Taking your “green thumb” a little greener by using rain water to water your garden? We think that’s great! Best of all, you don’t need to go “hard core” and install a cistern to do this, you can typically collect enough water in a rain barrel or two to keep patio plants and planters well watered. Welcome to the world of rain harvesting!
Once you’ve decided to purchase a rain barrel, there are a few things to know to keep it in good working order. They’ll give you many years of service if they are properly maintained.
Rain Barrels are designed to attach to a downspout and collect water from your rain gutters. They can quickly fill to capacity (usually 50-55 gallons per barrel, many people install them in pairs) in a very short amount of time, particularly in a microburst of rain or a summer thunderstorm.
Rain barrels should be maintained on a regular basis to ensure only clean water flows into them. No one wants to see murky water when they fill a watering can. Here are five ways to do this:
- Mosquitoes are a common problem when caring for a rain barrel, as the stagnant water provides an excellent environment for the insects to breed and lay their eggs in. One simple way to prevent this is to fit a fine mesh screen to the lid of your rain barrel, which will block all access to the water. This will save you from having to empty the rain barrel every week to prevent mosquitoes from having the time to breed.
- Algae is another problem that can occur if your rain barrel is placed in direct sunlight. If growth of algae is a problem, empty your rain barrel and wash it with a diluted bleach solution. Thoroughly rinse the barrel after bleaching and dispose of the water down a drain.
- You should regularly inspect your rain barrel throughout the spring and summer months. Ensure that there is no debris in the lid that could block the mesh screen. Also check your overflow hose and connections frequently to make sure your barrel is correct working condition.
- During the winter months, you should take your rain barrel out of operation. To avoid freezing and cracking you should disconnect your rain barrel, remove all water and then store inside. Once the barrel has been removed, you should also reconnect your downspout so you can continue to direct water away from your foundation.
- Since your rain barrel is likely collecting water from a single gutter run, consider protecting this gutter with a micro mesh gutter guard. Collecting water cleanly from the source prevents debris and silt from building up in both the gutter and in your rain barrel. Your rain barrel spigot’s is located close to the bottom, so you’ll prevent it from clogging, too.
- Keep your rain barrel on a stand several inches from the ground. You’ll avoid creating a moist breeding ground for bugs while making it easier to get to the spigot as well.
When you water your plants with the rain water you’ve collected, you’re feeding them naturally soft, unprocessed water – just what nature ordered. Large garden or small, rain barrels are a great addition to any home.