Rain Barrel Maintenance


TLC for rain barrels

A few quick maintenance tasks as the seasons change will help your rain barrel weather the winter. via (lancasteronline.com)
By MARY BETH SCHWEIGERT   Staff Writer        mschweigert@lnpnews.com
Rain barrels are low-tech and low-maintenance. That simplicity is a huge part  of their appeal.
When attached to a home’s downspout, the barrels catch  and divert rainwater from storm drains, sewers and the foundation, while  capturing it for garden irrigation and other uses.
LIVE Green director  Fritz Schroeder says homeowners can take simple steps to care for their barrels,  so they work better and last longer.
The most important maintenance task  is to empty your rain barrel when a big storm is predicted, he  says.
“It’s better to release that water and capture the coming  rainstorm,” he says. “If the barrel is full at the time, the benefit of the  rainstorm is lost.”
LIVE Green, a program of the Lancaster County  Conservancy, has repurposed and distributed nearly 500 food-grade rain barrels  county-wide.
Schroeder recommends disconnecting your rain barrel from the  downspout during the frigid months of December, January and February. Drain the  barrel and store it upside-down, so ice won’t form inside.
(Homeowners  may need to take other winterization steps, depending on their barrel’s  design.)
When spring is on the horizon, take a few minutes to prepare  your barrel for the warm-weather deluge.
“At the start of the season is a  good time to inspect the barrel, make sure there’s no major debris at the bottom  … and clean it out,” Schroeder says.
Turn the barrel upside-down and  shake it out. Water flow from a hose directed toward the bottom of the barrel  should be enough to loosen any remaining debris, he says.
Adrian Kapp,  owner of C.E. Pontz Sons Inc., 2355 New Holland Pike, says homeowners also can  use a wet/dry vac to remove any debris that has accumulated over the  winter.
Kapp, who repurposes the water for his fish pond and children’s  playtime, warns against using chemicals to attack moss buildup or other  barrel-cleaning tasks.
“I don’t recommend using soaps,” he says. “Maybe  just scrub (the barrel) by hand with a sponge to keep the walls  clean.”
Before reconnecting the barrel to the downspout, clear all  intakes and outtakes. Then head for the roof.
“(Spring) is the perfect  time … to make sure gutters are clean and you’re getting a fresh start,”  Schroeder says.
Gutters catch most debris before it reaches the barrel,  he says. Make sure to clean them regularly.
Check your rain barrel  frequently to make sure all openings are clear and flowing freely.
Nora  Motter Stark, rainwater systems consultant with Rainkeeper, Columbia, says  filters also can keep out undesirable “additions.”
Rainkeeper’s barrels  and other, larger systems come with stainless steel filters that catch any  debris bigger than a grain of sand, she says.
“It is critical to  prefilter the rain coming from the downspout … before it goes into the barrel  to significantly minimize the organic matter that enters the barrel,” Stark  says.
Homeowners also can keep debris and bugs out of the barrel by  covering the intake hole with a plastic grate or skimmer basket topped with a  nylon stocking or fine mesh screen, Schroeder says.
During the summer,  empty the barrel every seven to 10 days to fight mosquitoes, he says. Adding a  tablespoon of vegetable oil to your barrel also can help prevent  breeding.
When it comes to algae inside your barrel, light is the  enemy.
“Algae needs sunlight, like other plants,” Stark says. “If you can  prevent any sunlight from entering your barrel, you will prevent algae from  growing inside.”
Sun-fighting strategies could include purchasing a  thicker or dark-colored barrel and positioning your barrel in the  shade.
Basic rain barrels may not be all that aesthetically pleasing.  Some barrels come with a depression in the lid that can be filled with aquatic  plants or perennials, Kapp says.
“It’s a really neat way to hide a rain  barrel,” he says.
When heavy storms hit, Schroeder recommends breaking  out the umbrella and checking to make sure your barrel is working  properly.
That way, you won’t waste a single precious drop.
Read more:  http://lancasteronline.com/article/local/907343_TLC-for-rain-barrels.html#ixzz2i4NIRU4I

More on Rain Barrels: http://www.aquascapeinc.com/training/rain-barrel
Even more on Rain Barrels: http://www.lancasterconservancy.org/urban-greening/rain-barrels-3/



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Author: Bobby Kenyon
Bobby Kenyon is the Creative Solutions Guru for C.E. Pontz Sons who has over a decade plus experience in the Landscape & Water Garden industry . He enjoys long walks on the beach and grocery shopping but has a strong dislike for regular cake and off brand paper towels

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