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Thursday, May 5, 2016

Utilizing rain barrels

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Since joining Purdue Extension, I have heard many individuals talk about rain barrels. My first exposure to a rain barrel came during a site visit within the last month. On that visit, I began to understand what a rain barrel was and how an individual could really benefit from it.

A rain barrel is simply a barrel that is fed by a downspout. Often it will have a wire grate over the opening of the barrel to help keep unwanted items out of it. When you set a rain barrel system up, you will need to determine what section or sections of the roof drain into each downspout. These sections are called catchment areas. At the bottom part of the barrel, many individuals will elect to have a hose system available where they can drain or obtain water from the barrel.

It is estimated that one inch of rain falling on a 1,000 square foot catchment area, will provide up to 623 gallons of water. Thus, if the rain is falling at a rate of 1 inch per hour, you will obtain approximately 10 gallons per minute from that catchment area.

If you only intend to fill a single 60 gallon barrel, that can be accomplished with as little as one-tenth of an inch of rain. However, some individuals decide to have two rain barrels. When doing this, they will use a hose system to attach the two barrels together and only have an opening for water to enter the system on the top of the first barrel with the downspout.

A number of the individuals who I know that have decided to start utilizing rain barrels are doing it as a way to water their gardens and landscape. By doing this, they are helping conserve the municipal water supplies in some communities and have lessened the dent in their wallet. If you use a well, you will find that it also helps conserve your well water. Homeowners with small garden plots, flower beds, and containers will find that a setup of one or two 60 gallon rain barrels is all that they need.

There are a few other advantages associated with rain barrels. For instance, municipal and well water supplies often contain chlorine and salts which can be harmful to plants found in your landscape, garden, and in your home. Rainwater is the softest natural occurring water available. It should contain almost no dissolved minerals, chlorine, salts, and have a pH around 7.0 (assuming nothing else is in the air).

If you are interested in having a rain barrel, you might check out your local garden supply store, go online to see where you can locate one, or look for the next time one of the local SWCD offices are selling them. Though, you might find that most rain barrels online cost from $60 to $150. If that price sounds too outrageous, you can look into making your own. The Marion Co. SWCD has a nice publication available on their website which explains more about rain barrels in general, what to look for when purchasing a rain barrel, and how to make your own. To find that publication, go to http://www.marionswcd.org/ and look at the Backyard Conservation links.

Seeing a rain barrel in operation can be pretty fascinating and exciting for a homeowner trying to conserve water. It is also a practical way that you can prevent your plants from being impacted by chlorine and salt found in other water supplies. As always, if you have any questions or would like information on any agriculture, horticulture, or natural resource topic, then please contact your local Purdue Extension Office at 448-9041 in Clay Co. or 829-5020 in Owen Co. or reach me directly at smith535@purdue.edu. Purdue University is an equal opportunity/equal access/affirmative action institution.

Upcoming opportunities available to you through Purdue Extension include:

July 5 -- Clay & Owen Co. Extension Offices Close, Holiday,

July 9 -- Crop Diagnostic Workshop, 9:30 a.m., Parke Co. Extension Office in Rockville,

July 9 -- Crop Diagnostic Workshop, 1:30 p.m., Ivy Tech's Ag program Crop Plots (one-mile west of U.S. 41 on Harlan Road, south of Terre Haute),

July 14 -- Nitty Gritty II, Indianapolis, 9 a.m.-3:30 p.m., Cost $80, Register by July 2 at www.infarmbureau.org,

July 17-23 -- Clay Co. Fair, Brazil

July 17-24 -- Owen Co. Fair, Spencer

July 20 -- High Tunnel Farm Tour at Harvest Moon Flower Farm, Spencer, call 812-829-5020 for more information

July 24 -- Butterfly Festival, McCormick's Creek State Park