Most of us are not so confident with using rain water to irrigate our home-grown plants, especially that they are edible. There could be a couple of natural and artificial pollutants in the rainwater, but according to recent scientific studies, it is quite safe to use rainwater by using a rain barrel to water the plants.
Many countries and localities use rain barrel water for watering their organic gardens because of the climate or season in their place. For instance, they have long summers or droughts and drastically need to water the plants. For starters, here are a couple of ways and tips on how to effectively set up and utilize a rain barrel for organic gardening:
Know your Roofing Materials.
Make sure that your roofing isn’t made up of toxic materials or chemically treated to kill algae or moss, because this definitely means it will be toxic to plants. These roofing materials include wood-shake roofing, copper gutters and zinc strips.
Aim at the Soil!
Make sure you don’t aim the rain barrel at the food or crops themselves to make sure that the water is thoroughly treated. This is because storm water gets cleaned automatically when it passes through the soil, making it safer for the roots to absorb and safer for your crops. After all, our science teacher always told us to water the roots and not the leaves or the crops themselves. If ever water gets onto the crops, you can always wash them off when you pick or harvest them.
First Runoff is Dangerous.
Imagine your roof collecting not only dust, dirt and harmful debris but also bird waste and pollution from the community around you. Now imagine all that waste material flushing down the roof gutters onto your rain barrel and onto the plants. Not a pretty sight, right? Don’t collect water from the first runoff. Instead, wait for the second or third stream of water to make sure all the bird waste is gone down the drain.
Bleach the Rain Barrel Water.
Including bleach to your rain barrel water can help kill bacteria but not harm your plants. Add only 1 oz household bleach (unscented chlorine) to 55 gallons of rain water. Obviously, don’t use the water right away – wait for a day for the chlorine to disperse. Chlorine is a good way to kill bacteria but it’s also a chemical so don’t overdo it on the water to avoid doing harm to the plants.
Clean the Barrel Regularly!
While it’s already obvious, you should at least clean up your rain water barrels over a period of time to keep unnecessary bacteria and elements from getting onto your crops. A solution made up of 1/8 cup chlorine bleach (or alternatively, 1/4 cup of castile soap and lemon juice) and 5 gallons of water, rinsing with clean water afterwards.
Wash your Crops.
This is also quite obvious. Washing off your crops, be it fruit or vegetable or especially root crop, is a good practice. There are even a couple of food / kitchen solutions that can clean off bacteria or foreign objects stuck to vegetables and fruits by soaking them.
Cover Rain Barrels Tightly!
We all know that mosquitoes and similar insects might occasionally slip through areas where there is stagnant water, lay their eggs and do damage to our community and pose threat to our health. This is why it is important to constantly check the rain barrel water and make sure the lids are covered tightly so that no foreign objects or insects can get through.