We just had two consecutive weeks of blazing sun and not a drop of rain. However, this afternoon, a storm broke, and it poured for about half an hour, enough to make a difference, especially for established plants that never get watered by us. This rain gave me the idea of doing a post on our rainwater collection system.
|Rill and clapper bridge|
The garden is watered only with watering cans, which can be onerous. We use a lot of mulch which helps, and only water vegetables and plants that have been transplanted recently.
|Our collection of metal watering cans|
|The tank is refilled by the two downspouts or the tap|
When there is no rain and we have used all the water in the tank, we can refill it from the well water system. Filling a watering can from a tank takes seconds, while it is much longer to fill it from a tap. Given that we are off the grid, it is more convenient for us to refill the tank when there is a lot of sun around noon (none of our devices uses more electricity than the water pump), rather than run the pump when we actually do the watering, late in the afternoon or early morning, when there is little sun.
|Overflow to an underground pipe|
At the top of the tank, we drilled two holes with pipes (one hole is not enough to cope with all the water in a big downpour). These take the overflow to the drain illustrated above. The drain is connected to an underground pipe (white, to the right) that takes the excess water to an artificial rill. The tank is drained in autumn (otherwise it would freeze in winter, and the ice would split it apart). As Wikipedia defines it, an artificial rill is an aesthetic feature that carries water some distance away. Three clapper bridges cross the rill (they are aligned with the main paths of the garden).
|The rill and the three clapper bridges|
The water table is very high here. Right in the middle of the area where we wanted to build the garden was a spot that remained wet from October to early May. Instead of trying to divert the water from where it wanted to run, we decided to make a feature of it. So we built this rill where excess water from the field accumulates. In summer, the rill dries up, except for the end which is deeper and forms a pond that has water all year round. This is where all the neighbouring frogs congregate at this time of the year. From late autumn to spring, the water comes to almost the top of the rill. We can then just dip our watering can in the rill.
|The pond at the end of the rill|
Building the rill was a project that was spread over three years as the stones had to be carried from around the property (in wheelbarrows), the channel had to be be dug out (with picks and shovels) and the stones had to be laid. It was an excellent project for the waist line!