The rain came and it was clear to me that I couldn't pass up the opportunity to collect it, even though the new tank was not quite complete. But after it was full, it was also clear I couldn't leave it like this indefinitely:
So on Saturday I set out to make a cover for the tank. It was a fairly straightforward operation, without any tricky bits to slow the process down. Push a few boards together, slap some battens on the top and bottom to hold them together and keep the cover flat and stable, and voila! A simple topper for the tank.
There were a few things I did to spruce it up, though, including putting a screen on the underside to keep out mosquitoes:
I've used this method on the smaller tank with great success. The combination of the close spacing of the boards and the screen do a good job of discouraging breeding of the pests.
That square of wood has a purpose, too. I've always wished for a little door on the smaller tank's cover to check water level (otherwise, I have to take the whole cover off), and so I cut one in this cover:
The wood on the underside forms a "lip " to keep the mosquitoes out when the flap is closed.
I had considered leaving a cover off and putting fish in the tank, but since the primary purpose of the tank is for irrigation, there probably will be periods when it will be drained dry.
I also used the boatbuilding technique of using a thin strip of wood (also called a batten) and some nails to hold it in place to mark my curve for cutting:
And now this is what the Rainwater Harvest Garden looks like with everything in place:
I've had a couple of people ask about the galvanized tanks themselves. You can usually find these at a farm supply store or, if you live in cattle country, even at some Big Box Hardware stores. I bought mine at the latter, since they are a little cheaper there. You can expect to pay just a little less than a dollar a gallon.
I like the look of the galvanized tanks. The big, green, plastic barrels (available online or at enviro-friendly nurseries) I have on the other side of the house are also attractive, but since these would be the first things someone would see on entering the back garden, I wanted something I could use as a design element in themselves. The little tank was left over from using it as a holding tank for some pond fish many years ago, and when I needed something to collect rainwater from the gutter, I stuck it underneath. I like that look so much that there was never any question about what I would use when I expanded.
The galvanized tank goes well in a Texas cottage garden, and Pam Penick has written a couple of very nice posts about it over on her blog, Digging. (I've tried to include a link directly to those posts, but it isn't working. You can find them by doing a search on her site for "galvanized tanks.")
I think mine looks so good, I'm now thinking of putting a similar set-up in the front garden for all the world to see.
But design element or not, green plastic or galvanized, I am committed to harvesting rainwater. Rain shed from a roof during thunderstorms is a gift from heaven. Fifty percent of the water treated for drinking in my little city is used to irrigate lawns and gardens in the summer, and no matter what we wish to believe, that is simply unsustainable in a semi-arid climate. The small amount of water I collect, the drought-tolerant plantings, and the no-water lawn will all help to defray some of the strain I place on the system.
The only thing left is to fill the containers with drought-tolerant plants. I'll do one more post on the rainwater harvest garden in the summer to show how it all looks in its lush form.