Rain Barrel: How To Make And Use Rain Barrels

rain barrel catching water

rain barrel collecting water for the garden

The use of the Rain Barrel in the garden continues to grow in popularity. What Is A Rain Barrel? It’s simply a container, often 50 -80 gallons in size, used to harvest and store captured rainwater draining from roof runoff.

How Does A Rain Barrel System Work?

A roof works as a collection surface and as rain falls, the water collects usually in rain gutters. A downspout connects to the barrel using some type of downspout diverter to direct the roof runoff into the barrel via the downspout. Units specifically designed to operate as rain barrels feature a covers to prevent animals, mosquitoes, dust, and light from contaminating stored water.

image by Aquabarrel via pinterest

How Much Rainwater Can You Collect?

One of the first questions asked by those considering adding a rain barrel system to their garden is. How much water does it take to fill a 55-gallon barrel with water? It takes roughly  1/2 inch of rain to fill the typical 50-55 gallon drum with water from an average roof.

Here are the numbers… For every inch of rain falling on 500 square foot of roof, it adds up to approximately 300 gallons of water. Most areas in the US could collect over 1,000 gallons of potable water per year to use in watering container gardens, house plants, vegetable garden and even your lawn.

Tips and Considerations

  • Use a screen to keep out debris
  • Keep the rain barrel covered with a lid to prevent mosquito breeding and algae growth
  • Empty first collected water if concerns of roof contaminants are a concern
  • Do not use rain barrels on a roof containing asbestos
  • Collected rain water is not for human consumption – plants only

Benefits of Rain Barrels

A Money Saver – with this free water conservation source homeowners save on their water bills. Lawn and garden irrigation accounts for 40 % of residential water use according to the EPA.

Using rain barrels, homeowners can save roughly 1,300 gallons of water during the growing season.

Healthy Plants and Soil – Rainwater does not contain the same additives found in tap water like inorganic ions and fluoride compounds which over time, accumulate in soil.

This accumulation can potentially harm plant roots and microorganisms in the soil. Clean rainwater helps clean the soil of salt buildup which benefits plants and their roots.

Reduction of Runoff – Rain barrels help conserve water and reduce stormwater runoff which flows directly into streams, lakes and other nearby bodies of water from storm drains.

Rains pick up soil, oil, fertilizer, pesticides and other contaminants that can increase algae growth in lakes for example.

How To Make A Rain Barrel

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Clean water is a precious commodity. Many people around the world would improve the quality of their life if they only had access to clean water. The idea to collect rainwater is not new. However, in today’s “green movement” we see many gardeners install rain barrels by the home foundation to collect water for irrigating  their plants and garden.

Constructing a rain barrel system is easy (videos below). Attaching a spigot or hose bib near the bottom of the barrel allows for the connecting a soaker hose or filling watering cans. You can also connect multiple barrels together to create a rain harvesting system.

Before you get excited about collecting rainwater with a barrel – make sure it’s legal! An Oregon man collected rain water on his property and found himself sentenced to 30 Days in jail.

There are many ways to go about making a rain barrel, this tutorial from BHG.com shows you how to make an inexpensive rain barrel in a couple of hours. The folks over at DIYnetwork.com have put together their Top 9 DIY rain barrel projects. From making one to installation and some safety tips as well. Check out their projects via DIYnetwork.

Julie Finn from craftingagreenworld.com shares her own design using a food grade barrel and some simple parts from the hardware store. One nice feature of Julie’s design uses a screen to keep out mosquitoes which can make your barrel a nuisance to the neighborhood. Julie is still working on the overflow hose system for the barrel. More via craftingagreenworld.com

Rain barrels can often be acquired for a good price or even free, when used. Try Craigslist! You can find rain barrel kits and complete systems to collect rainwater. Fiskars makes one, also Lowes, Home Depot and there’s even one called the Great American Rain Barrel.

Video: Making a Rain Barrel Garden – Home Depot

Here’s another video on making a barrel from CanadianRainBarrels.ca

With proper positioning under downspouts rain barrels can help you collect enough run-off to significantly cut your outdoor watering bill. Rain chains add a beauty to the water collection process as well!

Not only do plants love the pure, clean collect rain water, it helps the environment prevent wasted water. Don’t think rain barrels need to look hideous. They can get some interesting looks and painting them adds a splash of color and creativity to the garden.

Painted rain barrels, no rules, add some style to your garden. (Photo courtesy of The Environmental Blog)

How To Install A Rain Barrel: The Basics of Prep, Place And Deal With Pests

As more and more people install and enjoy the benefits rain barrels provide, you’ll find all kinds of variations, tweaks, unique installations and entertaining art! But in order to get the most out of your “water harvest”, make sure it is set up correctly.

Over at Your Easy Garden they share the basics of setting up a rainwater harvest system with a barrel including the preparation, placement and handling pests. Here’s a few tips they share:

In late fall, empty, rinse and turn them over. In setting up each spring, rinse the interior and fill to the tap to check for leaks. In cold climates, trapped water can freeze and expand, cracking the plastic. The seal that holds the spigot in place may deteriorate with time and the elements. Some silicone sealer will fix it.

 Place rain barrels under high-volume downspouts, close to the house or outbuilding and near garden beds and other areas you’ll use the water. Elevate them on sturdy cinder blocks so a bucket fits under the spigot. We slip a garden hose segment over the tap to direct water to the beds, so a little elevation also goes a long way.  Read the complete article via YourEasyGarden

Could Your Rain Barrel Be Harming Your Plants? A Look At Rain Barrel Hygiene

We work hard caring for our plants… for food (veggies) or for enjoyment (flowers). The last thing we want to do is put anything on them which could harm the plants or what they produce.

Have you considered that the rain barrel water as a potential “harmful” source? No one wants a contaminated rain barrel with potentially harmful substances in it.

Sometimes, it can difficult to get motivated to take on the job of giving it a good flush and cleaning. It is important to clean your rain barrel on a regular basis, though.

Even though it seems like a dirty job, organicgardening.com shares tips to put you on the path to getting it clean without much fuss. Details via organicgardening.com.  Popular Mechanics discusses how to safely capture rain water and guard against bacteria and disease to insure the best water quality. The orchidcarezone.com discusses how to store and keep your rainwater fresh, clean, and ready to use.

All this makes for fun talk, but GRIT shares more ideas on how to use the excess water collected using rain barrels in your garden.

Filed Under: LG, Rain Harvesting, z-004

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