Rainwater is much better for your garden than City chlorinated water. But have you priced the fancy rain barrels for sale at the garden centers? You can make your own easily and cheaply by fitting out one of the plastic barrels left over from our Spring Fair.

Using a saber saw, cut out a six inch diameter hole in the top of the barrel. Then use a 1/2" drill bit to make a hole in the side of the barrel, approximately six inches from the bottom. Twist a 1/2" plastic hose bib with a rubber garden hose washer into the hole. Then reach inside and twist a threaded 1/2" PVC collar onto the hose bib.

To set up your new rain barrel, choose a convenient downspout location. Place the rain barrel on top of two cinder blocks. Set up the barrel and configure the downspout to pour into the barrel. Place screen material over the opening to prevent leaves from clogging up the hose bib. And be sure to drop in mosquito doughnuts often since rain barrels are the perfect breeding ground for mosquitoes.

Several 50 gallon barrels are located on the back patio of the KW office just waiting to be converted. Take a look at the prototype on the back patio -- it's easy! And your plants will thank you......Bill Cogburn

Each new day is a real gardening challenge. With little rain we may be under mandatory water use restrictions by the time this goes to press. An aquifer level of 660 feet above sea level will require watering in the garden only on specific days and during a limited time period. Watering in the morning is best. It is cooler and water soaks into the soil further and helps prevent lawn diseases from forming. Watch your local news for specifics. If you have an automatic sprinkler system, use it when there is little wind. Many systems have a fine spray that can be blown away from the soil and evaporate in the air. Also check the sprinkler heads frequently to be sure they are operating properly.

So far 2012 has been good in regards to moisture. My rain gauge on Mission St. has registered a total of 6 1/4 inches. At this writing, SAWS has gone back to Stage One water restrictions. This means that lawn watering with any type of sprinkler system is allowed before 10am and after 8pm during the week only based on the last digit of your street address as follows: 0 or 1, Monday, 2 or 3, Tuesday, 4 or 5, Wednesday, 6 or 7, Thursday, 8 or 9, Friday.

By early March we can start saying goodbye to winter and start gardening in earnest. Hopefully 2012 will be a wetter year than 2011. I measured 19 1/8 inches of rain in my gauge on Mission St in 2011. In the months of February through May and again in August there was no measurable rain in the gauge. November and December were the wettest months with 2 1/4 and 3 1/4 inches respectively. According to the paper, San Antonio’s average annual rainfall is 27.92 inches with only 14.88 inches received in 2011.

Well, October was to have been one of our wettest months but that was not the case this year. The drought is still with us. As I submit this for editing on November 8, the one eighth inch of rain this morning was the only measurable amount in my gauge for the past month. Continue to conserve water but also do not give up gardening. Until about early January is the best time to plant trees, shrubs, and perennials. Make holes roughly 2 to 3 times the diameter of the container and only deep enough so that the ground level is the same as that of the plant in the pot. The holes should be shaped generally as a square to prevent roots from growing in circles. Water in the new fill dirt thoroughly to eliminate air pockets. Mulch all plants whether established or newly planted to protect roots from cold weather and to maintain soil moisture. Mulch should be 3 to 5 inches deep leaving an open ring of about 6 inches around the base of the plant.