sustainability

Recycle: Rainwater

It’s hard to believe right now that we will ever see a week without rain, but with a little preparation now, you can still have happy plants during our rainless summer months!  Harvesting rainfall, storing it, and using it during periods of drought is a practice as old as time, but its implementation for landscaping in urban areas today helps with many North Texas issues, specifically:

●      Reduces pressure on city water

●      Shrinks your water bill

●      Captures salt- and mineral- free (ie. chlorine) water for plants

●      Reduces urban erosion and contaminated run-off in stormwater systems

While there are many methods of varying complexity and expense to collecting, storing, and using rainwater, all have the same basic components: catchment surface, distribution, and holding area.   Our two favorite methods below are some of the easiest and most cost-effective in an urban residential setting.

1. UTILIZE A RAIN BARREL

○      By replacing your downspout with a rain chain, or diverting your existing downspout into a 50-gallon water barrel, you collect a significant amount of rain from a fairly small amount of rainfall.  The barrel can then be attached to a pump and hose or a regular spout for hand watering and used in your landscape.

Rain Barrel2.jpg
Rain Barrel.jpg

○      For those more mathematically-minded, there are Supply calculations that will help you determine your required storage capacity based on catchment surface runoff coefficients, the storage capacity of the rain barrels, and roof surface area.  For example, 1 inch of rain on a 1000-square foot wood shingle roof can produce 85-gallons of water. 

○      The collected water is NOT potable water, as there can be trace metals, pesticides,  and microbial contaminants from animal droppings.

2. MAKE A RAIN GARDEN

○      A rain garden is a shallow, depressed landscape feature that collects rainwater run-off from impermeable surfaces.  During a storm, rainwater is immediately diverted from a catchment area like a roof or paved parking lot and collected here where it will soak into the soil within 24-48 hours. 

○      Typically the rain garden will be downhill on a small slope from the catchment area, and small berms will be placed on the downhill perimeter of the rain garden to contain the rainfall. 

○      Plants selected to be planted in the rain garden should be native and able to tolerate both waterlogging for 48 hours and 3 weeks of drought. 

○      This method requires minimal upkeep, and can be an easy source of color in your yard in the form of native perennials and wildflowers!

Rain Garden.jpg

Recycle: Leaves

Every year around this time you’ll see them on most curbs – bags of leaves waiting for pick up by the bulk and brush trucks. Instead of sending these leaves to the landfill, you can recycle them at home, and turn them into a valuable soil amendment to put back onto your plants – leaf mold. You heard us right – leaf…mold…(though we prefer some important official organization rebrand it to “leaf gold”).

So, leaf mold is an incredibly valuable type of compost to create and harvest back into your urban yard. Soil that has leaf mold added to it can hold moisture 50% better than those without it (think about how valuable this is in our hot Texas climate). It creates better soil tilth (fancy word for structure), and it helps to attract beneficial microbes (a wonderful cast of characters inside the soil that we can’t see, but they are making magic at a microscopic level).

Leaf mold is created simply by decomposing leaves, aided by fungal activity that is created when water and oxygen are combined with the leaves. Here’s the shorthand formula: leaves + water + oxygen + time = leaf mold.

You can get really creative with how you build your leaf mold bin; here are the supplies we used:

·      14 inch bolt cutters or a combo pliers/snip tool.

·      Roll of galvanized steel garden fencing material with 2x3 inch mesh opening.

·      Leaves. Lots and lots and lots of leaves…

Now, to build your bins,  simply roll out the fencing (we walked on it) until you have your desired length to create the circumference of the bin. Use your tool to cut the piece twice (once, along the vertical; second, along the horizontal edge). This creates a simple hook action that will make this cylindrical marvel.  

Here’s how you fill the bin:

1.     Add leaves. Water that layer of leaves.

2.     Repeat step one until you reach the top of the bin.

3.     Now, wait for nature to do its work.. (If you shredded your leaves, they will break down faster into compost. If you put the leaves in whole, they will take longer.)

Enjoy the step-by-step photos of how our team turned 2000 pounds of leaves from a community leaf drive into leaf mold bins. It sounds like a ton of work, but four ladies built all of this in four hours.

We hope you will try this, too, in your urban space. We’ll keep you updated on the results of our leaf gold process and product as the year progresses.