Building for the future, today – combining the best of historical wisdom and modern technology.
If you live in an area that is prone to an extended dry season or a general lack of rainfall, you already know how difficult it can be to maintain houseplants, outdoor flowerbeds, gardens or crops. Complicating the matter even further is the fact that some U.S. states have begun restricting or outlawing rainwater collection. Despite the emergence of new laws, storm-water collection is a growing practice throughout our country.
Using Rain Barrels to Harvest Stormwater
Stormwater that has been collected and stored for later use has many applications in and around the home. Though it's not potable without proper filtration or purification, some frugal homesteaders and do-it-yourselfers have begun using this water to wash dishes, bathe and, in some cases, to drink.
Rain barrels are among the most popular methods for harvesting stormwater. Suitable for use in both densely packed urban environments and remote countryside communities, these offer a relatively easy and inexpensive introduction to the practice.
Many small-scale farmers and gardeners rely on rain barrels for their crops. The rain does a fantastic job of irrigating gardens and fields while it is falling. Those who practice stormwater collection can rely on their rain barrels on days that are sunny and dry. Motivated homesteaders are able to make the most out of the rain that falls on their property by collecting, storing and using stormwater appropriately.
Building a Garden Roof
Rooftop gardens are becoming more common among residential and commercial buildings alike. Primary benefits include increased aesthetic appeal of your home, lower energy costs, reduced CO2 emissions and more. It's also a great way to grow small plants, vegetables and fruits when working with limited space. If you can't build it out, you might as well build it up!
The concept of the rooftop garden isn't exactly a new invention. Sometimes known as a living roof or live roof, these were popular among some of the earliest pioneers and homesteaders across the U.S. and Europe. In this case, they were commonly used to provide visual appeal to an otherwise drab and dreary landscape.
Additional benefits of modern living roofs include consistent sunlight, protection from wildlife and the luxury of gardening in privacy, but there are some hazards to consider, too. The increased amount of heat exposure, both from the sun and surrounding surfaces such as buildings, cars and nearby utilities, can be enough to damage crops in some cases. High winds can also pose a threat, so heat and wind shields are recommended.
Homesteaders, homeowners and builders are now using garden roofs out of necessity or practicality. But there are some considerations to make before starting your garden roof. Even the most basic of rooftop gardens will increase the roof's load by roughly 30 pounds per square foot when wet. It's a good idea to consult with a professional contractor or engineer to ensure your roof is capable of supporting the added weight.
Using a Rain Garden to Collect Excess Stormwater
The concept behind the modern rain garden is similar to a traditional garden: to provide beauty and functionality to a plot of land. Rain gardens take this idea one step further by using as much stormwater as possible. Apart from reducing the impact on local water sources, it also lowers your monthly utility bills.
Rain gardens achieve their goal by taking advantage of native plants and strategic landscaping. Many are built on slopes or at the bottom of hills. They also feature a center pool that is deep enough to hold several inches of stormwater.
There are numerous benefits to rain gardens. According to some studies, they facilitate 30 percent more ground seepage than the average lawn. They also reduce the overall amount of pollution that finds its way into our nation's lakes, streams and rivers.
Preparing for Wet Weather
Stormy weather can make short work of even the best-laid plans. Unexpected rain showers have caused the cancellation of many picnics and afternoon outings, but rainy days don't have to be all negative. Those who are able to prepare for wet weather and harvest stormwater can do a lot of good for themselves and the surrounding community by reducing pollution, growing local crops and adding aesthetic appeal to the neighborhood.
All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Guidelines, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on their byline link at the top of the page.