Q&A: Rain Barrels

The rain barrel stores the water for you to use on your lawn and ornamental plants.

Question: What can you tell me about rain barrels? I want to set one up but my wife is afraid it will become a breeding ground for mosquitos.

Answer: Typically a rain barrel is set up to catch the water that pours off your roof, be it straight off the eaves or through the roof’s gutter and downspout. The barrel stores the water for you to use on your lawn and ornamental plants. This will lower your water bill and conserve town/city water. Rain barrels can also reduce runoff that would otherwise reach waterways potentially carrying oil and other pollutants.

Rain barrels are not recommended for watering vegetable gardens because the water in them is not considered potable (drinkable). Water coming off your roof can carry bacteria from the waste of birds or other animals that traverse the roof. If you want to use rain-barrel water on your veg garden, aim it directly into the ground—don’t spray it on the plants. Wash the vegetables thoroughly with drinking water before eating them. Do not use the rain water close to harvest time.

To prevent mosquitos from breeding in your rain barrel, cover it with fine mesh screening. Cover the open end of any hose attached to the rain barrel with screening too. Empty the barrel at least once a week. Do not allow it to fill to the top. (An overflow hole will stop the water from rising too high.) Consider adding small pieces of Mosquito Dunks, which release Bt, a chemical that will kill mosquito and black fly larvae but is considered safe for plants and people.


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