Vermont Public is independent, community-supported media, serving Vermont with trusted, relevant and essential information. We share stories that bring people together, from every corner of our region. New to Vermont Public? Start here.

© 2024 Vermont Public | 365 Troy Ave. Colchester, VT 05446

Public Files:

For assistance accessing our public files, please contact or call 802-655-9451.
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Create a rain garden and rain barrel to capture and re-use water

Beside a gray house, a blue plastic rain barrel sits atop some cinder blocks just under a gutter's downspout, to catch rain water.
A rain barrel can capture rain from summer storms that you can then collect and use for watering gardens or washing your car.

In August and September of last year, abnormally dry conditions were particularly severe in the southern part of the state. Vermont farmers were worried about crops and the dry spell had gardeners watering their raised beds more than they might have liked to.

And although we needn't bury cisterns in our yards like some states in the Southwest to capture water, experts in our region who study climate's affect on agriculture note that weather patterns are less predictable.

To that end, we can catch rainfall for various uses and conserve water at the same time.

A heavy downpour in summertime can mean storm water runoff from roofs and driveways. If there isn't sufficient soil or grass for the rain to infiltrate back into, any fertilizers or chemicals you use on your lawn or garden can run off with the rain water and end up in lakes and streams.

One way to avert that water runoff: create a rain garden! If your home has rain gutter and downspouts, you're more than halfway there.

Next, just create a way to channel that storm water from the downspout into a small area where you've added plants and flowers that can take a bit of flooding.

To create a natural swale that will capture that rain water from your downspout, dig out the soil on the ground just underneath the spout, and plant things like Blueflag irises, swamp milkweed and Joe Pye weed there.

Lastly, place the grass back over the area and allow the water to channel there. The rain water will stay on your property instead of running off plus you'll have some lovely flowers and plants that don't mind getting their feet wet!

Another method to collect water is by using rain barrels. Look for a 55-gallon food-grade barrel or seek out a rain barrel kit at your local garden or farm store. (If you're DIY-ing the rain barrel, remember to insert a spigot towards the bottom).

Place the rain barrel on a flat area on top of some gravel. If water overflows after a heavy storm, it will seep down into the gravel instead of running off your driveway.

Elevate the rain barrel on some cinder blocks, too. The higher the elevation, the more gravity feed you'll get.

For watering your gardens or washing your car, just attach a garden hose to it to the spigot and spray away.

"Barrels can be linked together with PVC piping so when one is full the next one starts filling. Some screening over the tops as well as 'mosquito dunk' granules solve the issue of mosquitoes breeding. The barrels can be decorative and are paintable. Maybe some local artists could be involved! The water is perfect for all plants, birds, etc." - Rosie, via email

Thanks to All Things Gardening listener, Rosie, who wrote in about the importance of rain barrels and conserving water!

If you have topics you'd like All Things Gardening to cover, let us know!

Q: We have a sandbox for our kids. We use sand without any crystalline silica dust to avoid any inhalation risks. However we do have earwigs in the sandbox and we're looking for a safe way to deter them. - Chris, in Hinesburg

A: A good way to control earwigs takes a bit of early morning innovation along with the morning paper.

Start by rolling up some newspaper and wetting it. Then put the rolled up, wet paper in the sandbox overnight. Earwigs love a cold, dark and moist place to spend the night.

First thing in the morning, go out to the sandbox and remove the newspaper. It should be teeming with earwigs! Simply toss it in the compost.

By doing this simple, safe method a few times, you'll eliminate a lot of those earwigs from the kids' sandbox.

All Things Gardening is powered by you, our audience! Send your gardening questions and conundrums and Charlie may answer them in upcoming episodes.

You can also leave a voicemail with your gardening question by calling Vermont Public at 1-800-639-2192.

Hear All Things Gardening during Weekend Edition with Vermont Public host Mary Williams Engisch, Sunday mornings at 9:35.

Have questions, comments or tips? Send us a message or get in touch by tweeting us @vermontpublicWe've closed our comments. Read about all the ways to get in touch here.

Mary Williams Engisch is a local host on All Things Considered.
Charlie Nardozzi is a nationally recognized garden writer, radio and TV show host, consultant, and speaker. Charlie is the host of All Things Gardening on Sunday mornings at 9:35 during Weekend Edition on Vermont Public. Charlie is a guest on Vermont Public's Vermont Edition during the growing season. He also offers garden tips on local television and is a frequent guest on national programs.