rain barrel in a garden

Demystifying Rain Barrel Challenges

Rain barrel water can be a Godsend during periods of drought. But some are reluctant to install one. Here are three common barriers and  solutions to adopting this water-saving technique.

Mosquitos – Rain barrels don’t have to be mosquito breeding stations. Place a piece of inexpensive window screening over the opening to exclude females from laying their eggs. You can pick up flexible window screening at all home improvement stores. Hold it down with glue to simply use the provided plastic barrel ring to hold it in place.

Mosquitos #2 – Available in different brands, Bacillus thuringiensis “donuts” can be floated on the surface to kill hatching larvae. This safe, decades-old chemical is extremely reliable and should last for months. The active ingredient is commonly called Bt, and two readily available brands include Dunks and Plunks.

Algae – even with fine screening, it is amazing how much leaf litter and other debris can make it inside the barrel.  While algae growths are not really bad for plants or your barrel, it can clog the spigot over time. To remedy this, empty the entire barrel onto plants once per year. I prefer to do it in the spring when it is warm and typically dry.  The plants appreciate the nutrient rich water, and it isn’t wasted.

No downspouts? No problem.  Many Floridians do not have gutters and downspouts and therefore think that rain barrels won’t function at their house. A valley or V-shape part of a roof is a great spot to place a rain barrel.

Simply construction plans can be found at http://fyn.ifas.ufl.edu/materials/FYN-HowToBuildARainBarrel.pdf

This is an excellent water conservation gardening method.  Contact your local UF/IFAS Extension office for additional advice on using rain barrel water or other maintenance concerns. Citrus Extension is at 3650 W. Sovereign Path, Lecanto, or you can call us at 352-527-5709.

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