Use rain gauge to measure rainfall levels

These days, a rain gauge rates as a valuable tool.

Without a rain gauge, what you thought was a good rain may have only been one-third of an inch. After four weeks of no rain, one-third of an inch won't be enough to satisfy plants. You'll have to tote buckets of graywater from the shower to take care of the plants on your triage list.

If the rain gauge measures an inch of rain, though, that's enough for you to store shower water for almost a week without pouring it on your plants.

If you don't have a rain gauge, don't rely on a friend to answer "How much rain did we have?" They may live just four miles away, but their rainfall amount is not yours.

To be effective, rain gauges must be cared for properly. Place gauges away from the drip line of trees and shrubs. Combining rain with water running off plant foliage gives an incorrect reading.

Check for cracks when your rain gauge ages, as it may not hold water properly. Some rain gauges can be placed on a patio table, others need to be staked into the ground, and some can be screwed onto the deck or fence. You might like one with huge numbers so you can read it from inside.

When discussing using graywater with older friends recently, they lamented they couldn't carry heavy buckets because of health limitations. It made me realize the rules about graywater usage should be clarified. Paying someone to tap into your graywater for reuse has varying requirements in several counties.

These are interesting times. We are experiencing a water ban, our water reservoir is dangerously low, there is talk of water rationing, plant professionals are losing their jobs and the country's largest family-owned nursery, Pike's, filed for bankruptcy.

Graywater is a good source of water for those physically or financially able to use it, and it has been prominently promoted.

Think seriously about a rain gauge and what it is designed to collect, rainwater. I hope our notions about harvesting rainwater might soon transition into simply saying we must harvest water, with the complete understanding that it includes both rainwater and graywater.

The easiest way to harvest rainwater is to attach a rain butt to your downspouts. Google "rain butt" and you'll find most of the sites selling them are in England.

Use a rain gauge to know how much rain your landscape is receiving, take graywater for reuse and attach rain butts to harvest rainwater. Finally, a modicum of control over this drought and water ban.

Stone Mountain resident Tara Dillard designs, installs and writes about gardens. Her most recent books include "Garden Paths and Stepping Stones" and "Perennials for Georgia." E-mail her at taradillard@agardenview.biz or visit www.agardenview.biz.