Rain barrels

Master Gardeners of Ellis County
Master Gardener

What better time to talk about this subject! Many in the community are taking advantage of KSU Big Creek Middle Smoky Hill River Watersheds & City of Hays Roll Out the Rain Barrel distribution. This is a fabulous way to conserve a precious resource for the home landscape. A typical barrel will hold approximately 50-55 gallons. They have a cover (required for safety and to prevent mosquitos) with an opening covered by a removable screen for filling and a spigot at the bottom to use when water is needed. The spigot has a knob to adjust the flow and an end where a hose can be attached.

Sounds perfect! All that lovely water ready for use. Conserving water and saving money, a new source of water for the garden and landscape. Whoa! A few details about placement and ease of use might be helpful.

Placement. Under a gutter downspout, whether off a house or garage, even a shed will catch the rain. Where do you plan on using the water? Putting the barrel to the closest downspout facilitates ease of use. Keep in mind, when full, a rain barrel can weigh up to 400 lbs. If not placed on a sturdy base or concrete, they will slowly sink and possibly tip over. A barrel will have an overflow opening which should be placed away from the structure, ideally onto an unpaved surface, to prevent damage to the house or garage.

With a heavy rain, the barrel(s) will fill quickly, make sure there is adequate drainage away from the structure. With a little work and some PVC pipe, the barrels can even be connected to one another.

Use: OK, the barrel is full. Now what? The water will not flow quickly and as the barrel empties the flow will slow. Trying to water anything that is above the height of the spigot will be difficult as the water fights against gravity. To make sure the barrel not only won’t sink into the ground with the water weight, but also for ease of use, it should be placed on a base of some sort. Again, keep the weight in mind. A base must not only be able to support the weight but is solid enough to not sink with the weight. Cinderblocks would be suitable. The higher the base, the easier it is to use.

Maintenance: At least once a year, completely empty and rinse out the barrel. This will prevent algal growth, debris or any stagnant water. Do not leave water in the barrel over winter and keep the valve open! If the valve is closed and water remains in the barrel during the winter months, the barrel will crack, the ice melt and water flow, causing possible damage to the foundation of the building.

Safety notes: If using the water on the vegetable garden, make sure to wash off any produce, not with the collected rain water as there may be possible contaminants contained in the water from the roof.

For further information about purchasing a barrel, please drop by the Cottonwood Extension District office, 601 Main St., Hays, KS 67601 or call 725-628-9430. They have the order forms and you may also make your payment there.

Master Gardeners of Ellis County, Cottonwood District. More information available at www. cottonwood.ksu.edu or visit Facebook at Ellis County Extension Mastster Gardeners.