Using nature’s own to water your garden and why it’s not just about having big butts.

What has been a distinctly average summer so far, watering the garden has at least been a fairly easy job. A dry week will soon change that though, and trudging around the garden with watering cans and hoses gives us all time to think.

A few facts

  • Rainfall in the UK is 15-18 times greater than the net consumption of water.
  • Up to 60% of water applied to gardens in the daytime evaporates and is wasted.
  • Mains water contains a suite of chemicals which, even at low levels, are potentially harmful to plants. Rainwater does not.

So, what can we do about it? One option is to install a system to collect and re-distribute or harvest the rainwater that lands on all our gardens. By this I don’t just mean installing water butts under your downpipes to fill your watering cans from – this just turns watering into another time-consuming chore and to be honest, they’re not that great to look at. I’m talking about a professionally designed, installed and integrated rainwater harvesting system.

How does it work?

When it rains, water drains off the roof of your house into the guttering and down into a drainpipe. Ideally the guttering is also designed so that all the water drains into a central point and is then collected in a storage tank buried under the ground near to the house. To ensure any leaves and debris are removed, the water passes through a filter before being pumped from the tank to an irrigation system using a submersible pump.

Rain gauges of various levels of sophistication can be fitted and most systems have a mains water top up system in case of severe drought when the storage tank may run dry.

Rainwater harvesting

Image credit: Graf UK

Start at the beginning

In an ideal world all new homes would be built with a rainwater harvesting system installed as standard, or certainly as an option in the same way that energy-saving equipment such as solar panels are offered. If you’re not building or redeveloping a new home however, it’s still quite straightforward to have a system installed, particularly if you are redesigning or landscaping your garden. It’s not really a DIY job, however, as it requires a pretty big hole to be dug in order to install the tank underground, as well as a good understanding of drainage and irrigation systems to ensure your newly harvested water gets to where it’s needed.

Rainwater harvesting

Rainwater harvesting

Images Credit: Graf UK

Rainwater harvesting won’t cost the earth

Not only is rainwater a free and widely available resource in the UK, the initial cost of installing a rainwater harvesting system can be quickly offset by lower water bills and greatly reduced plant losses. So with healthier plants, a much cleaner conscience and all that time on your hands – it should be an easy decision to make.

The ultimate solution

Rainwater harvesting systems are generally tailor-made for each garden and the plants in them. Most are hidden from view. However, it is also possible to combine the practical functionality of a rainwater harvesting system with the beauty and interest of a water feature.

Formal ponds and wildlife-friendly water features are increasingly popular in the gardens we create and they can also be perfect storage vessels for harvested rainwater. With careful design the downpipes on the house can discharge into pipework linked to the pond or stream, rather than into an underground storage tank. The water is then pumped to irrigation around the garden on demand. The pond level fluctuates, just as it would in nature; some marginal plants are in and out of the water as levels change and an adjacent bog garden is periodically topped up in wet periods to become the system’s overflow. The net result is a stunning, sustainable feature.

Water is one of the most important elements in any garden, we really shouldn’t waste it.

Green Art has installed various different systems for harvesting rainwater for use in the garden. If you’d like to find out how your garden could benefit, please call Jo or George on 01491 280447 or email to arrange a free consultation.