Rain barrel workshop coming up

Published 9:42 pm Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Drilling a hole: Shelly Sorgen, left, drills holes in a rain barrel while Brad Halcums, center, and Pam Courtney hold it. Rain barrels collect rainwater draining off a roof. The rain then can be used to water plants.

Anybody who has ever watched the rain fall outside his window and wished he could capture it to help water his lawn later will be interested in an upcoming Master Gardeners workshop.

The Suffolk Master Gardeners are presenting a rain barrel workshop on March 5. Participants will take their newly created rain barrel home from the workshop.

“The rain barrels give you fresh water that is better for your plants,” said Shelly Sorgen, a Suffolk Master Gardener.

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The rain barrels — recycled food storage barrels — are placed near where water drains from a home, whether it’s under the eaves of a home or where the gutter downspout flows. They have a hole drilled near the bottom where a spigot will be placed. An overflow hole is drilled near the top, and a screen at the top keeps mosquitoes and leaves from getting into the barrel.

Once the barrel fills with rainwater, it is placed on cinder blocks and can be used to water flowers or vegetables with a hose or bucket. It also can be painted and decorated.

The project has many benefits, Sorgen said. Not only does it prevent the food storage barrels from being thrown into the landfill, but also it saves on the water bill and keeps water in the reservoir.

At the workshop, people will receive their barrels already clean and with the holes drilled. They will install the spigot and screen.

“It only takes a quarter of an inch of rain to fill up,” Sorgen said, because the barrel will be collecting the rain that fell on the entire roof. It also collects dew and melting frost and snow.

People who are going to make their own rain barrels can find the 55-gallon food storage barrels on online auction or classifieds sites. However, they should not use barrels that were used to store chemicals.

“Most people use these to water their plants in the yard, so you don’t want chemicals in it,” Sorgen said.

The upcoming workshop is scheduled for 3 p.m. March 18 at the Suffolk Art Gallery, 118 Bosley Ave. A registration fee of $50 will cover the class and all materials. Make checks payable to Suffolk Master Gardeners and send to the above address, or stop by the gallery to register. The deadline for registration is Feb. 25. Be prepared to take your barrel home after the workshop.

Those who are unable to attend this workshop should look out for similar workshops in the future, Sorgen said.

For more information, call the art gallery at 514-7284 or the local Virginia Cooperative Extension office at 514-4331.