Of rain barrels and rain gardens

I was turned on to the use of rain barrels and rain gardens by the Cannon River Watershed Partnership‘s spring 2006 education/grant program supporting stormwater run-off reduction practices. I received a cost-share grant from CRWP to get a rain garden full of native species established in my front yard, was inspired to launch a crazy recycled oak rain barrel project as a fund-raiser for RENew Northfield, for whom I worked at the time, and have been making and selling oak rain barrels ever since (as a purely for-profit venture since starting Sustainable Community Solutions in November 2006).

In just over two years, I (with more than a little help from my friends in the spring of 2006!) have made and sold 416 rain barrels. All have been made from recycled Kentucky bourbon barrels. With each barrel holding 53 gallons, that means that these barrels collectively hold up to 22,048 gallons after each rain event in southern Minnesota. A goodly number of the barrels have gone to loving families in the Twin Cities and other surrounding towns, but many grace homes here in Northfield.

In addition to providing aesthetically pleasing landscaping, rain barrels and rain gardens offer the following benefits:

  • Retention of stormwater runoff on-site (in both barrels and rain gardens). This reduces the flushing of driveway and road surface pollutants (e.g. unburned hydrocarbons, oil, diesel and gasoline spills, etc.) into surface waters, and reduces the volume of water flowing into area streams during heavy rains.
  • Free, pure source of water for house plants, shrubs, trees and gardens.
  • Wildlife habitat.
  • Lawn reduction (and corresponding lawnmower use reduction!)

I’ve had a great time making and selling rain barrels the past couple of years, and talking with folks about their use. I have plenty on hand if you’d like to join the rain barrel revolution. If the price of an oak barrel doesn’t fit your household budget, cheaper plastic barrels are available from numerous sources, as well.

I’m also able to help you design a rain garden at modest cost if you’d like to take the next step. Give me a shout if you’d like to talk about either rain barrels or rain gardens.

One Comment

  1. Karen
    Posted July 27, 2009 at 2:06 pm | Permalink

    quick question – does the rain garden have to be exposed to a lot of sun? we have lots of trees where we’re thinking about having the rain garden…


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