For several years my husband and I have talked about getting a rain barrel. And this year, inspired by fellow Master Gardener Apprentice Tony Buck (see his video here), we went out and bought one. It was perfect timing too, since we located it under the downspout on our second story deck where I am growing seedlings and babysitting lots of plants for our butterfly garden. I am able to water from the rain barrel which cuts down on our water usage as I am making use of some of the water that runs off our roof. It also eliminates my having to drag a hose up the deck steps to keep those plants alive. Unlike my tap water the rain barrel water contains no chlorine. Below is our rain barrel and some of the plants that will go into our garden in less than a month!
According to the Maryland Department of Natural Resources (click here for directions on how to build your own rain barrel), rain barrels can save a homeowner 1300 gallons of water during peak summer months, and therefore electricity as well.
There are lots of Rain Barrels available for purchase. In fact the folks from the Chester-Ridley-Crum Watersheds Organization is holding a Rain Barrel workshop on June 8, 2012 (here is the flyer if you are interested).
Here is an example of how you can link two barrels so that the overflow from one can fill the second barrel, doubling your water collection. OR triple it… Raising the barrels off the ground allows easier access to the spigot and also increases the flow of the water if you are using a hose.
When purchasing a rain barrel there are several important factors to look for. National Geographic (click for complete article) offers the following recommendations:
- Safety: Rain barrels hold 50-plus gallons of water, so be sure the tank is both child- and animal-proof.
- Handling overflow: Look for rain barrels with an overflow valve that kicks in when the barrel reaches capacity.
- Clean water: A rain barrel topped with a fine-mesh screen will keep out insects and debris.
- Materials: Rain barrels come in all sorts of materials, from durable stainless steel to fiberglass and recycled plastic, so let personal preference be your guide. Some retailers even sell rain barrels made from old whiskey or wine barrels (Mine is made from a recycled plastic olive barrel from Greece!), probably a more sustainable choice, saving materials from ending up in a landfill.
- Expanding capacity: An average rainstorm can fill one 60-gallon rain barrel within an hour. You can link several barrels to harvest even more rainwater. Look for barrels with an outlet for attaching a linking hose.
- Rebates: Check with your local water agency to learn about any rain barrel subsidies or rebates in your area. Some environmental groups sell rain barrels at a discount, saving you even more.
A runoff hose like this will allow excess water to go into another barrel or divert the water away from your homes foundation into a better area. This lid has the necessary screening to prevent debris and insects from getting into the barrel. The lid needs to be cleaned on a regular basis to remove anything it catches.
You will also want one with a spigot that will allow you to fill your watering can or bucket easily.Another benefit of installing rain barrels is that they can divert water from storm drain systems which in turn reduces pollution in our streams. When rain first runs off of your roof into the gutter it may contain chemicals that are sometimes present in shingles. By diverting the water into a rain barrel you avoid these chemicals from being carried where they can harm our ground water resources. Rain barrels can also reduce erosion of local stream banks that occurs when stream banks are overwhelmed by storm water.
So consider a rain barrel in your garden!