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Let it Rain!

By Paul James

I love rain. The sound of it. The smell of it. The way it cools the air on an otherwise hot summer day. The memories it evokes of playing in it as a kid. And the mesmerizing effect it has on me as I sit on my back porch watching it fall. But I especially love the way it rejuvenates lawns and gardens in a way that city water simply cannot. And there are reasons why that’s true.

Unlike municipal water, rainwater is free of salts, treatment chemicals such as chlorine and fluoride (both of which can be toxic to plants), sodium (which is used to soften water and is also toxic to plants), and pharmaceuticals of all kinds. Rain is free of all such chemicals and is, in essence, pure hydration.

Rainwater is acidic, with a pH of between 5.5 and 6.5, which is also the ideal pH range for the vast majority of plants. City water is treated to be alkaline to protect pipes from corrosion, and can have a pH close to 8.0 or even higher, which can prevent plants from absorbing essential nutrients.

Rain contains nitrogen in the form of nitrates, which is readily and rapidly absorbed by plant roots. In other words, rain is basically free fertilizer.

Unlike watering by hand or with an irrigation system, where it’s practically impossible to cover every square inch of ground, rain falls uniformly, covering every nook and cranny in the landscape. And in the process, it washes dust, mineral deposits, and pollutants off of plant leaves.

After the driest June in Tulsa’s history, the rain we’ve had this week has been especially welcome, and I’ve certainly enjoyed sitting on the porch listening to it and smelling it. And tomorrow, because it looks as though it’s going to rain even more, I intend to go out and play in it.

Happy gardening, ya’ll.

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25 responses to “Let it Rain!”

  1. Beth Schmidt says:

    I love rain too (should move to Portland!) and my plants are so happy right now. So I have a question. Nearly everything I read says not to water from the top, only at the base of the plant. Why is this if rain has all the benefits you just described?

    • Paul James says:

      Leaves that remain wet overnight are at risk of fungal diseases. That’s why it’s best to water the base of plants, especially if you water late in the day. Rain can create the same situation, but it doesn’t rain all the time, or at least nowhere near as often as you water.

  2. Edwinna Allen says:

    Beautiful tribute to rain.

  3. Sonny Estrada says:

    I knew rain was good, but not that fantastic!

  4. Laura says:

  5. Rosemary Weaver says:

    Everything I have read from Paul James is interesting, knowledgeable and just plain fun. I have learned many things that have helped my love of gardening even though the crows and squirrels are stealing tomatoes!! A least they don’t mess with my shrubs and flowers. Every morning I look out the patio door to see if I’ve lost another tomato, Thanks for all the info!

  6. Greg Rosta says:

    Hi Paul,

    I never knew that detail on rain water vs. city/public water. Very interesting! I am on well water, and am now curious and have to go look at old water tests to see what the pH is! It’s storming today where I am, so very timely, too! Nothing beats the sound of a late summer thunderstorm. Thanks once again for the knowledge!



    • Paul James says:

      Thank you, Greg. Well water pH can vary enormously, so I’m glad you’re checking it out. Enjoy the rain!

  7. Marcella says:

    I always enjoy your info, and I think we all can learn something new from it. I have great memories of playing in the rain as a small kid too!

  8. Felicia Crozier says:

    I know you’ll enjoy this Paul … I learned this from my word of the day years ago…the word for the smell of rain: Petrichor. Here’s a link to Live Science that explains how it came to be.

  9. Reta Fritchman says:

    I love rain, too! Your article took me back to my childhood when Dad used the free rain to his advantage. He put on his swimming trunks and grabbed a bunch of rags and washed the car (I don’t think he ever went to a car wash)! And, he had us girls put on our swimsuits and play in the rain! My dad’s been gone for over 27 years, and this is still one of my favorite memories of him!

    • Paul James says:

      Washing the car in the rain? Never thought of doing that, but I’ll give it a try. Thanks, Rita.

  10. Dave Cutting says:

    Reading this I could almost smell the rain and it took me back to my formative years. I have such fond memories from my childhood of the smell and refreshing coolness of summer afternoon rains. Some folks think this sounds odd when they learn that I grew up in New Mexico, and now live in Portland Oregon. In the Southwest it rarely rained, but the little it did was mostly in summer. In Portland it seems to rain all year long except in the heat of summer.

  11. Mary Lindemann says:

    Not really rain related, however; are the very small black ants I disturb in my mulch harmful to the flower beds? Thanks, Mary

  12. Tom Peters says:

    Another rain fact you may or may not know Paul, Ringo’s favorite Beatles song is- Rain.