The Q&A Archives: Using a rain collector for soaker hose

Question: I want to collect and store rainwater from a roof for my garden, which is 20 feet away. Can I get sufficient pressure from a rain barrel to use a soaker hose in the garden? Paul McCann Surry, ME

Answer: The distance your barrel is from the garden isn't as important as the drop in elevation, says Stuart Lindsay, the water expert at Gardener's Supply Company in Burlington, Vermont. Our soaker hoses need 10 psi pounds per square inch of water pressure to run effectively. A one foot rise in elevation creates 0.43 psi of pressure. So, to get 10 psi of pressure for your soaker, the base of the barrel needs to be about 23 feet higher than the garden, explains Lindsay. If you can't manage thatmuch elevation, use a hose with bigger pores. Try the flat plastic perforated hoses used for watering lawns, or punch holds in a worn out garden hose. The flow will not be as regulated, but it will save you repeated trips with a watering can. With soaker hoses, which are typically made of porous rubber, you run the risk of clogging the pores when algae and bacteria build up in the water. To avoid clogging, cover the rain barrel and rig a downspout filter for debris from the roof. Use an opaque barrel to discourage algae growth.

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