Using Rain Barrels to Water Your Plants Naturally

Have you ever noticed the way that everything outside seems much greener after a nice long rain?  It’s not just your imagination; there really is something special going on when grass and plants are able to drink the rainwater that nature provides.

Unless you live in a rural area, your tap water is probably treated with all sorts of chemicals such as chlorine and fluoride.  Watering your plants with this water is okay, but your gardens will be so much greener if they are drinking rainwater!   Using rain barrels to capture that rainwater each time you get a nice hard rain is a great way to conserve water, cut down on your water bill, and make your plants much greener, healthier, and happier.

Here at our home, we have a number of rain barrels. The rain gutters are set up so that they direct the water into the top of the barrel, as shown in the picture above and below.

We use the water for watering all our potted plants, both indoors and outdoors. Right now, we water our garden using soaker hoses on a timer from the city water faucet, but we plan to shift the soaker hoses over to a rain barrel soon, in time for the fall garden.

We notice a significant difference between the plants when they receive rainwater versus city water. They are greener, healthier-looking, produce more blossoms, and don’t need to be watered quite as often, either.

The rain barrel above is set up a little differently than the one previous. You can see the bottom edge of the gutter a few inches above the barrel. The top is open to the air but covered with a mesh screen, to keep bugs and leaves out.

You can purchase rain barrels at any home improvement store, or online at Amazon. However, many cities offer rebate programs for purchasing rain barrels. Check with your local water utility.

You can also make your own rain barrel system! Here is a great video tutorial.

Do you have tips and tricks to share regarding rain water collection systems? Have you ever used rain barrels?

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27 Comments

  1. Nicole

    I have three rainbarrels and use them all, even wishing for more sometimes. When you pay for water and love to garden, rainbarrels are a lifesaver!

  2. Andrea

    We have plans to install one or two this fall and possibly more next year. I think we get a lot more rain here (Indy) than in Central TX, and while we are on a well and don’t pay for our water, it still seems like good sense to capture and use the resources we have at our disposal. I’ll let you know how it goes! Thanks for posting about rainbarrels :)!

  3. Aimee @ Simple Bites

    We’re getting a ton of rain this summer and my husband and I have talked about this plenty.

    My concern is the kids, of course. I would have to be 100% convinced of the safety of rain barrels before we got any!

    One cool thing: our city give out a $50 rebate for each rain barrel purchased as extra incentive.

    • Nicole

      My rainbarrels have a 4″ hole in the top of each, nothing a child could get into. Not all rainbarrels are the same, so check carefully. We also have ours slightly raised on a 4″ X 4″ beams and a concrete patio slab that we level first – once the rain barrel is about 1/2 full, I can’t tip it over trying hard! I think they are safe, but you could always add strapping to hold it to the house.

  4. Karen

    My townhouse doesn’t have a downspout, so I can’t have rain barrel. They were considering putting them in the end units, but decided that they were too dangerous, because kids would get into them and drown (ridiculous IMO). I have been using a kiddie pool to collect the rain this summer and have almost never had to water my plants with anything else.

  5. Jeanne

    I’ve been wanting to start using a rain barrel! It never occurred to me that the chlorine in our city water may be affecting the plants. Thanks for the reminder, I’m going to have to re-prioritize this project!

  6. Maria

    I have been wanting some rain barrels. I feel like I heard/read somewhere that I need to use food safe ones if I want to water my veggies with that water. Do you agree with this? The food safe ones I have seen are quite ugly. 🙁
    Thanks!

    • Kathryn

      Food-safe ones can be ugly, but you can always paint them. Just sand lightly, and use exterior paint to cover them in a nice color or even paint a design (I’ve seen them covered in flowers, butterflies, etc.).

  7. Rene

    Oh how nice it would be if my state of Colorado didn’t have such ass-backward laws about collecting rain. It is illegal here to have rain barrels, unless you are on a well outside of an “augmented plan” meaning, live in the middle of nowhere without being part of a subdivision (a rare occurance in this state). The state believes that it owns every bit of moisture in the sky or on the ground. If we collected rain water, we could get slapped with a huge fine. Drats!

    • Angel

      I agree, Rene! Here in Washington it’s the same way. 🙁 Think of how much water we could be collecting! 🙂

  8. Kathryn

    One tip for those who (like me) live in a mosquito-infested area: go to your local hardware store and invest $10 in a package of mosquito dunks. These are a completely natural solution to mosquito prevention and make a huge difference, even if your barrel is covered with a screen. One package should last you most of the year.
    Also, for anyone who lives in the Middle Tennessee/northern Kentucky area, the Cumberland River Compact is a great source for rain barrels. They hold build-your-own rain barrel workshops for less than $50 (sometimes as little as $25), and the price includes a completed barrel with screen, spigot, and overflow valve. That’s how we got our barrel, and we’ve been so happy with it that we’re thinking about getting one or two more.

  9. Heather

    Looks like I’m not the only one who can’t collect rainwater (it’s illegal in Utah). I was going to do this a few years ago until my dad told me I’d be breaking the law. Too bad!

  10. Karen for Jenny and Pearl

    I love this idea.
    I just can’t remember the last time it rained here in Southern California! I think you need to live somewhere that gets more than a couple inches of rain per year. Bummer!

  11. Amy @ Homestead Revival

    I’m really fascinated by the rain barrel concept and would like to do something like this, however, where I live, we only get around 10 inches of rain a year. Some would be better than none, but I’m not sure it would really be worth it. I’d love to hear from anyone in Southern CA that has done this.

    Thanks for a great post!

  12. Maridyth

    My husband made rain barrels for me to use for my kitchen garden. He acquired the 55 gallon barrels for free and spent only $15 for the parts.

    Where we live, near Houston, the water table has dropped so low that within the next five years water usage is expected to become much more regulated and expensive. We are trying to plan ahead… decreasing the amount of lawn we need to water and adding irrigation using our rain barrels.

    Important post, Katie. Thanks.

  13. Emily

    I’ve always been wary of watering my veggie garden with rain water collected off of our asphalt shingled roof. Does anyone know the safety of doing so?

  14. Karen Ho Fatt

    I live in a climate that has all four seasons including harsh winters. I placed my fern outside one summer and lo and behold it came alive from the rain water it was receiving all summer! I had to take it inside and it did not survive the winter season where I had used tapwater. I should have collected rainwater at the time. The city has a rain barrel sale here every spring and once renos are finished will purchase a few more rain barrels to get my plants going again.

  15. Alice

    Great article!

    My husband just got us a rain barrel from EarthMinded and it’s great! We are not really good at DIY projects so we had to buy one. I think it holds 60 gallons. It has a lid that locks which minimizes the mosquitoe problem. It has a drainer at the bottom where you can attach your garden hose to but also has a spigot which is great if you want to fill something. The diverter fits in the downspout like a glove (you have to make a hole in the downspout) and they also provide cover for the hole in the downspout for winter so it doesn’t look ugly when the diverter is not attached to it. There is a video on their website that shows you how you should install it so even for people like us, it was easy.

    I really love this thing, we have been watering our plants and washing our car with the water we store.

    If anyone is interested, you should check the resellers listed on the company’s website since the resellers’ prices are much more reasonable.

  16. utah asphalt company

    What a nice technique. You know it is very needed in areas where rain seldom occurs.

  17. salt lake city asphalt

    For me, it is better to water the plants at night so that they could sip much of the water since the water is not easily evaporated because the temperature at night is low.

  18. salt lake city asphalt contractor

    This article show that nature water is better than city water. It just shows that the best medicine for unhealthy plants are rain waters. This style of gardening can make people save more of the expenses.

  19. Rain Chain Canada

    Nice post.
    I love my rain barrel. In fact I would like to add two more. I use the water for all my planters and garden. Harvesting rain water just make sense to me. My parents have always had rain barrels and when we bought our home naturally I followed in their foot steps. Rain Barrels have come a long way and have become a lot more decorative. I want to install a Rain Chain for the front of our house and found a really nice metal rain barrel on line that I think would look beautiful with the rain chain.

  20. salt lake city asphalt

    Having a rain barrels in your home could really save water and it can use for many purposes. It’s a great idea for everyone to have this because you can use it in watering a plants in your garden. Not just water-saved but the money from your pocket are save as well.

  21. Lester26HARRIET

    I guess that to get the credit loans from creditors you must have a great motivation. However, one time I’ve got a car loan, because I wanted to buy a building.

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