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The snow is finally on its way out, and it will be time to start working the soil and begin planting your garden.

I received a phone call last week asking about other ways to help the environment while gardening. I suggested collecting rainwater. Purchasing a rain barrel can be expensive, but you may save a little on your water bill. Also, there are lots of DIY ideas on the internet.

For my first garden, I purchased a rain barrel from a local garden center. I brought it home, set the barrel on the ground, and connected the spouting. Unfortunately, it was not that simple. The water did not drain, the barrel started to overflow, and leaves and debris began to collect in the barrel.

To solve these problems, I used cement blocks to raise the barrel off the ground so the garden hose could be attached and drain easier. I took off the garden spout that came with the barrel and replaced it with a threaded PVC ball valve, which allowed the water to flow with no restrictions. A ball valve can be purchased at any plumbing supply center.

To fill the barrel, I bought a downspout and an adapter to attach the spouting to the rain barrel. I used small sheet metal screws to secure the downspout to the gutter and also used them to fasten the adapter to the rain barrel. I recommend putting a screen over the downspout before the water begins to drain from the gutter. This will help keep the leaves and debris out of the barrel and prevent clogs.

I also drilled a 1-inch hole in the side of the barrel and connected an adapter to 1 inch PVC pipe. This allowed the overflow to be redirected away from the foundation. You may notice some algae in the rain barrel, but this will not hurt the plants. At the end of the season, I remove the threaded ball valve and drain the barrel.

Rain barrel water should not be used as drinking water and should not be given to pets. It can contain bacteria and chemicals.

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