Are you one of the many Texans who use rain barrels at home? Or maybe you’ve never invested in a rain barrel because you’re worried about mosquitoes, stinky water, clogs, or other issues. Like most things around your home, rain barrels need a little regular attention to keep working smoothly.
Check out the solutions below to maintain your rain barrel.
KEEP MOSQUITOES AT BAY
Prevent your rain barrel from serving as a mosquito breeding ground. These pests can get through any openings larger than those in a window screen. So, a well-sealed screen will help prevent mosquitoes from entering the barrel and laying eggs. Be sure all openings, including the overflow, are covered with a screen. Regularly examine mosquito netting and replace any that is damaged.
Mosquito larvae may still wash into your rain barrel from your gutters. So, every few months, check your gutters, downspouts, and screens and remove any debris. Also, regularly use all the water in your barrel.
For any mosquito larvae that make it into your rain barrel, you can use a product containing Bti (Bacillus thuringiensis israeliensis), commonly known as a mosquito dunk. Bti is a nontoxic bacterium that kills mosquito larvae. It’s safe for your plants, and it will not harm people, pets, amphibians, fish, or birds. You can find this product at most garden-supply stores.
AVOID SMELLY WATER AND ALGAE GROWTH
Any standing water will begin to smell after a while, especially if it contains organic matter such as leaves. Smelly water won’t hurt your plants, but it can be a nuisance. To avoid it, use all the water in the barrel within a month of collecting it.
Some algae may accumulate in your barrel, but it is not typically a problem when the water is being used and replaced with fresh rainwater. The best practice to avoid algae growth is to protect your barrel from unwanted light. One way to do this is by painting your barrel black. Once you have a base coat of black paint, you can decorate it however you’d like.
FIND AND FIX LEAKS
Regularly check your rain barrel for leaks and apply a silicone sealant to any that you find. Examine the seal around the faucet and generally look over your barrel for cracks.
Every few months, check your gutters, downspouts, and screens, and clear away leaves, sticks, and other debris that have accumulated.
If trees near your gutters or rain barrel are producing catkins in early spring, cover your barrel’s opening or leave the faucet in the open position. Catkins are the flowering spikes of trees such as oak, pecan, and others, and can cause acidification and yellowing inside your barrel. The flowering period only lasts for a short time.
At least once a year, during a dry spell, tip the barrel over and rinse it out with a hose. Flush anything that has accumulated at the bottom of your storage container.
CONSIDER SAFETY ISSUES
The water collected in a rain barrel as described in this post is intended to be used for outside purposes only, such as watering your container plants, landscape, and garden. Be sure everyone knows that the water in the barrel is not safe to drink. Also, it’s important to safeguard the quality of your drinking water by never submerging a water hose in a rain barrel.
Check out our additional posts on rainwater harvesting for more information.