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I am concerned about the quality of the water in my rain barrel, but I am not sure if it is harmful or helpful to plants - especially in my vegetable garden.

It would be pretty simple to clean it out - which would remove the smell and appearance, but is there a potential for improved qualities of the water from all the bacteria and gunk?

is this possibly The Stuff Plants Crave™

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It depends on what is making the water dirty. if it was organic debris (leaves, grass clippings, etc.) that fell in and rotted, you should be fine. There will be a possibility of disease spreading, depending what is decomposing in there. even bird droppings can carry disease. if the barrel looked clean to begin with and nothing fell in, the color may be from a residue in th barrel. }n that case, you should clean it very thoroughly with a grease cutting cleaner, just in case. Although it is probably safe to irrigate with scummy water, it is generally better to keep everything clean and tidy around plants. i always keep my watering supplies squeaky clean anyway, so I don't have to unclog watering cans, sprinklers, hose nozzles, etc..

I recommend you clean it thoroughly, and at least rinse it out once a month to keep things clear. Dirty water really won't help the plants anyway .

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    Mosquito infestation is a major worry, especially now that West Nile has become more or less endemic in large parts of the US. – Fiasco Labs May 24 '14 at 1:26
  • @FiascoLabs very good point. many people keep their barrels overed because of mosquitoes. – J. Musser May 24 '14 at 4:56
  • yeah i suppose it makes a lot of sense to clean it anyway. the benefit of using rain water over city water is enough! the risk of mosquitoes and whatever strange bacteria or contaminates is a risk in and of itself. and its probably not The Stuff Plants Crave™ anyway :) – jorb May 26 '14 at 0:24

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