March / 2010
GARDEN GURU

Conserve water with rain barrels

ADDING JUST ONE 54-gallon rain barrel to capture runoff from your roof can save up to 1,300 gallons of water in one summer. This year, I have decided to add a rain barrel to one of the downspouts at home in my garden.

RAIN BARRELS ARE USED by homeowners or small businesses to collect, store, and use rainwater in the garden. You can make your own out of an old bourbon barrel as seen at right, or buy a commercially produced rain barrel. They can be found in a variety of colors, and have a capacity of 50 to 60 gallons.

A RAIN BARREL SHOULD HAVE a fine mesh screen on top to prevent mosquitoes and trap debris; a spigot, preferably brass, to connect an irrigation hose for pumping the water out using gravity; and an overflow valve near the top, which can also be used to connect two or more rain barrels.

INSTALLATION IS QUITE SIMPLE, but you will need to purchase a few additional downspout pieces to divert the water into your rain barrel during the summer months. Before freezing weather returns in the fall, you will need to drain and remove or cover your rain barrel for the winter and return the downspout to its original position.

THE WATER COLLECTED by a rain barrel is not fit to drink and should only be used to water plants in the garden or fill a birdbath, fountain, or pond. Water from a rain barrel can be used to irrigate a vegetable garden, but because it is runoff from a roof, it can contain oil or bacteria, so use it only around crops that can be effectively washed before eating.

Shelly Nold is a horticulturist and owner of The Plant Kingdom. Send stories and ideas to her at The Plant Kingdom, 4101 Westport Road, Louisville, KY 40207.




ASK THE GARDENER

by Angie McManus

I have a butterfly bush. Should it be pruned and when?

During mid to late summer, butterfly bushes, buddleia, provide a nice splash of color in the sun-loving garden. The butterfly bush is a magnet for butterflies--hence its name--as well as hummingbirds and bees.

This woody shrub has a whimsical growth habit that can become unruly if not managed. They will benefit from annual pruning, removing all dead, damaged, diseased, or crossing branches as soon as you notice them. Otherwise, they should be pruned while they are dormant, during the late winter or early spring before new growth begins. Pruning at this time will help prevent any potential winter injury.

That being said, buddleia are very tolerant of being mistreated. They bloom on new wood, meaning that the buds are formed on the current season's growth, so pruning will invigorate your shrub and provide you with many blooms. Use a clean, sharp pair of pruners and prune as far back as a foot or two from the base of the plant.




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