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In drought, rain barrels hold their own

Marie Neeb stands next two her two 50-gallon rain barrels behind her garage Monday afternoon in Worthington. (Julie Buntjer/Daily Globe)

WORTHINGTON -- Brimming with colorful annuals and all sorts of options for perennial gardens, greenhouses are often the go-to destination in the spring. But with a ban on nonessential watering in the city of Worthington, some residents are thinking they'll have to forego the beautiful blooms this year.

Not so, according to former flower shop owner Marie Neeb of Worthington.

With the sun shining on Monday, Neeb pointed out the white daffodils, emerging tulips and assortment of other perennials growing alongside her home and garage. Like every other year, she will rely on rain water collected in two large barrels on her property to keep her flowers healthy this summer.

"Rain water is better for your plants," said Neeb, who has kept barrels for collecting rain water ever since she and her husband married 65 years ago. The barrels come in handy during dry or drought years, she added.

Neeb's rain barrels are set up to collect rain water as it drains off of her garage. In just the little bit of rain that fell on Saturday, she said one of her barrels filled more than a quarter of the way up from the bottom. The other barrel, which had water in it, overflowed.

Neeb has filled plastic jugs and watering cans just to allow for more space in the barrels. The stockpile will be nice for Neeb when she plants new flowers and waters the existing gardens.

"Really, one barrel is enough," she said. "You'd be surprised how much comes off a half-inch rain."

According to the Better Homes and Gardens website, for each inch of rain that falls on 500 square feet of roof, a person can collect 300 gallons of water.

At local farm supply stores Runnings and TSC, customers have already picked up rain barrels to capitalize on recent rain and snow events.

Todd Thier, manager at TSC, said both 50-gallon and 65-gallon rain barrels are in stock. Both varieties come with an option to attach either a spigot or a hose.

At Runnings, assistant manager Linda Johnson said there is just one rain barrel left, but the store can easily get more in to meet demand.

Neeb's two barrels, in use for decades, were recycled from other uses. Neither has a spigot nor a hose attachment -- she simply dips an ice cream bucket in the barrel to collect water and pour it on her plants.

While many worry about standing water harboring mosquitoes and their larvae, Neeb offers a simple tip --put two tablespoons of lemon-scented Joy in a 50-gallon barrel of rain water. The dish soap will keep the mosquitoes away. However, Neeb cautions to add just one teaspoon to start with so the mixture doesn't kill the flowers.

If people prefer not to add the dish soap, barley bales -- available through some garden suppliers -- are a natural alternative.

Daily Globe Reporter Julie Buntjer may be reached at 376-7330.

Julie Buntjer

Julie Buntjer joined the Globe newsroom in December 2003, after working more than nine years for weekly newspapers. A native of Worthington, she has a bachelor's degree in agriculture journalism. Find more of her stories of farm life, family and various other tidbits at

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