Tool time: rain barrels
I love my rain barrel.
It saves time and energy - I don't have to drag the hose onto the deck to water my containers - and it makes me feel like a good person.
My rain barrel sits in the corner of my deck, collecting run-off from a cut-off downspout there. There is a screen over the top to keep the debris from clogging things up, and there is a short hose with a spigot that runs out of the bottom. I fill my watering can from there.
The rain barrel easily fills up from just a cloudburst or a drizzle. A 1,000-square-foot roof will give up more than 300 gallons of water with just a half-inch of rain. My rain barrel holds only about 75 gallons, so you can see why I think I should have one positioned at each corner of the house.
According to Kathy LaLiberte, writing for Gardener's Supply, plants love rainwater because it is soft and it doesn't have chlorine or other chemicals. She writes that just 10 inches of rain in spring and summer would yield 8,160 gallons of water. You'd need a swimming pool to capture all that water, and, indeed, that's what my neighbor Bob has - the hose from his rain barrel runs into his pond.
In Annapolis, where I live, my water bill is adjusted each summer to reflect the fact that any increased water consumption is probably going to the lawn and gardens and not through the sewage treatment plant.
That's a real saving - I pay the average of my fall, winter and spring bills - but not many municipalities offer that kind of break.
A good friend's father lives outside Denver, Colo., where drought is common and water is precious. He is charged a hefty penalty if he uses more than his allotment each month.
As a result, he and his wife collect every drop they use - from the kitchen sink to the shower - and use that to water their modest vegetable garden and their perennials. A rain barrel doesn't do much good when there is no rain.
That's the case at my house, too. During summer dry spells, the rain barrel empties quickly and stays empty. That's when the hose comes out.
And I have to drain it in the winter and keep it drained. I am afraid it will freeze and crack its plastic shell.
You can construct your own rain barrel, or you can purchase one from a catalog company like Gardener's Supply, which has several styles ranging in price from about $30 to almost $300. Some of the urns are downright attractive.
You might be able to get one from your local government or a "green" organization for free or at a great discount.
Get yourself a rain barrel. It will make you feel good about yourself.