Rain Barrels in the Garden: Harvest Your Water

Summer’s a good time to assess what you could use in the garden. Consider the merits of a rain barrel positioned to catch rainfall from downspouts or gutters, especially for plants on dry days or during drought.

We have a large rain barrel that collects all of the rain water that comes off of our wood shed roof. In the spring, we set up a gutter system to gather it into a 50 gallon drum at the bottom. This drum sits up on some wood to get it up off of the ground.

We put some screen at the top of the downspout to catch any leaves or twigs that have landed on the roof. There is a spigot at the bottom of the rain barrel which can either be attached to a hose or used to fill a watering can.

It’s a good idea to clean out the rain barrel periodically with a garden hose. Bits of shingles can sometimes get dislodged and end up there. I don’t use this water for drinking or giving to the chickens for drinking but I do use it for cleaning up messy nest boxes and to water the garden.

If you have an engineering degree, you can build a cistern. Lacking that, think of ways to save water in large containers that can be covered.

Or, consider these:

  • Giving new life to barrels originally designed for importing olives, the Great American Rain Barrel Company sells a polyethylene barrel that collects and stores up to 60 gallons of water. It comes with an overflow fitting, drain plug, screw-on cover, and threaded spigot for a hose positioned 14 inches from ground level. For more water storage, several barrels can be linked together with a garden hose. A diverter allows water to be channeled directly from a downspout into a barrel. For more information, including some on unpainted barrels, contact the Great American Rain Barrel Company, Inc., 1715 Hyde Park Avenue, Hyde Park, MA 02136, go to greatamericanrainbarrel.com, or call 800-251-2352.
  • The Spruce Creek Company creates a 54-gallon rain barrel from a mold reminiscent of an old wooden barrel. Its one-piece construction is formed of durable, nearly ¼-inch-thick, UV-protected, polyethylene plastic and promises ease of setup, safety for children and pets, reduced evaporation, and insect prevention. It comes with a threaded solid brass spigot, automatic overflow, linkability, and two dispensing levels. Check The Spruce Creek Rainsaver for more details or call 800-940-0187.

For more tips on how to keep your garden green while saving water, see our water-wise garden article.

How’s your garden growing? I’m going to include some colorful summer pictures here. Enjoy!

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