In many regions of the U.S., summer coincides with the rainy season. In humid states and cities along the coast, huge thunderstorms are normal during this time of year— and usually greatly welcomed as they cool everything off! These large rainstorms bring much-needed precipitation to gardens and farms, but sometimes the sky is too generous with its rain. Installing a rain barrel is a sustainable option to collect rainwater for a not-so-rainy day.
For anyone trying to build their own homestead, a rain barrel is a must-have. By collecting excess water from your roof, a rain barrel conserves water, prevents erosion, runoff, and flooding, and provides growers and gardeners with free water to use to hydrate their plants. Homeowners can save over a thousand gallons of water during peak rainy seasons.
Rainwater is also great for your plants because it doesn't contain salt, minerals, and chemicals found in our drinking water. Rainwater also contains nitrate and other organic materials, which plants love.
How Does a Rain Barrel Work?
Rain barrels are installed under a spout and will collect water using a pipe that feeds into the barrel. You can access the water from your rain barrel using a spigot. Like most things involving water, rain barrels need to be cleaned regularly to prevent algae or other build-ups inside. rain barrels should also be put away or covered during the winter to prevent any damage that may be caused by snow or ice.
Sometimes there will be too much rain, even for a rain barrel! Because this is always a possibility, most rain barrel users will also install an overflow garden to help manage the amount of water.
A popular use for a rain barrel is garden irrigation since you should not use the collected water for human consumption. If you'd like to use the water across your garden through a sprinkler system, be sure to install your rain barrel at an elevation higher than your garden so gravity can work its magic and supply a steady stream of rainwater.
DIY or Buy?
For the DIYers out there, building a rain barrel could be a great weekend project. They are relatively easy to make using a large garbage can (like the kind you take out to the street) and work just as well as store-bought options. Everything you need to build your own rain barrel can be easily purchased at any home improvement or hardware stores such as Lowe's, Home Depot, or Ace Hardware.
Purchasing a Rain Barrel
If you're not the DIY type, there are plenty of options to buy a rain barrel from a home improvement store or even online retailers like Amazon.
Popular budget-friendly option
This rain barrel made from recycled plastic is a cheap, easy-to-install option. Customers love that it's easy to move around (when empty) and can link to other RTS Home Accents rain barrels for increased rainwater collection capacity. The Eco Rain Barrel is the best option for anyone new to installing a rain barrel and not wanting to break the bank.
Mid-range with great reviews
The FreeGarden RAIN Rain Barrel, made out of polyethylene and featuring a brass spigot to be ultra-durable and long-lasting, is an upgrade from the RTS Home Accents 50 gallon Eco Rain Barrel. This rain barrel also has an incredibly effective mosquito screen, which is great if you live near water (and to protect your collected water)! Many customers also rave about the spigot sitting several inches from the bottom of the rain barrel, making it easier to fill watering cans or attach a hose.
Premium with style
If you're into the homestead aesthetic, the Good Ideas Rain Wizard Rain Barrel is a great (and good-looking) option. This rain barrel is perfect for people with smaller yard spaces. Although it is more expensive and holds less water than the other two, it can easily fit with your backyard decor.
Products featured on Wide Open Eats are independently selected by our editors. However, when you buy something through our links, we may earn a commission.