THE RAIN BARREL is an old-fashioned garden tool that is once again gaining great favor. Did you know that plants thrive on rainwater more than municipal water or even recycled grey water? Without rain barrels we waste one of our most valuable natural resources.
For each inch of rain that falls on 500 square feet (46 square meters) of roof, you can collect roughly 300 gallons (1,136 liters) of water in rain barrels! Gathering water from our roofs helps to reduce downstream flooding and keep watersheds healthy. The water collected is great for all non-potable water uses. Pretty impressive. Unfortunately, it is not recommended to drink captured rainwater because of potential contaminants on your roof. However, you can set up a pump and filter system similar to what you use on a ground well. A food-grade drum ensures there is no harm to plants from contaminants or that you will ingest something harmful from eating plants that have absorbed toxins.
In the old days, many folks knew the value of rain barrels, and most stationed one under downspouts. Purchased rain barrels can often be expensive; home improvement companies sell them for close to $100, or even more. Why not make your own? Your county extension office may have rain barrel workshops and some counties give rebates to homeowners for using rain barrels, so be sure to check out your options. A great place to start is the Licking County Soil and Water Conservation District calendar of workshops which can be found at www.lickingswcd.com. Click here to download printable instructions to build your rain barrel.
Rain barrels don’t need to be ugly. You can make yours into garden art by painting the outside of the barrel or integrating them into the landscaping. You may find it easier to use your free water than to unwind the hose, especially for newly set plants or container gardens. If you leave an opening for dipping, be sure to keep it covered with a fine-mesh screen to prevent mosquitoes. Feeder gold fish in the water are inexpensive and fun to watch. Just think, if the power goes off you will still have enough water to wash your hands and face!