Monday, June 21, 2010

The Many Benefits of a Rain Barrel for Gardening

Whether you need water for flowers or vegetables, there are alternate ways to collect and store free water than pulling it from the tap.

A common source of water for gardeners is the garden hose—traditionally abundant and inexpensive, many gardeners never consider the impact or expense of using water from municipal sources or private wells.

To reduce consumption and collect a free source of water, use a rain barrel. A rain barrel is simply a large container for collecting rain water, usually from a gutter. The idea behind a rain barrel is that the total surface area of your roof onto which rain falls is gathered into usually a few locations—that is, the gutters. So using a rain barrel allows you to conveniently collect and store all of this water for later usage.

Ready-made rain barrels which you can buy come with a spout on the bottom to which a hose can be attached. Ready-made rain barrels are convenient, but can be expensive, and overall they’re often made of plastics, which perpetuate oil consumption. With a little extra work, you can find or purchase an available resource for your rain barrel.

Where I have my rain barrel, I found two garbage cans left on the property probably from when the city of Ann Arbor issued its own refuse cans. Thus, I converted these unused available resources into rain barrels.

The trashcans I found had holes in them, so I lined them with the thickest 42-gallon trash bags I could find—contractor grade trash bags, 3mm thick. I put the rain barrel under the gutter, and voila! After the first rain storm I had a ready supply of water for my garden.

One downside of my rain barrel set-up is that I don’t have the convenience of a spout on the bottom. Thus, I draw water from my rain barrel by scooping out the water with an old plastic container. This allows for direct watering and minimal waste of my rain water reserves. Another drawback of my rain barrel is that standing water is left somewhat open and exposed, which can be a breeding ground for mosquitoes. To combat this I agitate the water periodically to drown potential mosquito nests.

Here is a great link from Maryland’s Department of Natural Resources that describes how to build a rain barrel:

It helped me; I’m sure it can help you.

Most importantly depending on your local rainfall patterns, you should implement the benefits of a rain barrel as soon as possible before the drier part of summer arrives.

So, with minimal investment and environmental impact, you too can have a steady, inexpensive water source for your garden. Enjoy!

About the Author
David Merian is a contributing writer for Mike the Gardener Enterprises, LLC the exclusive home for the Seeds of the Month Club.

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