Taking Your Gardening Dollar

My Rain Barrel Has Curves

Rainbarrel1

The people at Gardensupermart.com sent me a rain barrel to test last month.   I’d been contemplating such a thing for a while now;  here in  Eureka we get no rainfall for about  six months, and it would be nice to capture some of the winter downpour and use it later.  The only thing that held me back was the way they looked:  as you all know by now, my garden doesn’t have much of a design scheme, but putting a bunch of glorified garbage cans under the downspouts didn’t seem like it would help pull things together.

So when they offered to send me this curvy, faux terra cotta Cascata Rain Barrel, I agreed to make the big sacrifice and test-drive it in my garden.

Here it is, fresh off the truck, on the day it arrived.  There’s about ten minutes’ worth of assembly involved, and that’s only if you have trouble locating a screwdriver.  Attach the spigot and the hose, and you’re done.

And here it is in my garden.  You’ll notice that  I haven’t yet attached it to the downspout.  That’s going to involve more tools, and there’s not a big rush since we probably won’t see any rain until October.  After I’ve been through a rainy season, I’ll report back.  Meanwhile, I filled it up with water from the garden hose, and used that to irrigate this section of theRainbarrel
garden, which doesn’t otherwise get much water in the summer. 

I know it sounds silly to fill up a rain barrel with something other than rain, but hey, it let me test the whole thing out to make sure I assembled it right, and besides, there’s something to be said for having any sort of water storage device in a section of the garden that I don’t get to very often with the hose.

The barrel holds 65 gallons, and it’s fitted with a screen and a planter on top.  (I haven’t planted anything in the planter yet, but more to come on that, too.)  It’s made in Canada of molded plastic, and I was pleased to find out that it does include some recycled plastic — the plant where it is manufactured reuses and recycles its own waste, along with defects or returns.  (I’d like it even better if it was 100% recycled or made of some other waste product that would otherwise end up in the landfill.  For instance, my Can O Worms worm bin, made out of recycled tires, is over ten years old now and in perfect shape.)

So far, so good.  I am loving the way it looks.  If I thought they would capture enough rainfall without being connected to a downspout, I would be tempted to just place them around the garden, with annuals growing out of the top, as a kind of functional decoration.  They’re priced at about $250 which, as I look around online, is about the same price as any number of much uglier rain barrels.

What do you think?  Anybody else tried one?  Any other rain barrel experiences, homemade or store-bought?

Posted by on June 19, 2008 at 5:23 am, in the category Taking Your Gardening Dollar.
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29 responses to “My Rain Barrel Has Curves”

  1. greg draiss says:

    I find rain barrels like composters an expensive proposition. Many good size rain barrels cost between $150-$200 thus costing you three dollars per gallon on the first fill up. It would take a lot of rain to get your money back, say 300 fill ups to equal the cost of municipal tap water. Same with composters. Great ideas long pay back period.
    As with anything if you can make it yourself then it is a good deal. However I wonder the effect on plants of superheated water if a rain barrel is placed in the sun or if it sits for a long period and becomes full of alage/bacteria.
    Also get a rain barrel that has a small screen on it to prevent mosquitoes from laying eggs in the resovoir.

    Has anyone ever used water from their sump pump for gardening purposes?

  2. kate shore says:

    If anyone is interested, the same exact product is available from Gardeners Supply for only $200. http://www.gardeners.com/Rain-Catcher-Urn/Watering_RainBarrels,37-517,default,cp.html

    I’m not affiliated with them, just familiar with their products since they are based in my local area.

  3. Lisa says:

    I’m am so excited to see this posting! I have been thinking about getting one of these exact same rain barrels because the other ones look like you are storing toxic waste in your yard! I was thinking about buying them thru amazon, the price I saw there was $150, but a quick check has revealed that they are no available there anymore. Thanks for this posting!

  4. Becky Standish says:

    Nice looking rain barrel! I’m thinking of upgrading from my homemade effort! Gardener’s Supply and Amazon are out of stock! Does anyone know if this barrel is fairly durable? I’m located in Canada. Great Post!

  5. suzq says:

    OK, do THIS match. Factor in the cost of getting a plumber to install a second outdoor spigot so that I can water the other side of the yard from where my current spigot is located.

    For $200, this is an easy, easy fix to a tough problem.

    Water can’t be any hotter than the water coming out of black hoses that have been sitting in the sun all day.

  6. Kitt says:

    Greg, the folks at Casa Decrepit installed a water tank for irrigation that is fed by their sump pump.

    http://www.casadecrepit.com/archives/001536.html

    It looks like a great option for folks who have a high water table, especially combined with a long rainless summer.

  7. Patti in NNY says:

    We have an old cistern in our cellar made of brick that probably holds 1000 gallons of water. We plan on diverting rain water from the gutters into that and installing a pump to use the water in the gardens. But until that happens (best laid plans) I’m using a couple of 50 gallon plastic drums that I’ve painted the color of the foundation.

    That rain barrel is very nice! I wouldn’t mind one of them but I’m too cheap.

  8. Erin says:

    I am a big fan of rain harvesting. I have a 300 gallon tank that feeds a 4×8 raised veggie garden. I put a link to it in the URL box if you’d like to see it. You mentioned concern for the aesthetics of barrels and tanks, and I think despite its size mine isn’t so bad looking. It’s hunter green.

    After researching and talking with a bunch of people about barrels, I think the main problem with them is capacity. That barrel you have will fill very quickly (I bet in less than 10 minutes), but you will use it in no time. I look forward to reading what you think of it!! -Erin in Dallas

  9. wooly sunflower says:

    It’s hard for me to understand the usefullness of a rain barrel in a summer dry climate as we have here in California. Except for very rare occasions, it doesn’t rain at all from June thru September, so what does the rain barrel catch? Do you fill it up with gray water? Unless you are organized enough to put together a real gray water system, it seems easier to dump buckets of household “waste” water directly on the plants of your choice rather than dumping them into a rain barrel. Am I missing something? My husband and I bought a rain barrel during the drought of ’91 here in California and used it a couple of times during the pretty much rainless spring of that year. We had a very dry spring this year and I’d love to put my rain barrel to use, but there’s no rain to catch. Seems like they’d be much more useful in climates that get the occasional afternoon thundershower. Any ideas?

  10. Carolyn says:

    Amy, what a cool design. I like the concept of a rain barrel and wish it was practical where I live on the west coast.
    My mother has family in southern Arizona who live on a large property we playfully call Walton’s Mountain, because it is a family co-op of sorts, although not everyone is related. All residents have rain barrels, many have cisterns, and the co-op has constructed a small reservoir for the community. The focus is on collect and conserve in regards to water. Gray-water is used on the gardens. Water is treated like liquid gold. What is good for each individual household must be respectful of the their community at large. I’ve never been there, but it’s one of my mother’s favorite places to visit. Whenever she’s returned from a visit, there are new water stories to tell. Very Heinlein-esque.

  11. Claire Splan says:

    I do like the design of this rain barrel, although I agree that capacity will be a problem, unless you were to set up multiple rain barrels around your house. I’m also still surprised at the high cost of these things. They’re plastic, for god’s sake! How much can they really cost to manufacture? Maybe it’s a supply and demand issue and as they idea catches on, the price will come down. One hopes.

  12. Jessica says:

    We bought our rain barrels about a year ago and am just now getting into the groove of using them regularly. The ones I got are much more utilitarian than pretty (http://www.composters.com/rain-barrels/great-
    american-rain-barrel_163_10.php)
    , but they certainly do the job. We’ve got two of them connected to one down spout. They fill up way faster than I expected (we get a fare amount of rain here in IL) and have been emptied several times. I’ve found that the water pressure produced is too low to get the water the 20 feet to my garden even though the barrels are elevated 2 feet off the ground(and forget about using drip hoses). I have 2 large waterings cans (3 gallons) that I fill up at the barrel and then take to where my plants are. While I’m watering with one can I place another one under the spicket to fill up so its full and ready to use when I finish emptying out the first. Its a bit of work, but I can use the exercise and tend to enjoy the routine. I love my barrels.

  13. You can harvest a surprising amount of rainwater. For a roof with an area of 500 square feet (no matter what the slope), you will collect 300 gallons for every inch of rainfall. Here’s the formula: Gallons = 0.6 x inches of rainfall x area (in square feet). We have four 55-gallon barrels that we made–one is a closed system, while the three others are linked together in an open system. (Here’s a link describing them: http://sky-bolt.com/Rainbarrels.htm.) Ours are not as pretty as this one, but quite functional. During our 7-month dry period here in northern Florida we still have enough passing showers to keep us in landscaping water.

    While everyone talks about watering your plants and how good it is for them, but there are many uses for the naturally soft water distilled by Mother Nature:
    · Water for your compost pile that won’t kill the microbes.
    · Water to wash your hair without all those hard water residues. Some of us are old enough to remember this use.
    · Water to fill your vehicles’ radiators.
    · Water to wash your vehicles.
    · Water to rinse off your garden tools and to pre-rinse your muddy work clothes.
    · If you collect enough, you’ll have water to use in your washing machine or flush your toilets.
    · Water to pre-wash root vegetables from your garden.
    · Water to top off your pool to replace evaporating water.
    · Attach a drip irrigation system or simple soaker hose for gardens with high water needs.
    · Cache enough water in a cistern or a pond to fight a wildfire near your house.
    · Set up a high water harvesting system to supply an outside shower. If it’s on the sunny side of the building, it will be solar heated.

    Harvesting rainwater is also important because the first flush of stormwater is stopped or slowed down so it doesn’t immediately run into stormwater systems. It’s greenest to keep rainwater on your property.

    Funny that you mention it today, since I received an email this morning from this company. So I spent some time looking over the specifications. It has a double wall to keep the water cooler and it uses some recycled plastic. Would I buy it when I can make my own for the price of a spigot and some flexible hose? Probably not.

  14. I echo Wooly Sunflowers’ exact observations.
    Here in arid Northern California a 50 gallon rain barrel is not going to be much help during our rainless summer and fall months unless you recycle your bathtub water into the barrel.
    This could add up to quite a bit of recycled water if you have a few people living in your household.

    The container is attractive , and being one who puts a high value on aesthetics I appreciate its attractive form.
    But from a functional standpoint, I think it is more of a ‘makes you feel good in a sustainable kinda way’ than it really is providing a quantifiable solution.

    But I suppose every drop does count , and in the end it has more positive attributes than negative.

  15. deb says:

    This is a very nice looking rain barrel. I have an old blue barrel that held some kind of cooking or something that we have converted it with hose attachment and screen. It is not pretty, but it works.

  16. Carolyn says:

    Confession time. Here goes. I keep a bucket in my bathtub and let the water run into it instead of down the drain when I wash my hands. I use the water for my plants, or sometimes (here’s the confession part) I use it to flush the loo. My water bill has gone waaaay down. I feel less guilty about my long showers.

  17. suzq says:

    Carolyn, that’s the way to go. Ginny, your link doesn’t work.

    I think many of us would be interested in building a larger sort of cistern. My ideal set up would be a rectangular shape that I could put siding on that matches the house. It would blend right in.

  18. Pam/Digging says:

    I use the generic green rain barrels available to City of Austin customers for $65. Very cheap, effective, and easy. However, I will admit that yours is way more attractive. Still, cost matters more to me than aesthetics where rain barrels are concerned.

    But what I really want is a big silver cistern like Scott Calhoun uses in his Arizona garden (check out Yard Full of Sun for pics).

  19. Thanks Suzq for the heads up. I know I didn’t include the period in the link properties, but it was included anyway. Sorry for the inconvenience. http://www.sky-bolt.com/Rainbarrels.htm

  20. Pam says:

    I like it. I have one of those barrels that transported olives or garlic in its former life. Not as pretty, but just as useful. We haven’t had a whole lot of rain down my way. My two year old son had the brilliant idea of threading the condensation hose from our AC into the rain barrel. So, when it’s not raining, I’m still collecting water thanks to a super hot June.

  21. Stacy says:

    We use huge clay pots (http://floridabackyard.org/index.php/2008/05/04/oh-look-another-post-about-gardening/) with the drain hole siliconed closed. Yes, the tops are open but just drop in a mosquito dunk every month or so and that keeps the pests away. The mouth is also wide enough to allow the watering can to be submerged in order to fill it. All three rain “barrels” cost $120

  22. Aunt Ida says:

    For those of us who live in snow country, we need rain barrels that won’t break when snowmelt off the roof refreezes in the barrel. Ginny – I’m glad you posted the formula for figuring out the gallons that come off a roof. When we calculated it a few months back, we started talking about putting in an underground tank when we get rid of the cracked concrete driveway and replace it with porous pavers.

  23. jeff says:

    I installed 3 of these in early spring and have been really pleased with their looks and functionality in the garden. My only criticism lies in the “planter” on top. It has no drainage (ironically), and I haven’t thought of a way to add any, since it’s double walled – if I drilled drain holes, water would become trapped between the layers of plastic, rather than funneling down into the barrel below. For now I’m letting water stand in the planters and placing terra cotta bulb pans planted with bog plants (Sarracenias, lysimachia to trail down the side, a dwarf Equisetum) in them, but that still entails floating “mosquito dunks” in the standing water for prevention. Other than that, though, I’m loving the Cascatas, and toying with adding a fourth, if I can find a way to connect it without sacrificing a Japanese maple (which is in the wrong place, but still too nice to wreck).

  24. Janeen says:

    In addition to the other benefits already mentioned, my three rain barrels not only provide a “buffer” to keep heavy rains from flooding into an overburdened 100+ year old city sewer/storm drain system, but also more importantly keep that same water out of my basement. The barrels keep out the water that seeps in around the foundation, as well as the sewage water that backs up through the drain when the storm drains can’t handle the volume.

    I also created a rain garden/dry creek bed to help with rain catchment. Watering my gardens with the rain barrel water is merely a bonus.

    The only way I got husband buy-in on the cost of the barrels was because the solution was extremely more affordable than other methods of waterproofing the basement. I’d rather keep water out than manage it from the inside. That is counter-intuitive to me.

  25. greg draiss says:

    Glad to know someone else is using sump pump water.
    BTW water comoing out of black garden hose in only hot for the first few gallons. It then assumes well temp of 50-60*F

  26. Rosella says:

    New Garden Rant user here! My county in Northern Virginia has had a series of rain barrel workshops this spring–make-your-own from their stuff, $40.00; made-for-you, $60.00 Ugly? Yes — a big blue peruvian pickle barrel, but it’s hiding behind some shrubs and can only be seen if you actually come into the garden. Functional? So far, so good — it filled (60 gallons) in one thunderstorm, and I am using it to water the veggies at that end of the garden. My county charges for water as if all water used goes back to the water treatment plant, so there’s a strong incentive for me to use the free stuff from the sky. Now I need another one at the other end of the garden for watering the pot collection on the patio. But I am not sure I would pay $250 for one–pickle barrels suit me fine, and I am planning to paint it dark green as soon as the weather cools a little.

  27. matt montagne says:

    Hello-
    I enjoyed your post, particularly because we will be moving out to the Bay Area in a week. I have used a rain barrel harvesting system for quite some time here at my home in Milwaukee, but during the spring/fall/summer we never go longer than a week or so without it raining. I don’t think my two 50 gallon barrels will work in the bay area for collecting the rainfall from the “rainy” season in the winter.

    In a perfect world, what size barrell would be sufficient to collect the winter rain for use in the summer? A 500 gallon drum? Perhaps two 500 gallon drums?

    I’m just trying to determine whether or not I’m going to bring my barrels out when we move…I’m thinking at this point I’ll leave them here in Milwaukee and figure out what type of rain harvesting will work best in NoCal when we get out there.

    Picts of my current system: http://www.flickr.com/photos/mjmonty/2521496870/in/photostream/

    Thank you,

    Matt Montagne

  28. Rebecca says:

    It looks nice in your garden, though I’m not usually an admirer of the terra cotta look. And it holds more than it looks like it would, which is cool.

    Drop by my site – http://tinyurl.com/2vuyus – if you’re interested in trying out our harvested rainfall calculator, or seeing our tutorial (with pictures) on how to construct a rain barrel for about $40 in parts. You’ll find a better design than many commercial RBs. Oh, there’s also tips on making the barrels more attractive, plus some other bonuses.

    Happy watering!

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