What Is A Rain Gauge: Garden Rain Gauge Info And Types Of Rain Gauges

A Rain Gauge
(Image credit: Ben-Schonewille)

Rain gauges are a great way to save water in the landscape. There are different types that can be used depending on your needs. Keep reading for additional information on exactly what is a rain gauge and how a rain gauge can be used in the home garden.

What is a Rain Gauge?

Rain gauges for home use are a fundamental tool in the home landscape. With a garden rain gauge, maintenance of garden irrigation can be managed and therefore, results in healthier plants and lawn. A rain gauge may prevent drought stressed plants or conversely, over watered areas which may contribute to a slew of issues. Overwatering is not only costly but may promote shallow roots, which in turn increase the plants susceptibility to disease. Overwatering is also environmentally unfriendly and encourages pollution risks from garden care products.

How a Rain Gauge Can Be Used

Of course, the amount of water plants need varies according to season and landscape, but most require some water every week during the warmest months. A rain gauge measures not only rain, but dew and mist. A garden rain gauge also can be used to keep track of sprinkler output, completing the task of managing irrigation. To assure an accurate reading, the rain gauge should be placed in an open area away from trees, the house, and other outbuildings. Position the rain gauge twice as far away as the height of a tree or other object and be sure to empty it after every rain shower.

Types of Rain Gauges

Check with your local garden supplier or online retailers for different types of rain gauges for home use. An automatic type of rain gauge that registers inside the home is perfect for the hi-tech gardener, but most types of rain gauges are fairly simple devices that are mounted on a post with a screw, stuck in the ground with a spike, or stand atop the ground with an often decorative holder. With a few basic materials, a rain gauge can also be crafted at home. You will need a straight sided glass that can be marked with a measuring scale and a coat hanger or wire bent to create a holding rack. Also, a hammer and some nails to secure the rack. You will want to position the rain gauge away from overhead objects and take care to fasten it securely so the wind doesn't tip the garden rain gauge over. A fence edge or the like is ideal. Attach the holding rack and slip in the glass. Ta-da! You are ready to record your local precipitation.

Using a Rain Gauge to Measure Sprinkler Output

The rain gauge is also a great tool to manage your irrigation. 1 to 2 inches (2.5-5 cm.) of water per week is recommended for most lawns and gardens. To use the rain gauge to measure the output of your sprinkler system, be sure it is in the path of the area being watered. After the sprinkler system has run for at least 30 minutes, measure the depth of water and multiply by two to figure the output of water over the course of an hour. Through trial and error, the next time you irrigate, the flow rate (gallon per minute) can be "reduced to ½ over 30 minutes. If the flow rate isn't contributing to runoff, then reduce the running time to 20 minutes and re-measure to see if you are now at ½.” The only certain way to know how much precipitation is affecting the garden, and hence manage our precious water reserves, is to use a garden rain gauge. Keeping track of rainfall amounts is a great way to cut costs and conserve water in the landscape.

Amy Grant

Amy Grant has been gardening for 30 years and writing for 15. A professional chef and caterer, Amy's area of expertise is culinary gardening.