Don’t be fooled. All rain barrels will require maintenance from time to time. This is due to the fact that for the most part they have very simple inlet filtration. Most rain barrels only have mosquito screening as their filtration. Anything that will fit through those little holes, such as small roof grit, pollen, small organics like leaf debris will wind up in the barrel. Here in NC, pollen is our main issue in regards to maintenance and poor water quality. When the ‘yellow haze’ settles on the land the fun begins. The last two years have been the heaviest pollen seasons I can ever remember having. At times you could actually see it blowing out of the tall pines like a snow blowing during a blizzard. My wife’s black car turned a gross yellow-green color. See the pictures below of a fore bay in a rain garden we constructed. It shows pollen coated so thick you cannot see the color of the rocks they are coating.
Once this pollen washes into the rain barrel the stop-watch starts. The pollen and other organics in the rain barrel will eventually build up and create a very unique odor. Think of wet socks on the hottest day of the summer. That’s pretty close to the smell. This happens quicker when we get heavy pollen and short rain showers. The type of showers that produce ‘just enough’ water to carry the yellow sludge into the barrel. If we get frequent, heavy rains a lot of the pollen washes through and the odor is kept at bay. This just comes with the territory. Each pollen season is different.
The solution is simple: if the water starts to smell, drain it, remove the lid and give it a light scrub with a brush. Once clean, you put it back under the downspout. Voila! You are now ready for the next rain shower.
We have gone as long as five years before cleaning out a rain barrel and we have had to do it on an annual basis depending on the pollen/rain balance.
That’s one of the main reasons we designed Moby with a lid that can be removed but still locks down for safety. It always makes me wonder about rain barrels the have limited or no access to the interior of the barrel. What do those people do to clean out the barrel? Rain barrels are not maintenance free but it is simple to keep them operating properly for years of enjoyment for both you and your plants.
Let the harvest begin!