How to Use a Rain Barrel to Conserve Energy and Save Money

As utility bills continue to climb and conservation becomes more of a public issue, rain water barrels or rain water tanks are once again the focus of popular attention. What is a rain barrel and why do you need one? How can a rain barrel save you money when it comes to gardening?

Rain water barrels come in all shapes and sizes. Rain barrels can even be purchased as parts of complete systems designed to catch and retain as much rain as humanly possible; water that can then be used to water your garden.

A 55-gallon rain water barrel will water a 4-foot by 10-foot garden for a week at the very most, so if you want to get all your gardening needs met with rain water, you will want a fairly large system. But even a single rain barrel is saves more money than no rain barrel at all.

The simplest is a simple steel drum or plastic drum (the kind used for trash cans) set beneath the rainwater runoff from your roof to catch and hold water. The trouble with that kind of homemade system is that using the stored water requires scooping it out of the open barrel and toting it to the plant by hand.

That gets old fast.

Open containers of water can also become breeding grounds for mosquitos and other insects, and evaporation is another issue. Homemade rain barrels are a fine start, but the drawbacks are many.

A covered rain barrel equipped with a hose at the bottom that you can fasten to a standard garden hose or use to fill a watering can without opening the barrel itself is a much more pleasant and efficient option. Prefabricated PVC and metal rain water barrels are readily available, from sites like Homeclick (or sometimes Woot has a great deal on them), and usually come in 35, 45, 55, 75, or 100 gallon sizes.

Larger tanks of up to 242 gallons are also available. Any of these systems will conveniently trap rainwater runoff from your roof and dispense it as you need it to water your garden. Some of the larger rain water barrel systems can also be hooked up to store ‘grey water’ (water used to wash dishes and clothes), which is especially helpful in arid parts of the U.S. where water shortages are a big issue. Many such areas have periodic bans on watering with tap water, so a rain barrel can really save the day, especially if it includes grey water too.

You can also buy stacking PVC units that give you the capability of expanding your system as your garden grows and your water needs grow with it. Even a small barrel can save you an enormous amount of money over the course of a growing season. It’s easy to just turn on the tap as necessary, forgetting that 99 out of a 100 cities do charge for water use, and in some areas of the country that charge is very high indeed.

A rain barrel or a system of barrels can easily save an avid gardener hundreds of dollars in water charges over the course of a single season, paying for itself in no time. Check out some of the rain barrel options available online to get an idea of which system might work for you, and then give it a try. When the water bill comes, you’ll be happy you did!

How to Buy and Use a Compost Tumbler

A compost tumbler is an efficient, easy to use alternative to a compost bin or open compost pile. Great for urban applications, small spaces, and city gardening, compost tumblers take most of the guesswork and hassle out of making your own ‘black gold’ soil enhancement while keeping your gardening space tidy and clean at the same time.

An urban compost tumbler is usually made of lightweight PVC plastic and is mounted on a frame that keeps the bin portion up off the ground and enclosed. A locking hatch opens to allow both the addition of fresh material and the extraction of finished compost. Instead of turning the compost with a pitchfork (as you would with an open compost pile), with a tumbler you simply turn a handle or crank to rotate the entire bin and mix the contents inside.

Some compost tumblers are shaped like large round beach balls mounted on a tripod so you can turn the ball by hand without a crank. Others look like closed PVC barrels on a spit with a handle on one end. Most come with instructions that include regular additions of water and microbiotic powders to speed decomposition inside the bin.

Making your own compost is beneficial for many reasons. First, making compost at home reduces the amount of waste in your kitchen and your yard, allowing you to feed vegetable scraps and leaves that you would normally send to the landfill to the compost tumbler instead. It is an ecologically sound practice that reduces the carbon emissions from trash trucks and land fills and makes natural use of natural waste right where it is created.

Secondly, making your own compost saves you money. Compost is one of the most nutrient rich natural plant foods available and one of the best soil amendments in existence. Unlike peat, compost is also a renewable resource. And unlike the treated manure you purchase at garden supply stores, compost is free, easy to make, and you don’t need a domestic animal to get it.

Last but by no means least, an urban compost tumbler allows you incorporate organic farming methods into city gardening. In an era in which everyone is becoming more conscious of food safety and soil and water conservation, learning how to work with nature instead of against her is not just interesting, it’s becoming a necessity.

A steady supply of rich dark compost can help a city gardener grow an amazing amount of produce, greens, and flowers in a very small space. The concentrated nutrients in homemade compost allow intensive cultivation of small spaces. A compost tumbler takes up very little space and is safe, clean, and odorless.

Urban compost tumblers come in many different sizes and are widely available online and at garden supply and home improvement stores. Check out the various types and price points and give compost a try. You’ll be amazed at the results.

Best Rain Barrels for Sale Online

A good rain barrel or rain barrel system can save the average household hundreds of dollars in water bills over the course of a gardening season. Rain barrels for sale online are easy to find and make browsing for the right one easy and fun. Landscape retailers, gardening blogs, and conservation web sites that sell rain barrels make it simple to find and buy a rain barrel that is perfect for your specific gardening needs.

Why buy a rain barrel?

A rain barrel or system of barrels is designed to make productive use of rain water that runs off your roof and would otherwise be wasted. Rain barrels sold online are typically closed on top and have hose attachments at the bottom for distributing the water.

A closed rain barrel prevents evaporation and insect infestation (for instance mosquitos often breed in the bottoms of open barrels), and also makes it easy for you to use the water and get it to your garden without toting a pail or a watering can.

Most commercially-made rain barrels are constructed out of PVC plastic or lightweight metal. Some are collapsible, making them easy to store. Others look like huge agricultural storage tanks. Which kind of barrel you choose depends on your personal situation and the space you have available.

Some rain barrel systems can even recycle ‘grey water’; the water left over from dishwashing, bathing, and laundry that would normally be discarded down the drain. Soap residue is not harmful to plants, and in fact mild soap is frequently used as a natural insecticide, so both rain water and grey water are perfectly acceptable for garden use.

In parts of the country where water is scarce, summer often brings regular restrictions on water use, especially for lawns and gardens. In these arid locales, owning and using a rain barrel can mean the difference between successful gardening and gardening frustration.

To buy a rain barrel online, first take stock of how big a rain barrel you will need and how many barrels you can neatly fit around your house. A full 55 gallon barrel will water a 4 by 10 foot garden plot for a week, so if you have a large garden you may need a larger unit or even a system of multiple units.

Some rain barrels are stackable, allowing you to store as much as possible in order to water a large area without taking up precious space needed for the plants themselves. Other barrels can store as much as 240 gallons at one time, yet are lightweight enough to be shipped affordably.

When choosing a rain barrel online make sure you factor the shipping costs (if any) into your budget, and look for a site with a secure checkout so you can make a credit card payment without worry. It’s best to use a credit card rather than a debit card, since in the event of a problem you will more easily be able to stop payment.

Some merchants have retail outlets and online ordering too, so if you’d rather pick up your barrel in person, look for a store that sells online but has a local pick up option.

Also, always check the web site’s terms for exchanges and returns. You want to make sure you are buying from a merchant who will make things right if your rain barrel arrives damaged, or if it is not what you had in mind once you see it in person.

A warning: Once you get used to shopping and buying garden products online, the process does become addictive. Online shopping allows you to find almost anything you could possibly need or want for your garden at a price you feel good about paying. Whether you are looking to buy a rain barrel or just looking for the fun of it, online shopping is a great way to get what you actually need and learn about new products as they hit the market.