Rain Barrels for the Garden: Good for Your Plants, Good for Your Budget

Kate McIntyre

If you have noticed the rise in your water bill over the hotter summer months, you know about the effects of watering your garden more often. Beyond your own higher bills, though, this higher water usage can deplete the water supply in your area.

For this reason, many communities put limits on the days and times you can water during particularly hot, dry summers. It can be agonizing to watch the plants you raised from seedlings shrivel up because you cannot get them enough water. Luckily, there is an excellent solution: a garden rain barrel.

Rain Barrel Basics
Garden rain barrels collect rainwater and hold it until you need it. Most operate by collecting water that runs off your roof and down your gutters. You can find rain barrels in a variety of sizes. A good starting size is 50 gallons. If you find that you are not using the water as fast as it collects, you can connect additional barrels by running lengths of PVC pipe between them. You can hook up a hose to the spigot on your rain barrel and use it just like you would a regular outdoor spigot.

Rain Barrel Maintenance

Uncovered rain barrels can be drowning hazards for children and animals, as well as mosquito breeding grounds. To make your rain barrel safe, you need to keep a tight lid on it. If it does not connect directly to the drain pipe, you should also put a very fine mesh screen over the small hole that collects water from the drainpipe. This will keep mosquitoes out of your barrel.

Benefits for Your Garden
In addition to saving you money and helping to protect the water supply, rain barrels offer soft water for your plants. Unlike most municipal tap water, rainwater contains no chlorine or fluoride, impurities that can hinder your plants' growth.

Rain barrels are an easy and inexpensive way for you to lower your water bill, grow a healthier garden, and save water.

"Build a Simple Rain Barrel," Maryland Environmental Design Program
Rain Barrel Guide

About the Author
Kate McIntyre is a writer in Portland, Oregon. She holds a B.A. from Harvard University and an M.F.A. in fiction writing from Oregon State University.

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