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By Jennifer Schutter
University of Missouri Extension
In the past three years I have incorporated three gardening practices into my yard and garden-raised beds, compost bins, and a rain barrel. I absolutely love all three and encourage you to do the same.
People are now encouraged more than ever to use rain barrels as a way to protect our lakes and rivers while saving money on water bills. So, what is a rain barrel?
A rain barrel is a container used to catch rainwater. It is placed at the end of a home’s guttering downspouts to catch and store rainfall from the roof. Using rain barrels is not a new practice. People have been using containers and barrels for hundreds of years to catch rainwater, only nowadays they are a little fancier than they were back then. Instead of letting the water flow down your driveway and into a storm drain, you can collect it. Just a small amount of rain of less than half an inch can easily fill up a 55-gallon rain barrel.
There are several benefits to using rain barrels. You can use the water collected to water your garden or container plants. It is estimated that nearly 40 percent of household water is used for lawn and garden maintenance.
Rain barrels can be used in areas where you may not have a convenient spigot. Rain barrels can be a very effective tool against basement water problems, and they can prevent run-off from potentially washing harmful chemicals and pesticides into local streams and rivers. Clean your barrel before using it. It is best to use a food-grade barrel. Plastic is best because it will not rust. Do not use a barrel that has been used to hold petroleum products or chemicals! They may leach toxins into the water.
Water collected from rain barrels should not be used for drinking, cooking or bathing. The lid should be secure so children or animals do not fall into the barrel. You should disconnect the barrel during the winter and attach it in the early spring to fill it for use. You will need to elevate your rain barrel slightly to make access to the spigot easier. The screened louver vent will prevent mosquitoes from breeding in your barrel. Consider joining multiple barrels for additional capacity. You can add goldfish to your barrel.
Rain barrels are easy to make and it’s much cheaper than buying one. All you really need is a 55-gallon barrel, a spigot, overflow valve and a drill and bit. If you are from the northeast region of Missouri, you can find 55-gallon barrels at the flea market in Rutledge for $10. You can get the spigot and overflow valve at any hardware store. Make sure the valve has pipe threads on one end and hose threads on the other end. You want to be able to attach your water hose to the overflow valve and the spigot. But, you need pipe threads to insert them into the barrel.
You will probably want to drill a hole with a 15/16 inch bit. If you drill your hole this size, you will want to purchase a spigot and valve. You basically drill a hole about 3 inches from the bottom of the barrel and put in your spigot, and drill a hole about 3-4 inches from the top of the barrel for your overflow valve. You can go on the internet to find plans on how to make one.
I love having a rain barrel. It is located about 20 feet away from my garden and since I do not have a spigot on that end of the house, I use the water in the rain barrel to water my garden. I also use the water from the barrel to water my container plants and plants in my raised beds. If you don’t already have one, try making one this summer. You are sure to love having one too! For additional information email Jennifer, email@example.com