Every gardener shares one overwhelming desire each season: please send rain! There’s nothing to compare to a thorough soaking from a spring shower during those hot summer months when every drop counts! That’s what makes a rain barrel so valuable.
Positioned beneath a downspout, a rain barrel collects the runoff from your roof during rainfall. Free of the chemicals added to city water, rainwater is beneficial for your lawn, flower beds, borders, vegetable gardens, and containers. You can use this supply to supplement your water needs, cutting down on your utility bill.
Rain barrels come in a variety of shapes and sizes, but 55 gallons is a common size for the average homeowner. You can make your own (using plans that are found online), or you’ll be able to find one at practically any garden center or garden supply company. If you live in a cold winter area with freezing temps, just drain your barrel in fall before storing it upside down in a garage or shed. And once a year, clean out its interior with a non-toxic solution, such as vinegar.
There are equations to calculate a precise amount of water that you can expect to collect based on your area’s annual rainfall and the size of your roof. But just 1/4 inch of rainfall onto a roof that’s 1200 square feet would more than fill two barrels.
Tips for getting the best out of your rain barrel:
- Cover an open top with a screened lid to keep the water clean. Covering the barrel prevents debris from falling in and protects your water supply from mosquito larvae. Note: if you can’t screen the top of your barrel, you can still discourage the growth of mosquitoes by using bacterial products designed to kill mosquito larva.
- If your barrel has a closed lid, you’ll need a downspout diverter which diverts rainwater into the barrel until it’s full. After that, it allows excess water to drain safely away from the foundation of your home.
- Elevating your rain barrel makes for a stronger water flow from it’s spigot. Plus, it puts the barrel at a more convenient height to fill watering cans and buckets, or to attach a hose.
Comment by Tom Wentzel, OCMGA chair of The Learning Garden: “There are soaker hose systems that can be connected to rain barrels. Typical soaker hoses require about 20 PSI to function. These systems claim to function under no pressure. A system like this will be installed in The Learning Garden on the Outagamie County Agricultural Extension grounds when weather permits. Last year this system worked quite well.”