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Rain Barrels : Taking the Plunge

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Rain barrels have been around for some time, and in recent years they have started gaining popularity around the Cape. So what is a rain barrel and how will it help you with your landscaping and gardening needs?

What is a Rain Barrel?

Rain barrels are plastic or wooden barrels that fill up with rain water collected from the downspout of your roof. You will see rain barrels situated around the back corner of houses, near to flower beds and close to gardens. The rain barrel is fairly simple in its construction. Some homeowners choose to make their rain barrel more visually appealing by decorating it with greenery or choosing the wooden barrels because they are more attractive than the blue 55 gallon plastic barrels.

Can I Build One?

Rain barrels are fairly easy to construct on your own, although many home improvement stores carry pre-made rain barrels that you can just pick up and install right away. Another place to look for an already constructed rain barrel is your local farmers market or flea market. There are plenty of Do-It-Yourself videos on YouTube and other websites on the internet that will give you step by step directions to build your own rain barrel. Many websites claim that you could construct your own rain barrel for under $20.

What are the Advantages?

Is a rain barrel right for you and your lifestyle? For most people, the answer is yes. A rain barrel helps you save money during the summer months that would be spent on watering your lawn and/or flower beds. Water collected in a rain barrel is a back-up for drought spells when water use is limited to water your plants, lawn or even wash your car. Using rain water has environmental advantages as well, such as preventing rain water from impacting runoffs and streams. Rain water is naturally “soft,” which means free from chemicals and minerals (such as chlorine), so plants love it. Tap water is treated with these harsh chemicals and minerals to make it consumable.

What are the Disadvantages?

Although plants and grass love the soft water, you may not want to use it on your vegetable garden. Since the water you’re collecting is running down your roof, and over your asphalt or wood shingles, it may not be safe to use on something you plan to eat one day. That being said, the water should not be used to drink or used to cook with due to those possible toxins.

If you’re constructing your own rain barrel, it’s important that you make sure it is sealed up tight. Standing water is a magnet for mosquitoes. To ensure mosquitoes are not drawn to your rain barrel, you could always use mosquito dunks in the tank to kill mosquito larvae before it hatches. It is important however that you put the dunks in the tank before mosquito season because it won’t kill larvae that is already there or grown mosquitoes.

Is a Rain Barrel for You?

The quick answer is yes. If you have a lawn, garden or even just a car you can benefit from having a rain barrel collecting water for your watering needs. Investing the money in a rain barrel will make your money back in no time because you'll make it back by saving on your water bill. It may take a few seasons, but while you wait for your money back, you can feel good about the positive impact you are having on the environment.

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