Posted on 17 November 2010 by

How to Beat the Garden Drought: DIY Rain Barrel

diy-rainbarrelsBy Mindy McIntosh-Shetter

As the summer drags on the importance of water becomes more and more apparent.

This summer’s water shortage can be caused by many factors but the truth is this seems to be an ongoing problem and in doing so the gardener needs to plan ahead.

Rain barrels are an old technology that is having a resurgence in popularity and need.

The concept of a rain barrel is simple. A container is placed below a rainspout equipped with some type of drainage spout on the side and that is it. But while the concept is simple the benefits of adding a rain barrel to the gardening arsenal are many. A rain barrel reduces the cost of water, directs water form foundations to more useful areas, reduces water pollination, and provides naturally soft water with out additives.

As simple as a rain barrel is remember that a normal rain which is defined as 1-inch of rain in a 24 hour period will generate more than 700 gallons of water running off the roof of the typical home.

Below is a easy plan for a rain barrel. But keep in mind that after you make one you will want to make another but do your homework first. Place the rain barrel where rainwater would in turn cause stormwater runoff. This will help reduce stormwater damage and at the same time help water the growing garden.

DIY Rain Barrel


  • 1 plastic barrel that is food grade only
  • 2 ¾ inch plastic or metal faucets
  • Roll of Teflon tape
  • All purpose caulk or plumbing sealant
  • Fiberglass window screen big enough to cover the hole in the top of plastic barrel
  • 2 Garden hose to connect to both faucets
  • Optional
  • 1-inch spade bit
  • Jigsaw


1. The barrel you are using will need to have a hole in the top where the downspout will fit. If it does not make a hole in the plastic barrel using a 1-inch spade bit and a jigsaw. Make sure the downspout can fit snugly into this hole.
2. Measure 2 inches form the bottom of the barrel and drill a 1-inch hole using a 1-inch drill. Screw the faucet into the hole to test the fit. Remove faucet and wrap threads in Teflon tape, and caulk threads. Place faucet back into hole and caulk area where faucet and barrel touch. This is a very important step because if not caulked correctly your rain barrel will leak.
3. To prevent your rain barrel from running over you will need to put a relief faucet that can be turned on when needed. To do this simply measure down 2 inches from the top on the opposite side of where the other drainage spout is located. Make sure that this arrangement will allow you to drain off the excess in an appropriate way. Repeat step 2 as far as how to drill the hole and how to place the faucet.
4. To prevent debris from entering your rain barrel simply cut a screen to fit over the downspout hole. Secure the screen to the barrel with the caulk or sealant.

Allow all the sealant to completely dry before using.

After the sealant has dried it is time to attach your hose. You will need one that reaches the area that you want to water and one that will be used to drain off any excess water from the rain barrel. Also if you are making more than one rain barrel it is easier to hook them together instead of running them separate. To do this simply attach 1 length of hose to the overflow of the other rain barrel. If this is done remember the spout on the bottom will be the water source and the overflow at the same time.

Also remember to place your rain barrel(s) on an elevated surface such as cinder blocks to make draining them easier. Contrary to modern day beliefs the rain barrel does not cause mosquito problems because the water is used and not allowed to remain stagnate for long periods of time. If you find that you are experiencing a long stretch of rain simply drain your rain barrels. Another approach would be to put Goldfish in the rain barrel. These fish eat mosquito larvae if that becomes a problem and they are easy to catch and bring inside when winter arrives.

Winter care is easy. Just completely drain and turn upside down. Remove hoses and hang up until completely clear of any moisture. Then coil up and store away. In areas where it does not freeze this winter storage will not need to be done.

Come spring just upright rain barrels, attach hose, and check faucets to make sure that the sealant is still working. If all is well move to the downspout and hope for rain.

While rain barrels bring back memories of Grandma’s garden the functionality of them in modern time is an important component to the modern day garden. So all gardeners unite and spend some garden down time making rain barrels.

Until we blog again, May the children’s’ song be music to our ears. That is rain, rain go away come back another day and not be a sound falling on deafen ears.

2 Responses to “How to Beat the Garden Drought: DIY Rain Barrel”

  1. meemsnyc Says:

    I have 2 rainbarrels, and I love them. I want to get even more!!

  2. Sisters Playing House Says:

    We just blogged about our rain barrels. More to come as this year we added a third barrel and a solar powered water pump.

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