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Wednesday, June 8, 2016

The benefits of a rain barrel

Rain barrel on the corner of my front porch
with raised vegetable beds visible in the background
and Envoirocycle composter on the right
Over 10 years ago, I installed a rain barrel on my front porch that catches rain from hundreds of square feet of roof on my house and front porch.  While commercial barrels are available, I found that the nearby rural feed store sells used plastic 50 gallon fertilizer barrels for about $15.  All I had to do was paint it a dark color to prevent algae from growing inside and put an opaque cover on top that lets water in.  I added a hose bib at the bottom and an overflow pipe near the top that drains out into the garden. 
hose bib at bottom of tank
It was a simple matter to modify downspout with an angled section that can be reversed to divert water away from the barrel as needed.  Due to my large roof surface area, it only takes a few tenths of an inch of rain to fill the 50 gallon barrel.  I sited the barrel up on my porch in order to have it high enough to drain well into the garden.

From an energy efficiency and sustainability perspective, this reduces the electrical usage of my 1500 Watt well pump.  In a dry summer I can go through hundreds of gallons to water my vegetable beds and flower gardens.  I don't worry too much about the lawn which is mostly weeds that I just cut down as I am less concerned with appearances than I am functionality.  In my small raised vegetable beds, I grow rhubarb, strawberries, basil, chives, nasturtium, sugar snap peas, cherry tomatoes, and some occasional herbs.