Welcome to one of the most rewarding and easiest forms of water conservation! Your plants and garden are going to love your mineral rich rainwater, while slashing your water consumption by up to 40% depending on how much you use it. Plastic or wood rain barrels are fine and are sold commercially. The normally come in 25 to 100 gallon options.
Just something to keep in mind though as a note of caution, rain barrels that collect water from copper roofs or from roofs where wood shingles or shakes have been treated with chromated copper arsenate to prevent moss or algae growth should not be used on editable plants. If you have treated your roof with any chemicals at all you won’t want to use that water either.
Two other notes on rain water collection barrels:
In your neck of the woods especially, you’ll want to empty your rain barrel when the weather starts to freeze over the winter. If you don’t have a protected indoor area to store it, just turn it upside down and secure it to prevent animals from making a winter home in it or getting water accumulation in it which can freeze, expand, and potentially crack the barrel, especially one that is made of plastic.
Finally, make sure you keep a mesh screen over the top and that you clean it frequently. The mess can collect debris which will interfere with collection and provide a place for mold and mildew to form. However, without one all of those items will end up in your barrel and can foul your water. Additionally, mosquitoes look for ponded, still water to lay their eggs. An open rain barrel would make an ideal breeding ground for them. Not only will that make time in your yard less pleasant, across the south this year there has been another outbreak of west nile virus. By eliminating standing water form your property you can greatly reduce mosquito populations for you and your neighbors.
If you are having trouble finding a barrel in your area, may we suggest you talk to one of our friends in Louisville? This is the link to Naturally Horton’s for those in the Louisville Metro, its in The Highlands.
“When is the best time to harvest herbs?”
The best time to harvest herbs is right before the flowers open. This is when their aroma and taste in their essential oils are at their peak like thyme, basil and mint. The preferred time to pick them is also in the morning when they are at their freshest and the most potent. Never pick herbs in wet or humid conditions. Finally, Monty’s 2-15-15 works well to keep the plants in the flower cycle and may help elevate brix levels, which in herbs will increase the aromatics and flavors as well as improve shelf life.
Also, don’t forget one of our favorite places to visit and to visit virtually is Beagle Ridge Herb Farm in Wytheville, VA. They are a great source for information for all things herbs, natural gardening, and GARLIC! check them out here.
“I’ve read that instead of pulling out spent tomato plants, you can simply cut them back and keep watering them to encourage new growth and fruit. Is there any truth to this?”
Depending on your weather cooperation, this is true and new growth will develop, along with a respectable new harvest. Make sure you pick tomatoes often, keeping the weight off the stems and branches so they don’t break or bend. It’ll also give your other plants more room to produce freely.
Once you prune them, you will want ot help encourage new growth as well as help the plant deal with the stresses involved with pruning. Monty’s 8-16-8 should help with that, then once your plants have regrown and have begun to set blooms again, switch to Monty’s 2-15-15 to enhance flower set and fruit production.