Rain barrels fill many needs for home, garden

By Kathy Van Mullekom / Daily Press (Newport News, Va.)

Gardens are typically blessed with spring rains that bring summer flowers — and then the hot, dry months of July and August take their toll.

Often, thoughts turn to, “How do I water without running my water bill sky high?”

A rain barrel could be part of the solution.

It’s hard to justify rain barrels for major landscapes, but they are quite practical for small vegetable and flower gardens, especially plants grown in containers, according to gardeners.

More importantly, rain barrels benefit the environment.

“Installing a rain barrel is one of the easiest things a homeowner can do to protect water resources,” says Julia Hillegrass, team leader with askHRgreen.org, an environmental public awareness program for the 16 counties and cities in Hampton Roads, Virginia.

“Watering plants, washing your car, even giving your dog a bath — all great ways to use the rainwater you collect.”

While you can purchase a pricey rain barrel from a retail source, you can make your own for about $50, proof “going green” doesn’t have to be expensive, adds Hillegrass.

If you are a do-it-yourselfer, Williamsburg, Virginia, master gardener Dennis Wool says YouTube has the best how-to videos that show a variety of ways to make a barrel. He recommends using food-grade plastic barrels because some barrels can contain hazardous materials that should not be recycled.

“From very simple designs to elaborate combinations that link multiple barrels together, all can be found under the search ‘rain barrels,’” says Wool, who leads rain barrel-making workshops for his master gardener unit: www.jccwmbg.org.