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Using Rain Barrels to Survive Droughts

| Articles | July 1, 2013

If you’re a gardener that has an unlimited supply of water, consider

yourself lucky. There are many of us who live in drought zones where the

garden and lawn watering rules are very constrictive to the healthy growth

of gardens and plants. Many people just give up when they find out how few

gallons of water they are permitted to use, but some of us have just found

ways to cope with less water. There are many ways to optimize ones garden

to conserve water while still keeping it lush.

Some of the ways include drip irrigation (the use of a pipe or hose with

small holes to gradually seep into the roots of the plant), the placement

of plants in groups of equal watering needs (to prevent wasting water on

plants that don’t need it), and using compost or mulch to insulate the

water and prevent drainage.

But one of the best ways to keep your garden alive during a drought is to

take preventative measures. Occasionally a drought will be predicted far

in advanced, or those already experiencing a drought will be given a few

weeks of heavy rain. When this occurs, you should take the opportunity to

set up several rain barrels. Many people think this would be a time

consuming, silly thing to do. But it can save you many gallons of water,

and hardly requires any work.

Finding the barrels will probably be the hardest part. You can use your

own garbage cans, or head to your home improvement store to get a few 55

gallon plastic drums. These can be expensive and difficult to transport,

so keep that in mind before you go to the store. You will probably want to

cover the top of the barrel with a screen of some sort to filter out any

unwanted leaves or debris that might fall off the roof of your house.

Once you have your barrels ready, you’re faced with the decision of where

to place them. Usually during rainfall, there is one corner or segment of

the house that rain tends to pour off of. If you are taking the simple

approach to barrel placement, just place the barrel under all the places

where you see large amounts of drips. However, while this might be the

easiest way to place them, you won’t see very high volumes of rain in the


If you want to take a more complicated approach to placing the barrels,

you should consider tweaking your gutter system a bit. If you remove each

individual segment and place it at a very slight slant so that all the

water is diverted to the nearest corner of the house, you can place a rain

barrel at each corner. So essentially your entire house acts as a catcher

for the rain, instead of just a few feet worth of shingles. This is how to

maximize the amount of water your rain barrel will catch.

After a heavy rainfall, each individual barrel probably won’t see very

much rain. If it looks like it won’t be raining more any time soon, it’s a

good idea to empty each barrel into one main central barrel. Seal it and

save it out of the way, for whenever you may need it. Then the next time

it starts to rain, you’ll be able to quickly put all your catching barrels

into place without having to lug around all the water you’ve accumulated

so far.

The use of water barrels might sound like an antiquated idea. However,

when you’re in the midst of a drought and you’re able to spare that extra

couple of gallons for your garden in addition the city allotment, you’ll

be grateful for every bit of time and money you spent on collecting all

that rain. All it takes is a few trips out in the backyard every time it

starts to sprinkle, and you’ll be a very happy gardener when water isn’t

so abundant.

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