Capturing water to use on your vegetable plants is a great way to save money, and you help the environment when you can use rainwater rather than city or well water.
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Safety Alert: The water contained in a rain barrel is not potable. This is not drinking water. The bacteria formed in a barrel of rain water can make a person deathly ill if consumed.
There are lots of resources, such as water, that can be reused or captured without costing a thing. They just take a little time and effort, but they're well worth the work. Water is one of nature's most precious resources, and you need a lot of it to keep a garden going through the heat of summer. Capturing water to use on your vegetable plants is a great way to save money, and you help the environment when you can use rainwater rather than city or well water.
To set up a rain-barrel system in your yard, you have to choose a location with a gutter you can shorten and reroute. It's best to choose a spot that has level ground and is out of the main walkway. Then you need to build something to put it on. The key part of the project, though, is setting up the barrel.
When you're choosing a barrel, it has to be food-safe and sturdy. It's critical that the barrel have had no chemicals in it. Wash the barrel very thoroughly to get it as clean as possible: this cuts down on the chance of bacteria or algae growing in the water. Also, a barrel that has a screw-on top is better than a clip top so you can get in and out of it as necessary.
Note: Make sure the barrel opening is screened in order to eliminate debris from entering. Solid materials can clog the drain and hose, and if a pump is used it can damage it or at least clog the system.
In order to get the water you've collected out of the barrel, you'll need to attach a spigot. Ask your local hardware store for a drill bit that will match the diameter of the spigot you've chosen. Cut a hole near the bottom of the barrel for the spigot and knob. Attach the spigot and the included gaskets to the barrel. Be sure to use caulk behind them so you won't have leaks around the new hole.
Having the rain barrel elevated will make it easier to fill your watering can or attach a hose. If you get the barrel off the ground, you get greater water pressure at the spigot. With enough water pressure, you could attach a timer and a soaker hose or a drip-irrigation tube and let the barrel water your plants for you.
You need a stand to hold the water barrel off the ground. Choose a clear area under a gutter that's out of the way of foot traffic. The stand will not move once it's in place, so choose a permanent spot for it. Clear away any rocks, debris or plants from an area that's at least 2' wider than the barrel. This will give you some room to get to the barrel once it's installed.
There are a couple of ways to elevate a rain barrel: You can set it on cinder blocks if you have a perfectly flat, level spot. You can build a wooden stand if it will be more off the ground. This will give you good water pressure, and you won't have to bend over to get to the water.
Note: During the winter months in areas that the temperature drops below freezing, the tanks must be drained and taken out of line with the downspouts. If water is left in the tank, it will freeze and the barrel will expand and possibly rupture.