorough how-to in the future based on my other solar-powered pressurized rainwater system.