Collecting rainwater for garden and lawn watering is an age old practice, and thanks to new technologies (and growing water bills) it’s becoming a common place trend in residential homes.
Connecting the down spout of a house gutter to a cistern is the first step. The second step, however, provides a greater challenge, says Noémie Messier of New Mountain Farm (at Haliburton Farm) in Saanich.
“Filling the cisterns is easy but getting the water out is the hard part, that’s what the submersible pump is for,” she says.
Garden growing green thumbs are seeing the added benefit of using cisterns as a way to feed crops with compost without having to layer it on with a shovel.
“The compost tea is pretty simple, just load up a burlap sack with worm compost and let it sit in the cistern for a few days,” Messier says.
Messier and her co-farmers keep a dedicated cistern on a dolly so they can drag it around New Mountain’s sizeable L-shaped section of Haliburton’s land. The submersible pump is fairly affordable, and can run off a car battery or deep cycle battery. The savings accumulate the more it’s used, as it eases the amount of tap water used to water the lawn or garden, and the savings come back two-fold by spraying a compost tea twice a month as it’s a nutritional boost that would otherwise need to be purchased.
“In two days we get a tea that’s great for the plants. We do it every other week,” Messier says.
“You can’t have too much water in the cistern though, maybe half full, or you won’t be able to move it around. Maybe you don’t need a dolly, just get a 100-foot hose and you’re good to go.”
The proof is in the yield of the crops. Grass loves it too, as the roots of a well fed lawn will dig deep, becoming more resistant to drought and weeds, great for those keen on green grass throughout the summer.
New Mountain has added an oxygenizer to speed up the process, feeding the compost and helping it ferment quickly. But it’s not necessary.
“You don’t have to use compost, just use borage, nettle, and other plants that are easy to grow,” Messier says.
Catch and release
– Submersible sump pumps are available at local hardware stores and range in quality. A strong enough pump will drive a sprinkler, making it rain compost tea.
– There are other methods to drain the water from a cistern with enough force to spray it onto a garden/lawn.
– Cisterns that collect water on a second floor or raised balcony will drain at a moderate pace.