Having a rain barrel can be a life saver in the vegetable garden during those hot summer months. The rain barrel will have plenty of reserved water when the rains slow down and you’ll be able to water your plants with fresh, soft water. But is having a rain barrel worth it? Let’s first discuss what a rain barrel is, then the advantages and disadvantages of using a rain barrel.
What is a rain barrel?
A rain barrel is a system that collects and stores rainwater from your roof that would otherwise be lost to runoff and diverted to storm drains and streams. Usually a rain barrel is composed of a 55 gallon drum, a vinyl hose, PVC couplings, a screen to keep debris and insects out, and other off-the-shelf items, a rain barrel is relatively simple and inexpensive to construct and can sit conveniently under any residential gutter down spout.
What are the advantages of a rain barrel?
Vegetable garden watering make up nearly 40% of total household water use during the summer. A rain barrel collects water and stores it for when you need it most – during periods of drought – to water plants, wash your car, or to top a swimming pool. It provides an ample supply of free “soft water” to homeowners, containing no chlorine, lime or calcium making it ideal for gardens, flower pots, and car and window washing.
A rain barrel will save most gardeners about 1,300 gallons of water during the peak summer months. Saving water not only helps protect the environment, it saves you money and energy (decreased demand for treated tap water). Diverting water from storm drains also decreases the impact of runoff to streams. Therefore, a rain barrel is an easy way for you to have a consistent supply of clean, fresh water for outdoor use – free.
If you are worried about your rain barrel being a hotel for breeding mosquitoes, you can use Mosquito Dunks to kill off those pesky critters.
What are some of the disadvantages of rain barrels?
Although using a rain barrel can be a good way to save water resources, there are a couple minor disadvantages to using rain barrels:
- The rain barrel does not supply pressurized water like what comes from the spigot, so the barrel should be as close as possible to the garden or area where you will be using the water.
- If you have asphalt shingles on your house, be cautious of possible toxins that could leach into the water – especially if using the collected water for watering vegetables. Have the water from your barrel checked to see if there are toxins in the collected water. I don’t recommend using water from the rain barrel for cooking or drinking.
Purchasing a ready-made rain barrel
Rain barrels can also be purchased ready to use from most garden centers or online retailers. They range in a wide variety of styles, colors, holding capacity and price. Here are a few high quality, ready-made rain barrels:
Flat Back Rain Barrel – The Flat Back Rain Barrel is terrific to use for your vegetable garden, and snugly fits against a wall. It holds up to 50 gallons of recovered rain water.
Collapsible 60 Gallon Rain Barrel – This collapsible rain barrel is very convenient for storage purposes, and holds up to 60 gallons.
Suncast Rain Barrel – This is a great looking rain barrel that holds 50 gallons of rain water, and comes with a drain valve and a leader water hose.
Koolatron 55 Gallon Rain Barrel – If you are interested in a very stylish rain barrel, the Koolatron is the one to use. It features a 55 gallon holding capacity, a screen to keep out bugs and debris, and a brass spigot fitting to easily drain the rain barrel.