Urban Basics

Getting back to basics in an urban setting


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DIY Rain Barrel

Remember the children’s rhyme, “Rain, rain, go away. Come again another day”? By catching rainwater runoff from your roof in a rain barrel, you now have a reason to ask the rain to “come again” when you need it. Collecting rainwater will allow you to conserve natural resources or save money on your water bill.
The typical roof on a house can direct as much as 200 gallons of water into its downspouts during a 1/4-inch rain shower. Already-assembled rain barrels are available at many garden centers and online; however, rain barrels aren’t difficult to make. Reuse any water-tight, rust-free barrel or drum for your rain-barrel project, but choose one that hasn’t held hazardous chemicals. Depending on your location, you should be able to find discarded wine or whiskey barrels, metal barrels or plastic food-grade barrels for $10 to $15. Check feed stores, food distributors or even your local Craigslist site.
A common 55-gallon, food-grade plastic barrel has two holes in the top with screw-in plastic caps. (Use this type to construct the rain barrel in this article.) These are ideal, as the caps are each threaded, so they can easily be unscrewed to access the contents of the barrel. Typically, the caps also have a ready-made faucet tap, which will allow easy attachment of a pipe and water spigot.
Rain Barrel Materials
• water-tight, rust-free barrel or drum
• short length of 3/4-inch PVC pipe
• 3/4-inch PVC elbow, SLIP x MPT (male thread on one end, smooth or “slip” on the other end)
• 3/4-inch PVC adapter, SLIP x FPT (female thread on one end, smooth or “slip” on the other end)
• boiler faucet or another type of faucet that fits your PVC adapter and hose
• Teflon thread-sealing tape
• PVC cement and primer
Step 1: Rinse the barrel.
Even though you’ll be using collected rainwater as non-potable water, you should rinse out any residue. Remove the caps and rinse the barrel with a garden hose. Note that the caps you remove from the barrel might not be interchangeable, so don’t try to force them or accidentally cross-thread one.
Step 2: Set up a stand.
The stand for your rain barrel should be tall enough so you can easily put a watering can under the barrel faucet. You can build a stand from wood or even set up a platform of concrete blocks. Be sure you design a space or a gap in the top of the stand so the PVC pipe can run from the bottom of the rain barrel to the edge of the stand without being crushed.
Place the stand on level ground near an existing downspout that is convenient to the area where you want to use the water. Remember that the water will be gravity-fed, so the rain barrel must be higher than any areas where water will be used—water won’t run uphill!
Step 3: Prepare the barrel.
The barrel will be mounted on your stand with the two capped holes on the bottom. One of the holes will be used to connect the PVC pipe. Leave this hole open, but securely replace the cap on the other hole—this is where the faucet will go.
Use Teflon tape on the cap threads to ensure a water-tight fit; wrap the tape in a clockwise direction so the tape doesn’t unwind as the cap is screwed on.
Using a 3/4-inch drill bit, drill out the plastic faucet tap in the center of the cap. With a utility knife, carefully trim away any leftover plastic remnants on the inside of your drilled hole.
Step 4: Attach the PVC pipe.
You might find it easier to attach the elbow to the PVC pipe first, then screw the whole thing into the faucet tap. Put primer on the PVC elbow connecter and one end of the PVC pipe, then apply the PVC cement to the pipe, fit them together, and screw the elbow into the cap.
Now place the barrel on your stand. The PVC pipe should reach just to the edge of the stand; cut off any extra.
Step 5: Attach the faucet.
The final step in constructing the rain barrel is to attach the PVC adapter to the end of the pipe, and then attach your faucet onto the adapter. Put PVC primer on the adapter and the cut end of the PVC pipe, then apply cement to the pipe and fit them together. Wrap the faucet threads in Teflon tape and screw the faucet into the PVC adapter.
Step 6: Direct water to the rain barrel.
Place the rain barrel in the exact location you want it, because once it’s filled with water it will weigh about 450 pounds.
There are many ways to direct water from a downspout into a rain barrel. Depending on your needs, you might want to develop your own solution. One simple option is to use the Garden Water saver Diverter. This device attaches to your downspout and has a hose that directs water from the downspout into your rain barrel. When the barrel is full, the water is automatically redirected back into the downspout. The diverter comes with downspout attachment instructions.
To attach the hose to your rain barrel, drill a hole in the top of your barrel, and put the Watersaver hose through the hole. To prevent a vacuum effect and to keep water flowing freely from the spigot, drill a 1/8-inch hole in the top of the barrel near where the hose enters.
Step 7: Connect overflow rain barrels (optional).
If you have room, you can connect two or more barrels together so one barrel can overflow into the next.
To do that, drill a hole near the top of each barrel and connect them with a hose or pipe. Be sure that this connection is large enough in diameter so the water flow into the next barrel equals the flow entering the barrel from the downspout. Fit each barrel with a water faucet just as you did the first.
Step 8: Maintain you rain barrel.
However you connect your rain barrels to your downspout, it’s important to be able to easily disconnect them. Keep this in mind when you’re designing your system. Drain the barrels before winter, as water expands when it freezes and can destroy your barrels. If you treat your roof with moss killer, disconnect your rain barrels beforehand. Wait until after two or three heavy rain showers before reconnecting the barrel to the downspout to be sure the roof has been well rinsed.
Now that you see how easy it is to make your own rain barrel, make one (or more) to catch spring rain before the dry summer months set in. Rainwater is better for your plants than treated tap water, so your garden will thank you and so will your checkbook.
Check out these other DIY garden ideas on HobbyFarms.com:
• How to Build Raised Beds
• How to Build a Compost Bin with Straw Bales
• How to Build a Soil Sifter
• How to Make a Scarecrow from Farm Materials

Original Article: http://www.hobbyfarms.com/home-and-barn/build-a-rain-barrel.aspx
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Victory gardens and scrap gardening

What the heck is a scrap garden? Well, its a garden that is put into small unused spaces. Most major cities have strips of land that owners have to maintain in front of their house but are actually owned by the city. Strips of land between a sidewalk and the street… This is prime scrap garden space. Empty lots or unused land also have land that could be turned into a community scrap garden.
Victory gardens, also known as war gardens, were used during World War I and II to help offset the pressure on the public food supply. These Victory gardens were planted in private yards and public parks all over the country. As the cost of living sky rockets, why are we not planting more victory gardens and learning how to garden on small scraps of land?
Have you seen gas prices lately? It is so crazy high! Cars are a necessity and almost everyone has one. But do you know what uses gas that is not a necessity? Lawn mowers. Why do we as Americans insist on cultivating acre after acre of grass? Then, we have to mow it every week, using fuel to do it. Then gallons of round up and chemical fertilizers are dumped on it each year just to keep it as green and pretty as the guy next door?
This is insane!!! Plant food.
Instead of planting shrubs along your house, Why not grow Rhubarb or Sage? Sage gets very large and shrub-like and produces a flaming red flowers that is very beautiful. sasp2537

Rhubarb grows very large and has big pretty leaves. The plus to this? Its edible! Sage is a grate herb to cook with. You can harvest it and dry it for cooking during the cold season. Basil is also great. It is fragrant and one of my favorite Herbs. Try planting mint as a ground cover or Oregano and Thyme as decorative plants instead of non-edible alternatives? We use these plants in our front yard in our decorative flower beds. Alliums or any other plant from the Onion family are great at any stage of growth and the flowers are beautiful.
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Instead of all that lawn in your back yard, why not plant edible plants? You can make pathways and small garden beds and make it just as beautiful if not more so then all that grass. Instead of unsightly fences why not plant bamboo? It grows quickly and can be used as privacy screens and cut and used as trellises. Bamboo is a great building material for any yard. No one can tell me that, if done right, an edible garden can not be beautiful!
Here is a link to a blog of a woman who planted a front yard garden. Its pretty dang nice!
http://shawnacoronado.com/2012/08/how-i-built-a-hot-damn-happy-front-lawn-vegetable-garden-in-a-drought-year/
And here is an article on beautiful edible landscaping:
http://ww2.producer.com/blogs/global_farmer/wordpress/?p=1198

Turning your yard into an edible oasis is great on your pocket book too. Your savings at the grocery store is a huge plus and you wont have to buy all that fuel for your lawn mower or pesticides that do more harm then good. There is no reason, at least in my opinion, that these chemicals should ever touch your yard. There are many other ways to combat pests and weeds!
I would love to make my front or back yard into an edible garden oasis but I can’t. We currently rent our home and do not have permission to take out the lawn. The landlord pays someone weekly to come mow my yard. This is so silly!! I wouldn’t mind keeping a small patch of grass for the swing set my kids use and the area around it for running and playing ball, but the rest would be better used as garden space for edible plants. Since I can not turn my yard into an edible landscape, we put in raised garden beds in a small portion of the yard and we produce an amazing amount of food in 700 sq feet.

Even a small garden would be great. Think of how much food could be grown if every single yard in America had just one 4X8 garden bed? That is a lot of food!
What about that strip of grass by the road? Instead of just rocks or grass, why not plant food? Take a look around your house. Is there unused space in your side yard? What about behind the shed in the back yard? If there is unused space, that is prime scrap garden space and use it to grow food!!
If every single person found a small scrap of land to grow just three plants for food, then every community would be much better off!
I never grew Okra until I moved to the south. I was amazed at how pretty an Okra plant is when it flowers. 2012 216
Why not add Basil or Okra to your flower garden? Plant Lavender next to your Black eyed Susans.

More edible plants equals less starvation, less lawns that need pesticides and fuel, and a whole lot more sustainability.
Think about how many seeds just one bean or tomato plant can produce. It’s a lot of seeds. Seeds that can produce many other plants for many people.

I have a challenge for you!
I challenge every person to plant three different edible plants. Just three. Then learn everything you can about them and learn to save the seeds. Then I want you to give your seeds to at least three other people and challenge them to do the same! Maybe get together with your neighbor and decide on three different plants each then you can swap the seeds and have six different edible plants next season. The cost for the first set of seeds is minimal and if you learn to save the seeds and pass them on, then the cost of getting seeds becomes free over time.
I would love to see pictures of your scrap garden so send them my way.
Happy planting!