Published on Wednesday, 30 November -0001 00:00
Sometimes old ideas get recycled into new ideas. I can remember seeing a rain barrel at my great aunt's house when I was only knee high to a grasshopper. It was a wooden barrel, full of water and it seemed huge to me. It was her rain barrel. When it would rain the water would run off the roof, into the gutters and downspouts and then into her rain barrel. Aunt Pauline had several uses for the rain water that she collected. She had no water softener, but her rain barrel provided her with a source of nice soft water. She used it for special laundry items and even to wash her hair. Of course, she also used it to water her flowers and vegetables.
That was more than fifty years ago, but rain barrels are definitely regaining popularity. Rain barrels conserve water, help reduce water bills, and reduce pollution by reducing storm water runoff. Water collected in the rain barrels would normally flow off the roof or through roof gutters and downspouts becoming storm water runoff. Depending on the house location, this runoff can cause problems. Storm water runoff causes erosion and is a major source of pollution in rivers, streams and lakes.
How can you use the water collected in a rain barrel? Rain barrels can be used to save water for plants during dry periods. A little bit of care is needed to use the rain barrel water safely. Why? Well, the water collected in a rain barrel comes off the roof. Do I need to remind you what birds might be doing on your roof? Don't drink the water from a rain barrel; it can contain bacteria and other disease-causing organisms from bird and other animal waste. Rain barrel water is fine if used to water flowers or lawns. You also can use it to water your vegetables, but you will need to be a little careful. The vegetables will need to be thoroughly washed using "drinkable" water before you eat them. Never use rain barrel water to wash fruits or vegetables from the garden. Also, be careful about the weight of a rain barrel. A 55-gallon barrel filled with water will weigh over 400 pounds!
The good news is that rain barrels are easy to make, easy to install and easy to maintain. Inexpensive rain barrels can be made from food grade plastic barrels or heavy-duty trash cans, often for as little as 15 dollars. A friend of mine bought one at the local flea market for $30, a great deal. Rain barrels are also available from garden stores, their prices range from 50 to 150 dollars.
Rain barrel demonstration and raffle!
Mr. Potato Head will be at the Kimball Area Farmer's Market this Friday, together we are going to make a rain barrel out of a 55-gallon plastic drum. Best of all, some one will get to take the finished rain barrel home with them! The Farmer's Market opens at 3:30 and we will have the demonstration and raffle at 4:30. Join us in the parking lot behind the Triple R for the fun. Also, do you remember Mr. Potato Head's lofty goal of having a ripe tomato by the Fourth of July? The tomato plant will also be at the Farmer's Market, will it be success or failure? Come and find out!
If you have gardening questions or suggestions for Mr. Potato Head, please e-mail him at
Mr. Potato Head is Stearns County Master Gardener and Kimball resident Rick Ellis.