Why not take advantage of all of the rain that we have had over the past few weeks and prepare for the hot weather ahead! One way to do this is by taking care of your rainwater harvesting systems during the winter to keep everything in tip-top condition. Activities such as cleaning your gutters, checking your downpipes and using water butts, or adding extra butts to existing systems is all something that’s great to do in the depths of winter to prepare for spring.
In a recent Pots & Trowels video, our friend Martin Fish shows how to do just this, so you can not only look after your own garden, but also do your bit to help conserve water ahead of summer. You can watch the video below, or keep reading for all the advice, tips and tricks you need.
When should you clear your gutters?
Now is a great time to unclog your gutters! Over autumn and winter, it is easy for your gutters to become blocked by fallen leaves and other debris that then becomes water logged and can cause blockages. If this happens, it can prevent the water from flowing, which can damage your pipes if the water becomes frozen in the cold weather, or can pull your guttering if trapped iced water becomes too heavy for the brackets holding them up.
Another advantage of cleaning your gutters in winter is that you can do your part for the environment. You can collect rain from the roof of your house, greenhouse or garden shed into a sealed water butt, and the reuse it to water your plants when things hot up again in spring and rainwater becomes more scarce.
How to clean your gutters and maintain your water systems
One way to clean your gutters is using a ladder, bucket and your trusty Darlac Trowel to pick up and remove any leaves, debris and blockages from the gutter. In this video Martin points out that a trowel is just the right shape for the profile of his gutters which makes for speedy unclogging!
Alternatively, if you do not have ahead for heights or feel unsafe too high up a ladder, you could use our swop top pole and gutter brush to unclog your gutters, whilst keeping your feet planted firmly on the ground!
Top tip: you can use the gutter waste as compost for your garden. The leaves and other organic debris in your gutter are rich in nutrients – a perfect addition to your compost pile, so don’t through it away!
Once you are happy that your gutters are clean, it is important to check the down pipe is straight and free of blockages. You can do this by removing a section of the downpipe and giving it a tap to dislodge any debris and make sure that it is clean and free-flowing.
From your downpipe, a great way to save water is to attach a water butt – or maybe even two or three or four, they’ll easily get filled from a house roof. All the rainwater that makes it’s way down your gutters and downpipes will then be saved ready for you to reuse in your garden.
To maximise your water savings, you could attach one or more water butts to each downpipe. When installing, it is important that you keep your water butts off the ground so that you can fill up your watering can with ease. Being gravity-fed, the taps are usually right at the bottom of the butts, so to be able to extract it all you need enough space to get your watering can underneath. You can do this by placing your butts on some concrete blocks or paving slabs so that it is elevated.
Now that you know how to reuse rainwater, it is important to make sure that your watering cans are kept clean! Martin Fish shows you how to do this in a Pots and Trowels video so you can make sure that you are all set for gardening in the Spring. If you would like to watch the video, click play on the video below for more top tips!
When well looked after, a good watering can will last you years. However, they might start to lose their shine over time. One way keep your watering can clean is by taking a piece of sandpaper and lightly rubbing it against the watering can’s surfaces. This will remove grime and dirt, however, it is important not to rub too hard as you do not want to damage the galvanising. To give your watering can a thorough clean, you could also remove the rose and brush the ferrule with the sandpaper. This will clear any build-up of dirt and make it easier to take the rose on and off. You should also make sure that there are no blockages in the holes of the rose as this could prevent a steady flow of water leaving the watering can.
The most important area of your watering can to keep clean is the inside as this is where bacteria can build up, which is very harmful for young seedlings. One easy way to do this is by spraying a household cleaner into the opening of the watering can (just make sure to wash it out with water before you use it for your plants). Or, you could use a good-old-fashioned bucket of soap and water with a brush. This is a great way to remove green algae and other bits of stubborn dirt. Finally, you could give the outside of your watering can a wipe down with a soapy cloth to remove dust and finish your clean.
Although reusing rainwater to water your plants is a great way to reduce your water consumption, it is important to make sure you only use it for the right plants. For example, when watering seedlings, it is best to use mains water as there might be bacteria and fungal spores in the water butt that could damage their growth.
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