There’s nothing like the need for new gutters to finally motivate me to install a couple of rain barrels. I’d been thinking about installing barrels since I moved in five years ago and even more so when I found myself constantly watering a newly planted parched garden bed baking in the 105 degree heat that second summer.
My two 55-gallon barrels have arrived and are already full. That’s right. One rain gusher filled them to the brim. I live in a modest ranch-style home, approximately 1200 square feet if that helps you in picturing just how much rain runoff is going on here.
I’m always interested in conserving resources and being as “green” as I can–every day is Earth Day. The Metropolitan St. Louis Sewer District’s web site cites an EPA stat that 40 percent of home water use is for landscape and lawn needs. Rain barrel proponents tout the devices as a low tech way to tap into a free supply of water that would otherwise drain into the sewer system. I’d agree with that–they are low tech–but given how fast they have filled up, and watching the overflow feature cascade rain off the front of the barrel, I’m not sure I’m saving that much storm water from entering the sewer system. I’ll know at the end of this garden season if they made a difference in my water bill. I do derive small pleaure in filling up my handy dandy watering can with abandon and have yet to turn on the hose for watering. Although each barrel sits on a makeshift platform, water pressure is low. That’s okay, I’ve got patience. While one watering can is filling up, I am watering with a second or doing something else.
Many sites claim the water that is coming off the roof is better for the plants than the water coming from the house system. That’s because it is softer because it is low in salts and chlorine. Unlike tap water, fresh rain water does not contain flouride compounds.Still, you don’t want to drink this stuff. There’s lots of nasty coming off the roof. Many web sites have FAQs that discuss if this is water that can be used to water vegetables. Short answer is yes but water the soil not the plant directly.
Aesthics are important to me. Color, size and shape were all carefully considered. I wanted a barrel that blends into the landscape, not competes with it. Then there are the practical considerations: spigot type (plastic versus brass–I chose brass), overflow mechanics (mine have a front overflow design, no diverter), barrel openings (only a screen for inflow). Not sure I like the fact that I can’t pop off the lid of the barrels at the end of the season. I will have to unscrew the inflow screen to clean and empty them.
I spent lots of time looking for the right rain barrel and read review after review. Common complaint is that they leak. One of mine was leaking at the spigot but I didn’t have it tightened in properly and that problem has been resolved. A common feature is that you install a plant on the top of the barrel. I don’t plan on doing that but can see how standing water in this reservoir will be a mosquito draw. I am, however, planting fern around the base of one of the barrels to obscure the stone perch it is atop. I plan to extend a small hose to the soaker hoses in my shade bed for deep watering. Will let you know how that works.
What do you think of rain barrels?