Invest in a rain barrel

The rain barrel is one of the oldest and most useful tools in the gardener’s arsenal. However, that leaky old wooden barrel of centuries past has been transformed with modern materials and technology into a sleek and efficient means of storing rainwater for later use in the landscape.

By simply connecting the barrel to the downspout, the entire roof becomes a water collector every time it rains. Several rain barrels can be connected in series to increase the reservoir of stored water.

growing sunflowers

Two connected rain barrels

The advantages of using rainwater whenever possible are many. It is “soft” water without minerals, salts or chemicals, and it’s free.

By storing it for later use you are conserving a valuable and precious natural resource.

The average barrel will hold between 50-100 gallons, takes up little space in the landscape and comes with many standard or optional features such as overflow diverter, tight-fitting lid, mosquito screen, filtering system, child-proofing, spigot, pedestal and hose hook-up.

While 50 gallons may not seem like a lot of water, the high quality of rainwater will reward its use – especially for houseplants, hanging baskets, container plantings and refilling birdbaths.

A few precautions to observe

  • Construct a flat, level pad of paving blocks or other solid material for the barrel to stand upon. When full, it will weigh upwards of 400 pounds (1 gal of water weighs about 8 lbs).
  • Keep the lid tightly closed for child safety, to prevent debris from entering, and to keep out light which will cause the growth of algae.
  • Clean gutters regularly and try to keep as free as possible of leaves.
  • Empty and disconnect the barrel from the downspout during the winter in climates with prolonged freezing temperatures.
  • Don’t use rainwater for human consumption.

More benefits of rain barrels

Water for irrigation is every gardener’s most valuable and precious resource. But water from municipal sources or private wells is expensive and may contain minerals and chlorine residue. The best quality water – rainwater – is free.

  • Rain barrels drastically reduce runoff with low costs and minimal maintenance.
  • Simple to install, suitable for virtually any household property size or location
  • Stores relatively clean (and non-chlorinated) water for use on lawns and gardens.
  • Can reduce domestic water use, lowering water bills and demands on city water system, especially during peak summer periods.
  • If used and maintained properly, there can be a reduction of 65-70 percentage of runoff after a rainstorm.