Did you know 40% of total household water is used to water our lawn and gardens during the summer? A rain barrel is an excellent solution for watering your garden since it also aids in water conservation.
Most people water their gardens using their hose which is better suited for drinking water. A rainwater barrel is an excellent choice to conserve water and keep your garden healthy at the same time.
Table of Contents
- How do Rainwater Barrels Work?
- How to Setup a Rainwater Collection System
- Benefits of Watering your Garden with Rainwater
- How to Make a Rain Barrel (Video)
- Decorative Rain Barrels for Sale
- In Summary
How do Rainwater Barrels Work?
Rain barrels work by collecting rain into a sealed container. There is a spout or nozzle at the bottom of the container that attaches to your garden hose. A secondary spout may be positioned at the top of the barrel to direct any overflow away from the house or into to a second container
Once the barrel is full, you open the bottom spout to release the water, and gravity does the rest. This is especially effective when attaching the hose to a drip irrigation system. Drip systems ensure your garden is watered slowly and evenly.
How to Setup a Rainwater Collection System
There are two basic ways to set up a rainwater collection system for watering your garden.
1. Rain Gutter Setup
The easiest way to set up a rain barrel is to position it under your gutter system. The gutter is shortened to the height of the barrel. A connector piece can be reattached at the higher position and directed into the barrel. The water will flow from your roof, through the gutter downspout directly into your barrel.
2. The Free Catch Method
The second option is to place the barrel adjacent to your garden. Allow the rain to collect naturally in the barrel. This is good for homes where you cannot fit a rain collection barrel next to the house due to other landscaping or other obstacles. It is also ideally suited for renters who do not have permission to alter the downspout.
Additional Design Considerations
- A screen or fine mesh layer is attached to the top of the barrel to prevent debris from clogging the system. This also prevents bugs like mosquitoes from breeding in your barrel.
- Setup your rain barrel on a flat surface, so it does not tip over when full. A layer of concrete or bricks can be used to ensure an evenly flat surface.
- Install an overflow pipe a few inches from the top of the barrel. PVC pipe is commonly used to create an overflow drainage route away from the house or into a second barrel.
Benefits of Watering your Garden with Rainwater
- Rainwater is healthier for your garden. Most sources of drinking water are treated with chlorine and other minerals that make it better for people. This makes it worse for our plants. Rain is a much more natural source of water for our gardens.
- Conserve water. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, the average gardener could save up to 1300 gallons of water over the course of the summer by using a rainwater collection system. This calculation assumes a replenishment schedule of once per week from mid-April to mid-October. (55-gallon barrel x 24 weeks).
- Reduce flooding or water collection around the house. Most often the reason we experience basement flooding in the wet months is when the rain gutters do not divert the water far enough from the base of our house. This is mainly a problem when the ground slopes to one side causing the runoff to pool on one side of the house.
How to Make a Rain Barrel (Video)
Want to create your own rainwater collection system? Watch this video for step by step instructions on how to make a rain barrel. This video will walk you through the DIY version with materials that cost under $30 (providing you have the saw).
Required Materials for the DIY Rain Barrel
- 55 Gallon Drum (purchase from car wash, coco-cola bottler or warehouse
- Heavy duty Drill (or Jigsaw)
- 4 inch Hole saw (for Overflow)
- 1-1/2 inch hole saw (for spigot)
- Bung (for tap/spigot)
- 3/4 inch threaded ball valve (for spigot)
- Hose adapter (for runoff)
- Hose Clamp (to attach screen to PVC adapter)
- PVC adapter 4 to 3 inch (for main rain opening)
- Sharpie/marking utensil (for measuring)
- Scissors (to cut screen)
- Window Screen (to keep out debris)
- Tape Measure (to measure placement of holes)
- Screw Driver (for tightening hose clamp)
- Hacksaw (to cut downspout)
Optional Rain Barrel Parts:
- 1 – 1/2 inch trap adapter (for the overflow valve) & 2-inch hole saw
- PVC pipe/90 degree elbow & length of PVC pipe OR female bushing & hose adapter with hose (for overflow)
- Duct Tape & Yardstick (for placing the bung on the inside of the barrel)
- 12-inch flex hose (to help direct downspout into barrel, in case you don’t have an exact cut)
If you’d rather not start from scratch, you can still create a homemade system using a rain barrel kit.
Decorative Rain Barrels for Sale
If you prefer to blend your barrel with your decor, have a look at some of the more interesting decorative rain barrels for sale.
This pretty rainwater barrel has a sandstone look to blend in with your home decor. It includes a screen guard to keep out leaves and bugs, a brass spigot for filling pots, a built-in fitting at the base which connects to your hose and an overflow spout.
Although it has the look of sandstone, it is made with UV resistant material plastic so is easy to move. It also has a sturdy wider base to prevent spills.
Created to simulate the look of an oak barrel, this rainwater collection barrel has a classic design suited for almost any decor. It is made from high-quality Grade Polyethylene which will hold up to the elements, but the etched wood grain is so well done it is hard to tell the difference from a wood oak barrel unless you look very closely.
An aluminum screen to keep out insects and leaves, a brass spigot at the base and a flat back which will sit flush against your home are just some of the popular design features. A raised stand can be purchased separately to make it easier to fill your watering cans right from the water spout.
Don’t like the look of the plastic barrels? Disguise your rainwater collection system with this planter. The planter is double lined so will hold up well. It also has a spigot at the base, and easy access hose in case your watering can or pots don’t fit under the one at the bottom.
A 65-gallon capacity is also 10 additional gallons than most other plastic rain collection barrel. This is a nice way to combine form and function.
This design was created to blend with your garden. It holds a whopping 80 gallons which is the highest capacity of the decorative rain barrels in our list. Attach the Waterstone barrel to a soaker hose and gradually water your garden.
Also included is a gutter diverter system that can be installed in any downspout. This means when the barrel is full, the water will be automatically diverted back through the downspout.
Whether you decide to make your own rain barrel or purchase a ready-made system, collecting rainwater is an ideal way to water your lawn and gardens. You will have healthier plants and feel good about doing your part in water conservation.