Gardening season is here! Whether you’re growing edibles, flowers, or anything in between, those plants are bound to be thirsty as temperatures heat up. A rain barrel is a great way to keep your plants hydrated in between downpours without tapping into the municipal water system.
Survival Weekly shared an awesome video showing a simple, cheap way to construct your own rain barrel out of a 55 gallon food-grade drum:
Rain Barrel Tips
If you can’t get ahold of a drum like his with the fancy two-part lid, don’t fret! You just need to cut your screen a little bit wider on all sides, and you can secure it with a gigantic, heavy duty rubber band.
Once it’s built, the best place to install is underneath your gutter’s downspout. Not only does this help you catch the maximum amount of water, but by diverting it from falling on your property, you can prevent that heavy flow of water from eroding the land around the downspout.
It also helps to have your rain barrel seated up off of the ground. The higher you have it, the more water pressure you’ll get from the spigot at the bottom.
He mentions attaching garden hose to the downspout. Another way to take advantage of your rain barrel is to attach that hose to irrigation tubing that you run through your garden beds. The local hardware store or garden center should carry irrigation tube to fit your needs.
Next: Caring for Your Rain Barrel
Caring for Your Rain Barrel
Once it’s built, you can pretty much set it and forget it, but rain barrels do need a little bit of maintenance from time to time.
First, you’ll want to check the screen on top occasionally to make sure it’s still secure and that it doesn’t have any holes or tears. That little piece of screen keeps rodents and insects from getting into your rain barrel. Mosquitoes in particular are attracted to all of that standing water, and you don’t want them laying eggs in there!
This isn’t so much a concern at this time of year, but you do want to make sure to drain the water from your barrel if temperatures are going to get below freezing. The expanding water can cause the plastic to crack, damaging your barrel.
Another thing to keep in mind is that you don’t want to let that water sit for too long. Try to use the water you’ve collected within a week.
About once a year, it’s a good idea to clean out your barrel. Give it a good scrub with a hard bristled brush and a 1:1 solution of water and white vinegar. This will help prevent your barrel from taking on a funky smell and ensure that you’re not spreading any bacteria into your garden. This is especially important if you’re using your collected water to maintain food plants.
Do any of you use a rain barrel for your gardens? We’d love to hear your tips and experiences in the comments!
Image Credit: Creative Commons photo by eastpole