Once intended to provide precious household and drinking water in severely dry areas, rain barrels are reappearing in gardens as a way to reduce artificial water use. Positioned under a gutter downspout or next to a garden bed, a rain barrel can serve as a useful temporary reservoir to sustain plants. New materials and accessories make rain barrels easy to use. Installing a rain barrel may also make a couple of unexpected contributions to your family and your yard.
Select a rain barrel that offers as many flexible options as possible. Determine how the barrel is protected from accumulations of wind-blown refuse like leaves (an easy-to-clean, removable filter top is a good idea). A well-secured top can prevent excessive curiosity from young children. Look for outlets that permit you to attach a hose; otherwise you will need to remove water in buckets and watering cans. Examine the durability of materials for your climate conditions; you will want to know what happens during freezing temperatures and whether your barrel needs to be fully drained in winter.
Locate your rain barrel for both maximum inflow and outflow. Placing your barrel under a gutter downspout can assure a good supply of runoff water while also lessening potential water damage to your foundation. Place your barrel on a secure level surface, to prevent spillage and the possibility of its tipping over on children.
Remember the gravitational behavior of water. Water traveling through a hose from a rain barrel spigot needs to travel downhill. Elevating your barrel on cement blocks makes it easier for you to reach the spigot and increases the rate of water flow. For hanging baskets, walled planters and the window boxes on the deck, be prepared to collect rain barrel water in a bucket or watering can.
Prolong the life of your rain barrel by shading it from prolonged intense sunlight and by draining it in low-temperature winters. Most modern rain barrels are made of durable plastics but can become brittle in intense heat and light and can be cracked by the expansion of frozen water.