Did You Know? Goldfish and Rain Barrels

goldfish and rain barrels
Photo courtesy of www.prwd.org

Many people have rain barrels. Where I live, you can spend $35 and a couple hours and build your own. Then you have the ability to capture rain water from your roof and use it to water your garden. That’s a pretty good tradeoff in my opinion. Lots of people are concerned about mosquitoes breeding in their rain barrels. There is a mosquito netting that you can put on top that also serves the purpose of keeping debris like leaves out. But there is still a concern that the mosquitoes could make their way in to populate. So what can you do about it?

Use goldfish. While goldfish and rain barrels may seem like an unlikely pairing, they can actually work quite well together. The goldfish will eat any skeeter larvae but you may still need to give them some supplemental food. Unless your rain barrel is open to the air without netting, the volume of larvae won’t be enough to sustain your goldfish.

goldfish and rain barrels
Photo courtesy of www.desktopgoldfish.com

If you decide to use the combination of goldfish and rain barrels, make sure that your spigot is high enough from the bottom so that when the barrel is “empty”, there is enough water left to support your fish. Buy the small feeder fish from the pet store to use in your rain barrel. And make plans for them when the season is over. I guess that you could technically bring them indoors in an aquarium when the temperatures drop but I think they would be better off in a water garden if you have the capability. If not, ask a friend or neighbor if they’d like some free fish…chances are they’ll say yes.

Have you used goldfish in your rain barrels to successfully keep your mosquito population down? If so, leave me a comment below or shoot me an e-mail. If you enjoy being part of the Mid-Atlantic Gardening community, join our e-mail list (upper right hand corner of this page), become a fan on Facebook and follow me on Twitter. Happy gardening!


Did You Know? Collecting Rainwater for Your Garden

Collecting rainwater for your garden…it’s sounds pretty simple doesn’t it? Well, it can as simple or as complex as you make it with a little planning. One-third of all of the water used in the United States goes to irrigation. Now I don’t mean just the water that you use to water your lawn and garden; much of the irrigation water goes to agricultural production. And that’s important, right? Well, you could grow some of your own food to reduce your dependence on industrial agriculture but that’s not the topic of today’s post.

So how can you collect rainwater for your garden? There are all sorts of ways but let’s start with the simplest: the rain barrel. Rain barrels are an excellent way to capture some of the rainwater that is generated from your roof during a storm or shower. They’re scaleable as you can add bunches of them together so that you can keep collecting rainwater well beyond the typical 55 gallons that each holds. They can be attractive if you’re the artsy type…boy I wish was!

free water for your garden
Photo courtesy of www.prwd.org


So how much rainwater can a typical roof capture in a single rain storm? What’s your guess? 100 gallons? 1000 gallons? 10,000 gallons? Pull out your calculator (or your cell phone) and let’s do the math. My small rancher has a typical A-frame roof and each side of the roof is approximately 60′ x 20′. That’s 2400 square feet of roof surface area. Let’s say that we receive 1″ of rain. One inch of rain falling on one square foot of roof yields 0.6 gallons of water. So….2400 x 0.6 = 1440 gallons of rainwater. You would need 26 rain barrels just to catch the rain from a single 1″ rain event. In Virginia, we receive around 43″ of rainfall each year. That’s 61,920 gallons of water that you could be catching from your roof each year. That’s a lot of free water for your garden!

So what can you do if you don’t have enough room at your house for 1126 rain barrels (that’s how many you would need to collect all 61,920 gallons)? There are underground cisterns that can be installed to capture your roof runoff.

free water for your garden
Photo courtesy of www.chesapeakestormwater.net


These are systems that you need do some serious math for as well as figure out how you’re going to get all of that rainwater out of the tank. The beauty of rain barrels is that you use gravity to get the water out of the barrel and into your garden. With cistern based systems, you have to use a pump to get the water to your plants. But the cost of the water that is saved by capturing your roof runoff can more than offset the cost of operating the pump.

free water for your gardenWhat are some other ways to capture free rainwater for your garden if you don’t have access to an underground cistern? How about the tanks that everyone seems to have for sale these days? Check your local Craigslist for great deals. What about 5 gallon buckets to start with? Put one under each downspout to catch rainwater that you can use to water your garden. How about a kiddie pool? You can pick them up for under $10 at your local big box store. Any rainwater that you can catch is water that you don’t have to buy or pull from the depths of the ground to provide your plants with moisture.

What ideas have you used to capture rainwater for your garden? Leave me a comment below or e-mail me at stacey@midatlanticgardening.com. If you enjoy being part of the Mid-Atlantic Gardening community, join our e-mail list (upper right hand corner of this page), become a fan on Facebook and follow me at Twitter. Happy gardening!