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Master Gardeners Catch the Rain!

By July 26, 2023July 28th, 2023Beet 2023 08 August

In September of 2021, the irrigation wells on the OSU Southern Oregon Research and Education Center campus in Central Point ran dry. Watering of all campus demonstration gardens stopped, and plants in the native plant nursery began to die. Through a massive emergency effort, the nursery stock was either donated to local restoration projects or taken to member homes to be maintained until we could install a watering system.

In October 2021, bids were sought to find a contractor to construct a rain catchment system, pending approval of the project. All contractors with rain catchment skills were fully booked until late Spring 2022. As an interim solution, JCMGA purchased eight 250-gallon cage tanks and filled them with water from a local watering delivery service. A small pump was purchased and watering the remaining nursery plants continued all winter using the two thousand gallons of water in these small tanks.


In January 2022, as the new growing season approached, Jackson County Master Gardener Association received approval to install the rain catchment system as an emergency irrigation backup for our well.  Fundraising began for the $15,000 system with a Go Fund Me campaign in February of 2022.  A total of $10,367 was raised, with the remaining funds being acquired through plant sales from the native plant nursery, and a generous grant from Jackson County Soil and Water Conservation District.  Sage Hill Landscape, the installation contractors, also donated one of the tanks to the project.

The system, installed by Sage Hill, was completed in the summer of 2022. It is a 5,000-gallon system consisting of two 2,500-gallon tanks that capture water off the roof of greenhouse #2. When the campus well failed again in the late fall of 2022, JCMGA was able to utilize the rain catchment system, beginning in February 2023 to grow all the plants for our May 2023 Spring Garden Fair.

As of July 2023, the well on campus is functioning, and the rain system tanks are full.  Master Gardeners will use the rainwater to maintain the native plants in the nursery on campus in the event of another well failure. Additionally, the system will serve as a demonstration teaching tool for Master Gardeners, Small Farms, Land Stewards, 4-H programs, and any community association that would like to bring members onto campus to see what a large capacity capture system looks like. An interpretive sign was installed in early July of 2023, and we look forward to the public being able to learn about rainwater catchment on the SOREC campus.