Collecting and using rain water for your garden is good for the environment and can save you money. This is a guide about harvesting rain.
By Wanda from Climax, NC
I had a wonderful 80 gallon barrel that was really thick. I stored tap water in it hoping the chlorine would dissipate, but it froze solid one really cold winter and cracked badly. I had to toss it. I learned the hard way to remember to drain it for winter!
You can google "rain barrels" and get free how-to instructions from other people who have posted their barrel designs.
We did that and downloaded several different designs, then picked out pieces or portions of each design that would fit our situation. Some of the materials in one person's design may not be available in your area. We had to come up with similar type things to make our barrels.
For instance, for mosquito control, we have covered all the openings on the top of the barrel with pieces of window screening and used those plastic ribbed tie zips to hold them on.
We used a black plastic drain pipe cover (that we got at home depot) upside down to aim the guttering into the barrel (covered with screening).
We used plastic faucets with rubber washers to seal it with. A couple faucets were done with metal washers and glue because we couldn't find all the right sizes of all the materials.
Some Home Depot's have DIY rain barrel classes on Saturdays.
I would like to try to create/use rain barrels this year. However, we do not have gutters on our house. Will the barrels fill enough if just placed in the yard? Or is it necessary to divert/collect from a larger source (i.e., rain diverted off an entire roof)?
Zone 5 - Massachusetts
I work for a local soil and water conservation district and the request for rain barrels are very high. Is there any one or any company willing to donate 55 gallon barrels to the district?
The total cost for this project is about $50 for materials (assuming you have the drill). This cost can be reduced considerably if you scour re-use centers or junkyards for used parts.
As Jim Parson posted on 05/05/2008, it is important to keep in mind that a good strong rain will fill a rain barrel FAST. You need some way to deal with the overflow.
You can put some garlic juice in the water to deter the mosquitos, also if put some vegetable oil ( just a couple tblspns.) in it it will suffocate any mosquito larvea, won't hurt the plants either.
Great article! I am not very good with DIY projects and since I really wanted a rain barrel, I got one from EarthMinded ( www.earthminded.com ). I highly recommend it!
You absolutely must install overflow capability to any home-made rain barrel. The purpose of your downspouts are to direct water away from your home exterior and away from your home foundation. If you install a rain barrel on a downspout that doesn't have overflow capability, if the barrel fills up completely the water is going to have to flow out of that barrel from the lid (top).
When that happens the water is no longer being directed away from your home and instead will settle along the side of your house which can cause you to have foundation issues in the future. The overflow should be large enough to handle large rain events and should have a hose attached to it to direct water away. Rain barrels are a wonderful way to manage storm water, help to protect the environment and can save you money.
However, you need to make sure you're installing the barrel properly and that your barrel has these necessary safety features. Other than that I found the article to be informative. An overflow shouldn't just be considered a variation. It is a necessity for the type of barrel you described constructing.
With all the talk of saving water, I have not seen a suggestion to save rain water. Why let it run into the street? You can buy special rain water savers but why not make your own.
Here is a video that shows you to make you own rain barrel system for harvesting rain water.
Wow, the man from Canada, with his video, is very creative! Using old batteries, recycling old LED screens from broken yard lamps, & really loved how he even charges his two cell phones on this whole system! I thoroughly enjoyed his video!
Wondering about the contents that were previously in the black barrels, one says soap as you said, so should be safe & not even have to be washed out as soap water is good for plants & lawn ... but if others had chemicals in them, wouldn't you have to really wash them out very, very well? I have heard to use food grade (or even soap in this case) barrels. Were they just free from the Maple Auto Corp?
Wondering about the battery he is going to put under your deck steps ... will he have to build a shelter of some sort over the battery to protect it from rain & weather, or perhaps insert backings on the steps?
Looking for creative ways to harvest rain. Rain barrels used to be a dime a dozen, but now that environmentalism is all the rage, it has driven the price way up on previously discarded industrial barrels. I'm looking for truly innovative ideas, not just using ready made products like trash cans.
By yoshhash from Windsor, ON
I buried my Large cheap Trashcans in the ground ( I tied 3 of them together with plumbing so that all 3 are connected) and added a submersible pump, with a hose attached to it. When I need water I plug in the pump and water away. You will have to innovative about the dangers of buried trashcans, you can also use a trash can and cover or decorate it using bricks, landscape timbers, or whatever, of course you will fill this with rainwater from the roof.
Please, please, please cover your cans, after the rain! This will not only prevent debris from clogging your pipes and evaporation losses. Still water is a great place for mosquitoes to lay their eggs. No still water please! Don't make your back yard a haven for mosquitoes.
Any trash can ideas for small pond?
This is the rain barrel we installed last summer. We live in the southwest high desert where it is arid, but we receive summer monsoon rains. By using our rain barrel, we used almost no fresh water on our vegetable garden last year. We bought the 55 gallon barrel from the local flea market for $20. It had held Dr Pepper syrup and smelled good! :-) We bought the faucet parts for a little over $10.
First, cut out the hole in the top, then drill out a hole near the bottom and reach in and attach the faucet parts. There will be a nut on the inside and the faucet on the outside. Run a bead of silicone caulk to make sure nothing leaks. We had the hardware cloth on hand and used small zip ties to attach it. It doesn't keep mosquitoes out, but with three preschoolers in our family, we were more concerned about keeping them out than keeping mosquitoes out. If that isn't a concern for you, you can use window screen for the top.
Our downspout was loose, so we removed the bottom section of pipe, pulled it out from the wall a little, and put the barrel up under it and rested it on some stacked bricks for a gravity flow. I've also seen barrels in my neighborhood with the downspout pipe shortened and directed to flow through the mesh into the barrel.
After the winter thaw and things warmed up, there was a lot of algae growing in the barrel's standing water. The garden plants don't care!
By Katie from Gallup, New Mexico
What a wonderful idea! (06/06/2007)
It is a good idea. I wanted to do this but my down spout i just can't get loose without wreaking it. (06/07/2007)
By Joyce wis
I am totally, unequivocably in favor of saving water! Our house is under construction, so no gutters yet, but I do have a little bit of info...
We have purchased barrels for $5 from a car wash supply. Bear in mind that some of the chemicals that were in them are toxic. If possible, go for the ones that just held soap, and then triple rinse (at least!)
With West Nile being the problem that it is, could you add window screen over the hardware cloth? Also, if you never drain it completely, adding a couple of inexpensive goldfish to eat the mosquito larvae and algae can be very beneficial.
Speaking of algae, I have learned the hard way that some kinds can cause serious damage to animals, so be careful if you've got an accumulation, that animals (and kids) can't get into the water for a drink.
We used to live on a farm where the older couple who homesteaded it were the very definition of "thrifty". They had gutters set up on a small barn, and by moving one piece to different tanks, we could fill up three horse water tanks with a total capacity of about 900 gallons. Considering that the well water was no good and all water had to be hauled from town, that made a HUGE difference. Most people don't realize that the amount of water that comes off a normal roof in a normal rain is incredible! (06/07/2007)
The mosquito issue is easily resolved by putting a couple of 29 cent feeder goldfish in the barrel to live. They'll take care of any bugs. (06/07/2007)
We're just getting ready to do this at our house. Thank you so much for the instructions and the pictures. (06/08/2007)
What happens when the barrel is full? Do you just let the water over flow? (09/03/2008)
We've built over a dozen rain barrels and put together a website to help people through the process. Please feel free take a look at http://tinyurl.com/2vuyus where you will find thorough construction information and tips, rainfall calculator, water safety discussion, and more. Happy watering! (10/07/2008)