With the growing season coming to an end it's time to get your rain barrels ready for winter. With all the wonderful fall rains, most of us have totally full rain barrels and the thought of emptying them seems a shame. But for those of us who have been too late in doing so in the past and have found our barrels totally frozen, it just has to be done.
So hook up the hose and drain the water this week, send it out to the shade trees and shrubs, berry bushes and fruit trees that could use a final drink before going dormant over the winter. Have two barrels? Take one inside and fill it from the other one for your house plants over the winter.
Once they're empty clean them up for spring. An old rag mop works great to go around the inside and remove the layer of silt that has built up. It's much easier to do it now while it's wet than let it sit over the winter. They are also a great place to store your hoses and soaker hoses over the winter.
For storage over the winter, remember they will survive outside in the Iowa weather as long as they are completely empty and don't get dropped or banged around. Leave them behind the garage on their sides, lay them down next to their stand, put them in a garage or shed or take them to the basement. They'll be ready for the next season and you can get them out again when you are sure that they won't freeze, think April showers.
Thanks for a great year! Joel
Central Iowa's amazing rains this summer have saved us gardeners the worry and work of irrigating our precious digs! We expect not to need to use our precious buffer of stored water, right? I want to share my "mistake" which proved to be a boon, and to learn what you think of just 'using it anyway!'
We have rain barrels strategically situated around "Gettys' Gardens" including two 300 gallon rain harvesting tanks at our garage. Last week as I gardened, serenaded by our wrens, I found the carefully amended soil in our raised bed for pepper plants was a bit dry. We have a filter on the tank's ball valve connected to a poly hose to supply soaker hoses in that pepper bed. So I turned the ball valve of that handy 300 gallon tank and kept weeding, giving the peppers a good drink as I worked.
A week later I went to that tank to rinse a compost pail. I found the ball valve open and the 300 gallon tank empty! All the rain in the tank plus the fresh rain that had fallen on the back half of our garage that week - about 300 gallons more - had run slowly through the soaker hoses into our raised pepper bed. BUT! We instantly harvested thick green bell peppers, great for stuffing, shown below. I closed the valve and it rained again last night, so that rain tank (and all of our others) are again full. I'm delighted to have left the tank open for continuous slow irrigation through our soaker hoses!
Sometimes we hoard our stored rain water, though the rule is to use it in 30 days. When rain is coming, it may be best to use what we have, and let Nature replenish it with fresh rain.
Have you used your stored rain water to give your plants extra luxury? What difference does plant type or soil type make? Please Comment with your experience, so we can learn and share with our many gardening friends!
In our eight years in business we have come across a wide variety of rain barrels. They run the gamut from "designer" to utilitarian, inexpensive homemade ones to very costly. The pictures below give you some ideas about what you may find. So what do you look for when picking what to purchase? Here are some suggestions that we have used in the past:
1) Durability: Will it do the job and last long enough to make the investment worthwhile?
2) Removable screened lid to keeps insects and debris out of the water;
3) Solid fixtures: brass versus plastic
4) Ease of care & off season storage: Does the lid come off for cleaning?
Other factors such as where the spigots are located, how overflow is addressed are also issues to be considered. The good thing is most barrels can be modified to make them work better for you. We are constantly looking for ways to make our rain barrels as easy to use as possible. Oh, by the way, all the pictures below are rain barrels we modified and installed at their present location. So if you need help give us a call or email, and let us make your rain harvesting experience a better one!
Yesterday we highlighted the fact that mosquitoes can transmit nasty diseases, and general steps to eliminate standing water where their larvae grow. As rain water harvesters, let's get specific: Don't let mozzies* get to your water! Our rain barrel design was inspected by an entomologist who said it is good for keeping out mosquitoes---as long as you keep the screened lid on and the overflow connected to its hose or pipe.
If you have a rain barrel or rain tank from Rain Barrels Iowa, it has an overflow: a brass hose adapter, a hose barb for corrugated hose, or a 3-inch or 4-inch diameter PVC, all of which to let extra water out in a controlled fashion when the container is full. And all of which can let mosquitoes in. From the mosquito's view, still water without predators is an ideal place to lay a few hundred eggs at once! So, if you haven't properly completed your rain harvest set up with a hose or pipe on the overflow opening, PLEASE DO THIS TODAY.
Mosquito bites can be more than just annoying and itchy. They can make you really sick.
We want you to harvest rain, to save money as well as to use all the free soft rain water you can Using rain water can take a load off the shrinking drinking water supply in addition to a load off your wallet. Rain is free and should not be wasted.
Today our focus is on safety. As rain water harvesters, let's be mindful of the hazard mosquitoes can bring -- not just you and your family but also nearby people and pets. Mosquitoes carry an increasing number of nasty diseases, so let's look at how to harvest rain while eliminating mosquito habitat.
New Orleans has actively and successfully battled mosquitoes for 50 years with a 2 million dollar budget and a highly effective team. So let's take a look at what works. New Orleans' new 50-page Zika Control Plan focuses first on eliminating habitat needed to grow more mosquitoes. You may have heard that the most dangerous mosquitoes can reproduce in water-holding containers as small as a bottle cap, and take only a week to hatch. Yep. That means we have a really good reason to clean up thoroughly, and to clean up everywhere, every week.
Other "small containers" mentioned by New Orleans Entomologist Sarah Michaels: "Pet food bowls, cans and glasses, the lids on ice chests and even the cup holders on the top of ice chests."
She said property owners should follow the same routine the city workers use when making regular neighborhood inspections:
Ever since we started Rain Barrels Iowa we have been asked "Isn't it illegal to collect water in _Fill in the blank__?" Well, the answer has been mostly NO. There may be a few isolated areas where there is a temporary ban on harvesting rain but there are now no states where it is illegal. The following link is to a Colorado news station about the passage of a law allowing people to harvest up to 110 gallons of water beginning August 10th of 2016. http://www.9news.com/news/politics/rain-barrels-could-soon-be-legal-in-colorado/114878938
As long as we were looking into this issue I found this link which gives a little more information about making use of rain water. https://www.truthorfiction.com/collecting-rainwater-is-illegal-in-some-states/
Using rain water makes sense for your plants and for your pocketbook. Rain barrels allow you to harvest naturally soft water month after month and year after year. So cheers to the people of Colorado who can soon legally join us in using one of our natural resources.
Ever since we started this business we have had the yearly question from people about whether they should purchase rain barrels. The question/problem: When it's raining, we don't need one, when it's not raining, it won't fill up so why have one. Our answer is usually the same, it is better to be prepared than to wish you had been. Last year (2015) was a very wet season, we ended up using all of our stored water to give everything a good drink before winter. Four years ago we ran out of stored water and resorted to city water, everything still died and we had to pay the water bill. So we beefed up our capacity and now should be able to make it through most summer and fall seasons in good shape. The number of rain barrels you need depends totally on you, we have people with one rain barrel and a couple of people who have purchased their eighth one!
Remember that just a little bit of rainfall will fill up your rain barrels (100 square feet of roof space will give you about 60 gallons of water!) So use the water as you need it and keep the downspout diverters ready to harvest if the rains become less frequent. If you end up with full rain barrels at the end of the season, treat your trees and shrubs to one last good drink for the fall. If you use them over and over as they fill and provide water for your flowers and crops, then you will be saving money and giving your plants naturally soft water that they don't have to filter. Happy Harvesting!
One of the most frequently asked questions is "How much water will I need for my garden?" Well, the answer to that is it depends. What are you growing? How much are you growing? What is your soil like? Are you doing flowers or vegetables? Will it ever stop raining? Will it ever rain again?
So our general answer is, "Start with what you think you need and go from there." OK, so that is not a definitive answer, but it is a start. We started with the idea of getting one barrel seven years ago and ended up ordering 8. Well, we didn't like how they worked so we played with them until we were at least able to use a couple of them. (That experience is what got us started with this business venture!) Since then we have expanded to using large tanks and rain barrels which allow us to harvest about 900 gallons of water. Do we need all that? Right now the answer is, we don't know (see above questions for reference). We are just a third of the way into July and the weather has been wonderful. We are just a third of the way into July and who knows what the weather will be by State Fair time.
One more item on this for now, "With all the rain we've had, why do we need a rain barrel now?" We are just third of the way into July.....
Moral of the story: Better to be prepared than to be without. Have a great summer!
That was a headline in the Des Moines Register today. So it is that nature just doesn't do what we want when we want it. We have more than enough water right now, the ground is saturated and the rivers are over their banks. Most of us are not thinking ahead to the dry parts of July and August (think State Fair weather) when the ground is often cracked and the dust is everywhere, we're dealing with traffic being rerouted and water in the basement.
My job is to remind you that those dry spells will come again, whether we want them or not. Our business is to help you as a gardener be ready with natural rain water when you need it most. If you only need some water for your container gardens or if you need to produce for a CSA, we have the products to make that work. So take some time to figure out what you will need to keep all those flowers and veggies flourishing through the summer, then come see us and put your plan in action.
The business has had a fantastic spring, but besides that it has been wonderfully glorious outside. I hope you took time to enjoy the brilliant colors of the flowering trees this spring. The weather has given us a long lasting display of hues and shadings that I don't remember getting to enjoy as much for many years. (Of course the memory isn't all that good so who knows!)
I have also been getting some yard work done. Yes, the neighbors are still wondering when all the clean up will be done, the projects will be finished, the lawn mowed, etc, etc.....but we are making progress. Our goals are always changing and the projects get rearranged to match the new thought processes. So hopefully everyone will bear with us and enjoy the changes along the way.
As part of our expanding business this year we have applied to the Minnesota State Fair and the Clay County Fair in northwest Iowa for exhibit space. We won't know about these for a while but are hopeful that we can get into one or both. If you have events that we should look into, please let us know. Eco Fairs like the one in Ames last month are great events to highlight our products and share information with people concerned about the earth and how to do better with what we have.
Have a wonderful planting season and enjoy the freshness as it comes.
Joel Gettys is the co-founder of Rain Barrels Iowa. He is our resident gardener, product designer, chief of installation at our Rain Barrels Iowa store.