Join the Trend
It seems like everyone these days is thinking about a rain barrel or has already installed at least one at their home. Some are very plain and utilitarian, while others have been decorated to complement the home. If you want to join the trend, here are simple pointers on getting you started.
What It Does
A rain barrel is simply a large container at the end of your drainpipe that collects rain water that comes off your roof. You can fill a 60 gallon rain barrel in a matter of minutes in a good rain storm. All the water off your roof would otherwise be diverted into the main sewage drains and enter the Chesapeake Bay eventually. Just a quarter inch of rain falling on the average home produces over 200 gallons of water.
How It Helps
Lawn and gardening watering make up nearly 40% of your total household usage during the summer months. You can use the water in your rain barrel for washing your car, watering outdoor plants, and filling your pool. A typical rain barrel will save homeowners around 1,300 gallons of water during the peak summer water usage months. That is a lot of savings on your water bill and is an easy way to help protect the Chesapeake Bay. Your rain barrel is your contribution in reducing ground water usage, reducing Bay-killing storm water runoff, and helping rain water replenish the groundwater supply.
Here is a quick step-by-step on how to make an inexpensive rain barrel:
Here is a great link on more information about rain barrel construction:http://www.portlandonline.com/bes/index.cfm?a=182095&c=50367
If you are intimidated about making your own, buy one online or at a local nursery or even better- participate in a local workshop. For the Md area, go to http://www.bluewaterbaltimore.org/programs/clean-waterways/waterauditprogram/rain-barrels/ and they have workshops scheduled throughout the year for a reasonable price.
But rain barrels usually aren’t that attractive especially if you have them at the front of your house. They tend to stick out especially if they are a glaring white which my rain barrel was, so I decided to decorate it and reflect my personal tastes.
Make it Unique!
If you have a piece of fabric that you really love, use that for your color inspiration. If you are a wine lover, try the grapes and leaves that is pictured. For beach lovers or beach residents, I have seen really creative ones with herons, and beaches themes painted on them. The ideas that you can use are endless. I ended up with a totally whimsical creation from nature because I love the beautiful colors of lizards and newts.
Follow these easy steps in creating your masterpiece:
- Prepare the surface-this stage is critical for the white plastic ones as the surface is slippery and smooth. Clean the barrel thoroughly with a soap solution and dry. You have to lightly sand the surface to rough it up so that paint sticks to it.
- Prime- it– I went to Home Depot and picked up Martha Stewart’s Living Exterior Flat Latex Paint to prime and paint it. It took 4 coats to completely cover it! You might be able to get away with 3 coats but I wanted to make sure that it lasted and didn’t flake off. It is important to use a high quality paint as it will be out in the weather.
- Decorate– This is the fun part! If you don’t feel comfortable painting designs on the barrel, enlist some artist friend’s help. Sketch out what you want to do before you start painting. Anything goes and here is your chance to be creative! Use stencils like the grape vine barrels below if you feel intimidated about painting a design. I painted the base and had my talented daughter paint the designs.
- Protect- I bought a few cans of polyurethane spray and coated it thoroughly with a couple of layers.
Get It Level
Rain barrels work on gravity and must be raised up from the ground to work properly. Four concrete blocks laid into a square covered with a slab of bluestone works fine and makes it more attractive.
You can also hook together several rain barrels to increase your holding capacity. If you are worried about breeding mosquitoes, you can throw in some mosquito dunks which is a natural pesticide in a pellet form sold at nurseries to kill any hatching larvae. I never use these because I always use the water in the barrel within a short time. The collected water never sits around when I have some plants nearby to use it on.
If you don’t want to go the paint route, then just cover the barrel with chicken wire or enclose with lattice and grow vines on it!