We have gotten a little shower in Texas the past few days and the garden is loving it! Everything is so big and bountiful! I even have a beautiful new yellow rose that is blooming from bushes I transplanted a few weeks ago!
The garden loves the rain so much. Every gardener knows the importance of good ole natural rain! But, why is the natural rain so much better for your garden? Have you ever researched the science of rainwater vs tap or filtered water?
I found a great paper on the collection and benefit of rainwater in Texas.
There is evidence of rainwater collection cisterns dating as far back as 2000 B.C. The Incas at Machu Picchu also had a very elaborate water irrigation system fed by a stream supplied by rainwater. So, the importance of rainwater has long been recognized.
Rainwater is in its purest form right when if falls from the cloud. It is the softest then and has a nearly neutral pH. As the raindrop falls from the cloud it dissolves carbon dioxide and nitrogen which causes it to be slightly acidic. Rainwater pH is about 5.7 compared to tap water which is about 7.5 according to the National Center for Biotechnology Information. It can be slightly more acidic in North Eastern Texas due to atmospheric components. The higher pH can cause nutrient lockout for your plants. This means that plants cannot absorb valuable nutrients because of the pH. The slightly acidic pH of rainwater is optimal for nutrient absorption.
In addition, rainwater has no sodium compared with tap water that is loaded with sodium. Municipal water contains anywhere from 20 parts per million (ppm) of sodium to as high as 250 ppm. Excess sodium is bad for our plants just as it is bad for humans. Too much sodium will cause problems with uptake of adequate moisture which will cause plant tissues to dry out and stunt the growth of the plant.
In addition to pH and sodium content, rainwater also lacks chlorine and chloramines (used to disinfect tap water), fluoride and other particulate matter that is harmful for your plants. Rainwater has 2-20 mg/dl of atmospheric particulate matter vs 100 -800 ppm for municipal water.
There are obvious benefits of a fresh rain shower in our garden but in Texas rainfall is very unpredictable. To have rainwater for your garden all year long you will need a large runoff water collection system. A runoff collection system for your garden should include five components: 1) catchment surface such as roof 2) gutters and downspouts that channel water from roof to holding tanks 3) screens or components that remove debris from the water 4) storage tank and 5) some type of delivery system such as gravity or a pump. You must keep in mind that every surface your water touches will potential absorb components of that surface. Therefore, it is very important not to use harmful materials for your collection system such as lead, toxic sealants or items that may rust easily. Also, having an elaborate runoff collection system does not mean it is safe for drinking because of contaminants such as bird feces, which stinks.
The article attached “The Texas Manual on Rainwater Harvesting” is a great resource for anyone thinking of doing a rainwater collection system. Until I get mine up and running I will be doing a little rain dance. If the neighbors ask “Water you doing” ? I will just “runoff” !
TTYT- Talk to ya tater!