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Home & Garden

September 9, 2015

Roll out the rain barrel!!

rainbarrel

Cathie Sykes’ rain barrel depicting a great blue heron on the water at sunset looks as much a part of her landscaping as the colorful window boxes or the shrubbery in front of her home in Virginia Beach.

In her backyard, a more whimsical and equally colorful rain barrel features characters from “Finding Nemo.”

Watering cans sit at the ready by both rain barrel spigots. Sykes uses well water for her flower beds, but she goes the extra mile to save water by harvesting rainwater from her roof in rain barrels, rather than using city water for her other watering needs.

She uses rainwater to water her window boxes and potted plants on her porch and walkway and to fill her birdbaths and water fountain.

“I’m glad I can use rainwater for the birdbaths and water fountain because the birds love to bathe in it,” Sykes said.

She explained that she also really needs the rainwater to water her flowerpots and window boxes that are up against her house and on her porch and walkways.

“My well water may stain, so I never use it in those places,” Sykes said.

Sykes said she was not a gardener eight years ago. But in quick order, she became one. Now a Virginia Beach Master Gardener, she works as a private gardener, rather than as the paralegal she once was.

Early on, Sykes began to read up on all the things a gardener could do to help the environment.

She stopped using chemicals and fertilizers in her yard and created a buffer of plants and rocks to absorb runoff from her yard before it goes into a storm drain on the street.

“You’ve got to protect where you live,” she said.

Her yard is a Lynnhaven River Now Pearl Home, which means she is working to live and garden in a sustainable way. The rain barrels are her latest effort to turn her yard into an environmentally friendly spot.

“You really do a lot of things by having a rain barrel,” Sykes said. “You not only save money by not using city water, but you also capture the rainwater and return it to the soil instead of letting it run down into your yard and off in the street.

“Rain barrels also protect the foundation of your house,” she added. “If you just have a gutter, the water runs off into the same spot.

Rain barrels are available for purchase at various home improvement stores, but Sykes saved money and learned a lot by making hers at a Virginia Beach Master Gardener rain barrel workshop in the spring. In addition to teaching participants how to turn a recycled plastic pickle barrel into a rain barrel, the workshop also educated folks about other actions gardeners could take to protect the environment.

Most rain barrel workshops charge in the neighborhood of $50 and provide not only the barrel but also the necessary fittings, such as the faucet, overflow drain and screen for the top to keep mosquitoes out. Participants install these things on site, and go home with a completed rain barrel.

All Sykes had to provide later were cinder blocks for the base and a small gutter elbow to direct the water from the gutter into the barrel.

Sykes also chose to paint her rain barrels to integrate them into her yard. She used spray paints to spruce up the gray barrels and artist acrylics for the decorations. She sprayed a clear protective coating overall. She wasn’t too confident in her artistic abilities, but she’s happy with the outcome.

“When you look at it from far away,” Sykes said, “it looks great.”

Some upcoming rain barrel workshops:

Chesapeake Master Gardener Rain Barrel Workshops: Aug. 15, Sept. 19 and Oct. 17 Chesapeake Extension Office (Classes are held at the Agriculture Extension trailer, Great Bridge Civic Center complex, corner of Holt and Shea drives). Registration deadline is two days prior to each class. The fee is $55 and includes the barrel. Download registration form atwww.cmgv.org/images/Rainbarrel/2015RainBarrel WorkshopRegistrationForm.pdf, or call 382-6348 to register.

Chesapeake Parks, Recreation and Tourism and Chesapeake Master Gardener Rain Barrel Workshops:

Aug. 22 South Norfolk Community Center

Oct. 14 River Crest Community Center

To register, call 382-6411.

Virginia Beach Master Gardener Rain Barrel Workshops Aug. 15 and Sept. 12 Virginia Beach Farmers Market, 3640 Dam Neck Road. The workshop costs $50 and includes the barrel. Early registration is required. Visit www.vbmg.org, and click on events calendar for registration form.

Chesapeake Master Gardener Rain Barrel Workshops: Aug. 15, Sept. 19 and Oct. 17 Chesapeake Extension Office (Classes are held at the Agriculture Extension trailer, Great Bridge Civic Center complex, corner of Holt and Shea drives). Registration deadline is two days prior to each class. The fee is $55 and includes the barrel. Download registration form atwww.cmgv.org/images/Rainbarrel/2015RainBarrel WorkshopRegistrationForm.pdf, or call 382-6348 to register.

Chesapeake Parks, Recreation and Tourism and Chesapeake Master Gardener Rain Barrel Workshops:

Aug. 22South Norfolk Community Center

Oct. 14 River Crest Community Center

To register, call 382-6411.

Virginia Beach Master Gardener Rain Barrel WorkshopsAug. 15 and Sept. 12 Virginia Beach Farmers Market, 3640 Dam Neck Road. The workshop costs $50 and includes the barrel. Early registration is required. Visit www.vbmg.org, and click on events calendar for registration form.

Mary Reid Barrow, barrow1@cox.net. Follow Mary Reid’s blog athamptonroads.com/maryreidbarrow.

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