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rain barrels and mosquito control

Kankakee, IL(Zone 5b)

Since my well had to be capped due to an oil spill in the area (don't even get me started), I am exploring new, more sustainable watering. Last year, with the drought I wasted so much with overhead watering and the weeds were ridiculous. Anyway, I am exploring drip irrigation and will at the very least invest in some rain barrels this year. So my question is, how can I control algae and mosquitos in the stagnant water? Can I use bleach? How much? will it harm my vegetables? Also wondering if anyone has any ideas on cheap barrels. Rain barrels are expensive. Can I just put a spicket on a garbage can? metal or rubbermaid? Thanks so much!

Madison, AL(Zone 7b)

Two issues here: drip irrigation and rain barrels. The two do not mix very well unless you add a pump. Drip systems need a a good bit of pressure behind them to work. If you make your own drip system by punching holes in hoses or using soaker hoses, it will work but you will get uneven watering -- i.e. more water closer to the water source. You also need some pressure coming from somewhere via gravity or something.

Also, drip systems tend to have particulate matter in them which blocks up the emitters/holes, so you need an inline filter for the drip system OR you need to filter before going into the rain barrels which slows your collection rate. From time to time I hear of towns and such giving away rain barrels. You may want to keep an eye open for such a give-away; they usually happen in spring around the last frost date.

Don't forget you need some kind of diverter system for when the rain barrel is full, so the excess water goes back out your existing downspout system instead of overflowing the container and making a big puddle or leaving a lot of water standing up next to your foundation.

The best way to control mosquitoes in rain barrels is with screening; the best way to control algae is by shading them. I would not use bleach since chlorine defeats the growth advantages to using rainwater and it evaporates quickly anyway so you'd be constantly adding it and an overdose will certainly harm your plants.

I would not use a metal trash can (corrosive; hard to work with). You can stick a spigot on a plastic can but it is more difficult to keep it from leaking because it's round. Larger containers would be better; you'd be surprised how much rainwater you can collect.

I have two 275 gallon totes (the ones with the metal cages around them) that I picked up used for $100 each. They formerly contained acid; the recycler rinsed them with a base and I rinsed them out several times with rainwater. This wasn't hard -- when I have them linked in tandem it only takes about 2" of rain to fill up all 550 gallons from one downspout which covers about 600 square feet of roof. I set them up in the winter when we get most of our rain and was able to rinse them out several times before spring. (The recycling company specialized in biodiesel systems; they had all kinds of tanks.)

My spigot is also hooked together in tandem with spaflex PVC and a regular brass hose bib. Since my land is sloped and they are uphill, I use gravity to feed the water but even at an 8% grade the water flow is pretty slow. Due to the speed, I mostly use it for watering trees and such which are not on my drip system when we have extended droughts, or for the garden when we are under water restrictions; otherwise I use my drip system (which I don't run much). I also coughed up $100 for a fancy pre-built rainwater diverter instead of making my own. I ended up having to extensively modify it anyway so I wouldn't go that route again. The diverter has a screen which keeps out the mosquitoes, though, and I built a wooden platform over it and put lattice around it. It's more than enough shade to keep the algae out.

And if I had to do it again, I would pour the concrete base under such large containers. My totes settled over time and are not level any more. It hasn't affected the function but if I had plumbed them together like my original design, they would have ripped apart.

Pictures attached. The first image shows part of the plumbing; I modified the diverter to send a second hose to the second tank so they both fill. The third image shows the spigot system at the bottom before I screened that.

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Kankakee, IL(Zone 5b)

WOW That's awesome! Thanks for the info! Our yard is Midwest FLAT, but I was thinking we could build something to sit the barrels up higher thus achieving enough water pressure. I would have to build it up anyway because, like you, I would have a problem with them sinking. They would be in the shade and putting a screen or other top would keep the mosquitos out. I guess if all else fails I could start small. Just collect the water and use watering cans for my smaller gardens. Of course, a small pump is doable too! Last year I put tons of buckets out when it rained and carried the water where I needed it, but that was back breaking work!

I really LOVE your set-up! I appreciate the info!

Deep East Texas, TX(Zone 8a)

Sweetie77 ~ NicoleC has been very thorough and I will agree with her on using screening to prevent mosquitoes and other trash. It is the most economical means. Another way would be to use Mosquito Dunks (Bacillus thuringiensis). It is not harmful to plants or pets. I've used both.

I have found that an opaque container is the best means to prevent algae growth and by using a black fiberglass screening material, very little light can enter the container and cause the algae to grow. Unfortunately, the darker the container, the warmer the water will be (especially in the south).

One other thing I have found is in the spring when there is a good deal of pollen on the roof, it is best to allow the water to flush out before filling the containers. Pollen will cause the water to sour and although it doesn't hurt the plants, it smells terrible.

NicoleC ~ I find your set up fascinating. I currently am using rain barrels but acquired three containers like yours which I need to get set up. I would like to stack them at least two high for more pressure but don't think the terrain will be suitable. I had also considered a lattice to hide them and intended to plant a Confederate jasmine (evergreen vine) as additional shade and cover. Thank you for sharing your design and experience.

Kankakee, IL(Zone 5b)

excellent suggestion about the pollen. Come to think of it, I may have to wait until all the helicopters (maple tree seeds) are done anyway. They are a mess and clog up everything!

Talihina, OK

I use barrels that I can buy fairly cheap $7 each as a base I use cinder blocks my latest is behind a large Camelia the first is hidden by lattice I have mine installed upside down which puts the threaded opening on the bottum when I seal them fairly tight I drill tiny holes in the top for the trapped air to escape agree with that the black fiberglass screen is best but It does plug up easy ...

Madison, AL(Zone 7b)

sweetie77, I think you'd have to build up *really* high for gravity to work on a flat yard. My barrels are about an 8' drop down to my garden from the bottom spigot and the pressure is barely adequate; about 2 gallons per minute, tops. As the water level drops in the tanks, so does the pressure. With a flat yard, I think you'd be happier with an inline pump and those really aren't that expensive. You wouldn't need much of a pump to push over flat terrain; you only need big pumps when you want to push uphill. Harbor Freight probably sells them in the $30 range, or get one used from someone breaking down their pond.

I haven't used mosquito dunks -- I actually can't get into my tanks directly -- but I agree they are another option and won't hurt your plants. I don't flush for pollen but it is advised. I have no issues with smell, but again, mine are pretty well sealed off. Air venting is through the diverter on the downspout. They are called "first flush diverters" and you can DIY those with a little help from Google. (Then again, my tanks are usually filled to the brim in the spring, so maybe not much pollen gets in anyway?)

podster, I doubt those metal and plastic cages would support stacking the tanks when full. You're looking at almost 2500 pounds of weight -- I think I'd consult an engineer of some kind for a support structure if you really need to stack. If the bottom cage crushed and the top fell down it could be deadly.

Irving, TX(Zone 8a)

I attended a class on "water saving tips" by the city of Irving were I live, a few years ago.
For $20 I received a rain barrel too ... so I took my husband and I got two.
The barrel must to be a "FOOD GRADED".
Originally these barrels were fluorescent blue. I sprayed them with a clear sealer and after with the paint you see in the pictures.
In this way the barrels do match my house ... and mostly nobody does notice them.
I have a rain barrel diverter attached to the rain gather.
On the very top hole I have a screen to keep the mosquito out.
I never had a problem with smell or algae or mosquitoes.
Last summer I had a beautiful Clematis growing around it ... I am still looking for that picture ...
Just lots of free water ... just wish it rain more ...

Maybe you could check with your city and ask them if they have those kind of classes.

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Kankakee, IL(Zone 5b)

very nice setup. I like how you stacked them! Nicole, I think I will take you suggestion about the pump. A portable pump means I could also use it to reuse the kids kiddies pool water. Last year, when it got yucky, I used buckets to scoop it out LOL. Tons of great suggestions here THANKS! Even if I can't get the setup just right this year to use in conjunction with a drip irrigation in row crops, I can use watering cans for my tomatoes and peppers. They are talking about another very dry year here again. Lake Mich. is the lowest it's ever been. Still no snow either, so every little bit of water saving I can pull off will be a great help! I'll. get with the county too and see if they offer any help or possibly some barrels. I miss my well! of course it occasionally would run dry too!

Kankakee, IL(Zone 5b)

I was just showing hubby the pica and he said they have containers like Nicole 's at work. He works RR construction and when the job is over (it almost is), they are gonna sell them cheap! YES! Barrels... check!

Deep East Texas, TX(Zone 8a)

Ideally it would be great to find a solar fueled pump to move the water.

Nicole, I agree on the logistics of stacking ~ just rain barrel dreams. lol

Madison, AL(Zone 7b)

sweetie77, be sure and research what was in those barrels. These kinds of totes tend to be used for some pretty nasty stuff you might not want in your garden.

Kankakee, IL(Zone 5b)

it was used for water and gatorade for the laborers working out in the heat of New Orleans. The worse thing that's ever been in them is probably sugar! ;)

Madison, AL(Zone 7b)

Sounds like you scored!

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