My only regret about having a rain barrel is that I didn’t get one sooner. I guess another regret is the time a chipmunk fell in and couldn’t get out, but I’ll spare you the details.

At my house, the rain barrel’s location is far more convenient for our purposes than any spigot we have. We can hook a hose up to it, or fill watering cans. It’s even great for rinsing off grassy feet or boots when we come in from the garden. Best yet, we are using rainwater from our roof, rather than drinking water, to water new plants, repair lawn spots, and water certain garden plants. It’s a great fit.

Our local Soil and Water Conservation District (SWCD) is offering a cost share on rain barrels this year, which can bring the cost of a $65 rain barrel down to $25 once you have documented correct installation. This is a great deal, and it comes with technical assistance from our SWCD staff. For more information, call 812-378-1280, ext. 3, and talk with Heather Shireman. When last I checked, there were a few rain barrels left.

Fall tree sale

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You may be familiar with the SWCD’s tree giveaway, which takes place most years in late April, and just in time for Arbor Day. This year the count was 1,200 trees.

These spring trees, called whips, are products of the state nurseries operated by the Indiana Department of Natural Resources. There are many nice mature trees here in Bartholomew County that have been acquired at tree giveaways over the years. They do take special care, starting so small, and the size doesn’t work for every situation.

For those who would like to start with a larger plant, the SWCD is offering larger trees and shrubs in 3-gallon containers for $25 plus tax. Selections include serviceberry, paw paw, shagbark hickory, persimmon, oaks and others. The ordering deadline is Aug. 25, and order pickup is Sept. 23. For more information, you can check SWCD’s website, and you can even order from there: bartholomewswcd.org.

Protecting soil, water

SWCD provides many other important services, often leveraging federal and state grants and line items to protect soil and water resources here in Bartholomew County on a remarkably lean budget.

In 2016, SWCDs throughout Indiana working with cover crops in agricultural production prevented approximately 3.27 million pounds of nitrogen, 1.63 million pounds of phosphorus and 1.33 million tons of sediment from entering our waterways. If you care about keeping the soil on the land and out of our surface waters, you should know that these folks are working in both urban and rural settings to protect those resources.

Other services available from our SWCD include rental of a seed drill, box scraper or straw blower, and access to technical assistance and cost share dollars for conservation practices. Using their new website, one can also order plat books, wire flags, rain barrels or those trees in the fall tree sale.

Best yet, when you contact the SWCD office, you will reach someone who cares about protection of soil and water, and who can help you with best practices and resources.

Kris Medic is Purdue Extension Bartholomew County’s educator for agriculture, natural resources and community development, and was a member of the SWCD Board in the 1990s. She can be reached at 812-379-1665 or kmedic@purdue.edu