Hearing the pitter patter of spring rain on the roof, means I am stocking up on water to take me through any summer dry spells we may have. It is hard to think of dry spells in these early days of spring, but they will come in those hot days in late July and August, when the garden desperately needs an evening soak to help the plants along.
Collecting rain water that falls on your roof is a great way to set up a gardening water system. There are numerous styles of rain barrels, and the style you choose can depend on many factors. We have a cooperage close by so I chose to go the route of an old fashion wood barrel. These are great as they start out quite porous, but as they fill up with water, the wood expands and they hold water. Esthetically, I prefer the style of the wood barrel to the newer plastic styles. That said, I have my wood barrel with a tap under my eves trough and then have several blue 300 gallon plastic containers hiding behind my shrubs for additional water storage. I used a siphon system to fill the various containers last year, and plan to connect the containers this year with a hose and nozzle system at the base of each barrel.
This summer I plan to hook by barrels up to a timer so that I can arrange a proper watering system for the garden. This is by no means necessary, but it avoids ruining a full summer’s worth of labour if you are lucky enough to hit a patch of hot sunny weather while you are away. Most hardware stores carry timers for hoses.
One very important precaution to take with rain barrels is to make sure you place a lid on the barrel, this will prevent children, or animals from falling in the barrel. It is best to simply use lid with a small opening for your eves trough.
Another thing you want to be aware of is that a barrel filled with stagnant water can become a breeding ground for mosquitoes – the last thing a gardener wants as they are weeding at dusk. A trip to a local pet store can prevent this. Last summer, I placed 3 small gold fish in each of my barrels. This seems to have done the trick as they had doubled in size when I brought them inside for the winter.
There are numerous advantages to using rain water over city water. A few that come to mind are: the water will be at air temperature, it is not treated with additional chemicals, the water has not gone through the energy intensive treatment of city water, lower water bills and less of a strain on the city’s water supply in dry spells.
If you are located in Halifax, you can buy wood barrels at Ross Farm, http://museum.gov.ns.ca/rfm/textpage/gift.asp .