Katie Smith here from Scott County, Tennessee. I am so excited to be a guest blogger, participant and volunteer for our branch of Grow Appalachia! We recently relocated to Scott County from a much drier climate in the east side of Washington State. My limited gardening knowledge is based on water systems (e.g., automatic drip systems or soaker hoses) that keep plants hydrated in glacial till, low humidity and the rare summer rainfall. I was warned that it “rains almost every day in Tennessee”….

The space I chose for my garden is an old chicken coop that butts against a barn with a metal roof and no gutters. Prior to working in (A LOT of) organic matter, the soil was mostly clay and still has fairly poor drainage.


Installing a gutter over the garden area moved from somewhere lower on my to-do list to first place one day when the sky cracked open and buckets of rain fell for 20 minutes. A subsequent “quick” visit to my garden ended with rolled up pants, bare feet and puddles up to my calves. I immediately dug three drainage ditches, rearranged my rows a bit, and used old boards as walkways between rows. Thank goodness I had the foresight to put in raised rows, so I lost very few plants and seeded areas from the washout.


The next day I bought and installed a 20 foot gutter that redirects all of the water to an area outside the garden. Scott Christian Care Center had an extra 55-gallon rain barrel and was kind enough to let me use it to collect and reuse the rainwater. Because I don’t have the tools or skills to install a down spout, I opted to simplify by cutting off the top of the barrel to allow the rain to cascade freely from the gutter into the barrel. The next step is to cover the top of the bucket with a screen to discourage mosquito habitat and install a spigot for easy access to the water.  After a few days of thunderstorms, my rain barrel is full and I am looking forward to using it to water my thirsty plants!