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e-book Dad what are you making now: Rain Barrel and Raised Bed Garden Edition

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Rain barrels also help to save money on your water bill. Rainwater can be used for many things, and a rain barrel can give you a steady supply of free water. I mainly use my rainwater for watering my potted plants and filling up my ponds and water features when they get low, but it could be used to water the gardens as well.

Directing Rain Barrel Overflow into the Landscape

Rainwater could also be used to fill up wash buckets for tasks like washing the car, washing windows, washing the dog, or other household chores. Rain barrels are very trendy and easy to find these days. They are widely available at farm and garden stores, home improvement stores, garden centers or on the internet. Some cities have programs where they offer rain barrels at discount prices to residents to encourage people to go green and preserve water.

Many people even make their own rain barrel. What about you, do you have a rain barrel?

The Pros and Cons of Compost Tumblers

Leave a comment below and tell me your favorite thing about having a rain barrel. I live and garden in Minneapolis, MN zone 4b. My green thumb comes from my parents, and I've been gardening most of my life. Read More The top of my barrel screws on. Some you roll along the ground. Others rotate on a base. Some rotate around a central axle. Still more are cranked with a handle. All suggest that they give you compost more easily and in less time than a bin which sounds very attractive. So, is a tumbler something that you should consider?

In Which?


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Gardening magazine in the UK compared turning five well-filled tumblers three times a week with turning a traditional compost heap of the same volume once a week usually done with a garden fork or spade. Surprisingly they found that, while the heap took around ten weeks, tumblers actually took a month longer to create usable compost. A decent tumbler makes turning easier, but if you want compost quickly and are happy to do the work, it appears that you might as well stick with a standard compost heap or bin, as long as it's easy to access the compost to turn it.

It's considerably cheaper and gives you more exercise.


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  • Of course, lots of us don't turn compost weekly and wait considerably longer than 14 weeks for it, so cutting the time it takes to make compost may appeal. There's also undoubtedly a difference between the composts from a heap and a tumbler. It's inevitable because the tumbler doesn't contain worms.

    Nor can you add worms, because when the temperature rises they can't escape and will die. So, all the good work that worms do in churning material through their guts and adding nutrients is lacking. What you do get is material worked on by bacteria and fungi. It has reached a high temperature, several times hopefully, which should kill off weed seeds and disease spores and will have a looser, rougher character which can be dug into beds or used as mulch.

    Rain Barrels Benefit Your Plants

    My experience is that it won't be that 'rich uniform crumble' that comes from a well-rotted heap. In fact, at this point some people put it to one side to continue to compost, which then allows worms to move in. There are reasons, though, other than taking the work out of turning, why a tumbler might be useful. One of the supposed benefits of rain barrels is their ability to keep water out of the sewer system during a rain event. That is why in our front yard garden we decided to use a swale to capture rainwater from the roof in the landscape.

    In our backyard, we directed rain barrel overflow into a rain garden. A rain garden is a shallow depression in the ground, usually bowl- or kidney-shaped, with berms on the downhill sides, designed to capture rainwater. The depression is planted with deep-rooted, drought-tolerant native perennials.

    In my city, rain barrel overflow must legally redirect back to the sewer system, while in my county it is legal to send overflow to a rain garden. Square feet of rooftop x. Our backyard rain garden, for example, which captures rain from square-feet of roof, should be at least 55 feet squared. This narrow strip, just 4-feet wide between the fence and the house, was not serving any purpose.

    My First Garden, Compost and Rain Barrel System

    What struck our attention, though, was how this long, narrow area already had a somewhat elongated bowl shape. We decided this unused sliver in our tiny backyard was perfect for a rain garden. We hired a local rain barrel guy to source the used, food-grade barrels and the appropriate plants, and to do the installation. We used flat rocks to carry the water from the rain barrels to the rain garden in order to prevent erosion.

    The dogwood Cornus sericea was a great choice because it loved the extra water. The plantings to the right including rhubarb and yarrow assisted during heavy rains, but were otherwise chosen for their drought-tolerance.

    Wooden Rain Barrel Stand

    Buried pipes send rain barrel overflow into the rain garden. By , the system was still working beautifully, but the red twig dogwood had grown so large that it completely cut off the pathway that led from the side yard to the backyard.

    Would you like to learn more about smart water management to reduce maintenance and increase yield? We now had a clean slate.