Once you have a rain barrel, there are things you’ll need to do to keep it in good condition so that you can make use of the water you’ve stored. These simple steps will help you get the most of your system.
First, you should empty your barrel at least once a month. This keeps water from accumulating algae and developing an unpleasant smell. If you want to be able to allow water to sit longer, you can add a capful of chlorine bleach to the barrel.
This will stop the development of algae and at that small concentration it won’t harm your plants. However, if you use more than that, it could become harmful. You also want to avoid using an acid such as vinegar because it will harm your plants.
When it comes to your gutters, you’ll want to make sure that you clean them regularly or install a gutter screen that prevents debris from getting in. This will cut down on the debris and sediment that gets into your rain barrel.
If you notice that your barrel has developed a leak, you don’t have to throw it out. In many cases you can use aquarium caulk made from silicone to seal up the hole. This is available in hardware stores and is inexpensive.
Another concern for rainwater barrels is the development of mosquito populations. Draining the barrel regularly is one way to prevent this. But you can also add a larvae tablet to your barrel that can prevent mosquitoes from breeding.
Adding this type of tablet won’t harm your plants and will prevent problems such as West Nile virus that can be spread through contact with mosquitoes.
You also need to be careful if you live in an area with very cold winters. Freezing and thawing over and over again can weaken your rain barrel. Before it gets that cold, drain your barrel and disconnect it to prevent problems.
When you’re storing your rain barrel for extended periods of time, it’s best to store them upside down. This keeps them free from debris.