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Summers here can be brutal.  And if we even think we want to garden, we had better be prepared for high water bill.  In our efforts to be as frugal as possible, we look for ways in which we can save money. What better way to do that than to use ‘free’ water in the form of rain?  But to do that, we need a way to collect it.  An easy way to do that is to build your own rain barrel.

Rain barrels can be made out of just about anything.  We used a 55-gallon hard plastic drum.  I have seen them made of all kinds of things, including the caged containers than once held liquid fertilizers; wooden whiskey barrels; metal drums; and even store-bought decorative plastic containers.  I have seen rain barrel systems where three or four are linked together with pipe placed at different heights.  These pipes drain water from the first barrel to the next one and so on, until all the barrels are full.  Whatever container you use, it needs to be clean and large enough to hold a sufficient amount of water to make the project worth it in the first place. 

A rain barrel needs strategic placement.  The first consideration is under a rain spout at the corner of your house.  I have seen it where the spout is cut and turned to where it will flow directly into the rain barrel.  Some people who didn’t have gutters or a spout used what looks like a length of dryer hose that extended from the roof (I am guessing at a place where the rain collects to run off the roof) and into a barrel.  Some just place it underneath that section of the roof without the aid of a downspout or hose – that would be me.

A few considerations you need to make about having a rain barrel.  First, you really do not want a lot of dirt and debris collecting with your rain.  If you do not have an enclosed type of barrel, consider covering it with a piece of screen.  The type you use for a window works perfectly.  Just cut it to where it is at least six inches larger than the opening.  Bend it down around the barrel and secure it tightly.  This makes it easy to remove, yet sturdy enough to keep from blowing off.  Another thing to consider is when there is no rain.  Stagnant water is a perfect breeding ground for mosquitoes.  We have enough of them around here, so we have no desire to be a comfortable place for them to breed.  You either need to securely cover the water, or try using a Mosquito Dunk (a small chemical ring sold in most hardware shops) in the barrel.  This will help in preventing mosquitos from laying eggs in your water.  The chemicals should not hurt your garden – UNLESS you are trying to go fully organic.

To use the water, a hole is drilled near the bottom of the barrel and a spigot secured in the hole.  From there you attach a water hose and drag it to your garden.  Again, if you only have a small garden, you probably would only need one barrel.  As it fills up, use the water.  If you have a larger garden, you may want to consider using a larger system of several barrels. 

Rain barrels may not cure all of your high water bills in the summer, but to me, any savings at all is helpful.  My 55-gallon drum will water my small garden once, but will water my flowerbed at least twice, before I have to wait for it to fill up again.  Currently, I am using the one-drum system, but as we get more drums, I will certainly add to it. 

Do you use the rain barrel system?  If you do, what do you see as the pros and cons?  Chime in and let us know what you think!

For how we made our rain barrel, jump on over to the DIY page (http://www.thefarmwife.com/diy/ )     and get photos and instructions.  If you have questions, just type them in the comment section, and I’ll do my best to get you an answer!