Irrigate your garden with water collected from your gutters. Basic tools and materials from your local hardware store are all you need for this backyard project
You can have a ready supply of water for your roses or rutabagas just by harvesting the rainby building an inexpensive rain barrel. Once you’ve collected all the parts it only takes a few minutes — here are the basic steps:
- Install a faucet in the side of the barrel
- Install an overflow at the top of the barrel
- Cut a hole and put screening over the top to keep debris out of the rainwater
The first thing you need is a watertight container. Danielle Sherry, assistant editor at Fine Gardening magazine, recommends looking in the Yellow Pages under containers to find wholesale distributors. They sell relatively inexpensive watertight containers. Otherwise, try a local hardware store or discount store.
4400 gallon-per-month rain collection system
Attach the faucet component
The faucet should be approximately 1 inch from the bottom of the barrel. For this step, you need a tube of silicone, a 1-inch washer, a 3/4-inch female coupling, a 3/4-inch hose bib, and a male faucet. You also need a 15/16-inch spade bit and an electrical power drill. Don’t forget the safety goggles. Now drill a hole 1 inch from the bottom of the barrel. Next, run a little bit of waterproof silicone around the washer before placing it over the hole. The silicone keeps everything exceptionally watertight. Take the faucet and screw it in until you get it pretty snug to the barrel. It’s really important not to point the faucet directly toward the ground. It should be a little bit off to the side, which makes it easier for you to attach a hose to it, or even sneak a bucket up underneath it.
Now comes the really fun part. You have to put the coupling on the other end of the faucet. So, you get to crawl right inside the barrel. Attach the coupling nice and tight. The water is going to flow right out of the coupling to the faucet.
Put in the overflow outlet
For this step, you need a 2¼-inch hole saw, a 1¼-inch elbow (check the plumbing supply department at your local hardware store), and a sump pump kit. The overflow hole goes about 1 inch from the top of the barrel. If too much rain falls into the barrel, the overflow hole will divert it away from your house. Cut the hole, and attach a 1¼-inch barb (it has a 1½-inch male end). It fits rather loosely in the hole, so run a bead of silicone around the outside. The fit won’t be particularly tight, because there’s no pressure on this fitting. It’s just there in case the barrel gets too full; the water will flow right out. Next, attach a 1½-inch female PVC elbow to the inside of this barb, and lock it down. Use the flexible tubing in the sump pump kit and attach it to the barb. Lock it down with a clamp. Run the tube as far away from the house as you need to so that it doesn’t leak all over the foundation if the barrel overflows.
The final step
Put the top back on the barrel, and get your jigsaw ready. You’re going to cut a hole in the top. This is where your gutter will spill into. It’s easiest if you can get a starter hole going first; use the drill. Then, using the jigsaw, cut a pretty good-size chunk out of the top of the barrel. Remove the top when you’re done. Using replacement screen from the hardware store, run it across the open barrel and secure it. You can put the top right over the screen and lock it down. The gutter is going to flow right into the opening in the top of the barrel. The screening there will keep out mosquitoes so that they don’t lay any eggs or larvae in the rainwater. It also will keep out debris. Using scissors, cut off the excess screening around the outside of the barrel.