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Save Water With a Homemade 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!

Read more: Lawns & Gardens, Nature, , , , , ,

Image Credit: Creative Commons photo by eastpole

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Becky Striepe

Becky Striepe is a freelance writer and vegan crafter living in Atlanta, Georgia. Her life’s mission is to make green crafting and vegan food accessible to everyone! Like this article? You can follow Becky on Twitter or find her on Facebook!


+ add your own
6:16AM PDT on May 19, 2014

It is not an easy thing to do in our subdivision :-(

1:58PM PDT on Jul 6, 2011

Only one problem with rain barrels are the chemicals that are in some roofing materials. Our roof is treated for moss control, which is a real problem in our area. I am reluctant to use the water for food plants but would really like to keep gold fish in a water barrel.

2:41AM PST on Jan 14, 2011

useful article, thank you)))

3:13PM PDT on Sep 22, 2010

It's so fashionable now days to have a butt, I mean water butt that is.

7:46AM PDT on Jun 18, 2010

Love it! I have a couple suitable barrels and screening, now I just need to pick up the hardware - and my garden (and my well) will thank me ;-)

4:35PM PDT on Jun 10, 2010

Have had one for 26years in my garden. We call them rain butts in England.

10:49AM PDT on Jun 7, 2010

rain barrels and sisturns, anything that collects rain water is acceptabe, your garden will thrive better using collected water verses tapwater, the chemicals that are put into the public water has advers effects on your yard and garden, clorine is a toxin although it keeps us healthy in moderation but it damages your plants

12:32PM PDT on Jun 6, 2010

Water barrels are a fantastic eco product. I wouldn't be without mine.

12:10AM PDT on Jun 6, 2010

Anyone with a roof over his head, should be able to make some kind of rain barrel.
Very good for the environment.
People that have no access to clean drinking water, could boil this rainwater and drink it with very little danger!

9:36AM PDT on Jun 3, 2010

The screen on the barrel is very, very important. The spread of West Nile Fever here in the north has been mainly due to folks' practices of leaving out standing water where the infected insects can breed -- this includes water barrels, ponds, bird baths, etc. It is very important that water features either be completely screened in or else free-flowing so that the eggs can't hatch and/or larva can't survive. That's why almost all new water features put in nowadays include a fountain or a pump to circulate the water....

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