Gardening | 9 September 2016How to Install a Rain Barrel Share article facebook twitter google pinterest Why consider using a rain barrel? The water that results from just ½-inch of rainfall falling on a 1,000-square-foot roof amounts to over 280 gallons of water. Not only is that amount of water going to offset water use in the landscape (by using non-potable water), it helps the environment as well by decreasing runoff. The water diverted from flowing down the driveway and into storm drains lessens the quantity of debris and other pollutants traveling with it, which stops it from pouring into urban waterways. An extra benefit: Rainwater is also high in nitrogen, nature’s fertilizer, so it waters and feeds your landscape at the same time, free of charge. Rainwater harvesting can be as simple as installing a rain barrel under a gutter coming off the house. It can be expanded to include a cistern to handle overflow and to store the water until you need it. A large system captures rainwater from more than one source. A home, garage, and workshop can feed into one large underground cistern, and that water can then be discharged via pump into a drip irrigation system. Thanks to Diana Maranhao’s new book, Water-Smart Gardening, readers everywhere can easily assemble and install a rain barrel at home. This rain barrel overflows with captured rain often in spring and summer, supplying water for container gardens and greenhouse plants. Water runoff from the swamp cooler in summer is captured in the barrel and waters a small postage stamp-sized lawn by connecting a soaker hose to the spigot. Photo: Diana Maranhao / Water-Smart Gardening Collecting rainwater in barrels and tubs is the simplest way to begin using rainwater now. If you use a tub or open receptacle, use the water within 24 hours of collection. Open-water storage containers are a magnet for mosquitoes, the perfect environment for mold, and are accessible to rodents. Rainwater barrels are easy to install and are readily available for purchase at most home improvement centers. Look for barrels that have connecting devices that expand collection capacity by attaching to additional barrels. You can buy the barrels with all the parts necessary and installation instructions, or you can build it yourself as long as it meets these general criteria: The receptacle should hold least 50 gallons of water. Most manufactured rain barrels are 50- to 60-gallon capacity. Plastic is the preferred material as it is easy to keep clean. The barrel should be equipped with a child-resistant lid for safety and for keeping out pests. The lid should be removable so the barrel is accessible for cleaning. The intake opening should be fitted with a screen to minimize mosquito infestations and debris. There should be hardware to connect to the downspout on the home and a spigot for transferring water to a watering can and/or connecting to a hose. Before Installing the Rain Barrel Before installing the rain barrel, do a site inventory. You will need access to a downspout and a flat space to build a platform to elevate the barrel so the faucet accommodates a watering can or a space to attach a hose or drip line. The platform can be block, brick, wood, or concrete, but it needs to support the weight of the rain barrel when it is full of water. A 60-gallon barrel full of water weighs 450 pounds. How to Install a Rain Barrel 1 Select a location for the barrel under a downspout. Locate your barrel as close to the area you want to irrigate as possible. Make sure the barrel has a stable, level base. Connect the overflow tube, and make sure it is pointed away from the foundation. 2 Connect the spigot near the bottom of the barrel. Some kits may include a second spigot for filling watering cans. Use Teflon tape at all threaded fittings to ensure a tight seal. Remove the downspout, and set the barrel on its base. 3 Cut the downspout to length with a hacksaw. Reconnect the elbow fitting to the downspout using sheet metal screws. Attach the cover to the top of the rain barrel. Some systems include a cover with porous wire mesh, to which the downspout delivers water. Others include a cover with a sealed connection (next step). 4 Link the downspout elbow to the rain barrel with a length of flexible downspout extension attached to the elbow and the barrel cover. Variation: If your barrel comes with a downspout adapter, cut away a segment of downspout and insert the adapter so it diverts water into the barrel. 5 Connect a drip irrigation tube or garden hose to the spigot. A Y-fitting, such as the one shown here, will let you feed the drip irrigation system through a garden hose when the rain barrel is empty. 6 If you want, increase water storage by connecting two or more rain barrels together with a linking kit, available from many kit suppliers. Buy from an Online Retailer US: UK: You can have a colorful, striking garden that’s drought resistant too! Water-Smart Gardening gives you all the tools needed to create a water-smart landscape and garden. Drought is spreading throughout the country. Even areas that previously had plentiful supplies are feeling the strain, and the price of water is climbing. If you have to water your garden during non-drought years, many of the water-saving techniques from this book could still pay for themselves in no time. Choose water-smart plants that survive and even thrive in low-water situations. Tap into the power of evolution and use plants native to your area. Time your irrigation and install water-collection devices such as cisterns and rain barrels. Creating a water-efficient garden can even be as simple as designing your landscape to harvest as much rainfall as possible, using berms, terraces, and raised beds. Gorgeous photos throughout Water-Smart Gardening will inspire you with beautiful garden ideas and help you see your way to a garden that sips water instead of gulping it. Helpful how-to information gets to the nuts and bolts of everything from installing a cistern to using seep irrigation. Author Diana (Dee) Maranhao brings over 30 years of experience to help you create the garden of your dreams and save water at the same time. Diana (Dee) Maranhao has been an active member of the horticulture and landscape industry for more than 35 years. She holds a degree in Ornamental Horticulture, and is a credentialed teacher in California, specializing in Ornamental Horticulture. Diana has spent much of her career in higher education, serving as a Horticulture Program Manager, Nursery Production Specialist, and educator specializing in Xeriscape-Low Water Use Landscaping, Nursery Production, and Plant Propagation. Diana has also been a horticulture editor and project editor for numerous educational texts, magazines, garden guides, and horticulture books. She has been a regularly featured garden columnist for more than ten years, authoring hundreds of gardening and horticulture articles for the public and the horticulture industry. Diana is also the author of Rocky Mountain Fruit and Vegetable Gardening (Cool Springs Press, 2014). She received the “2014 Professional of the Year” Award from Southwest Trees & Turf Magazine at Desert Green XVIII Conference in Las Vegas. Share article facebook twitter google pinterest If you have any comments on this article please contact us or get in touch via social media.