Appalachia Gardening

How To Make A Rain Barrel

I’m still enjoying my rain barrel its proved especially handy since we built the greenhouse. Today I realized most of you don’t even know I have a rain barrel because I posted about it way back in 2009. Check out the blast from the past below.

Rain Barrel

Over the years rain barrels have become popular with both home gardeners and folks who are interested in water conservation. A month or so ago The Deer Hunter and I were cleaning up around the house trying to get rid of stuff we no longer need or truthfully stuff we never needed in the first place.

The Deer Hunter used the blue barrel for water storage back in the day when he camped at a location with no water supply. After his camping situation improved the blue barrel came to live under our front porch and became a favorite mud pie making station for the girls. It’s almost the same height of a counter top. As we were loading the barrel on to the truck one of us had an epiphany: why not make a rain barrel from the old storage container?

Top of Rain Barrel

So we did. We’ve been having monsoon weather here. It’s rained more days than not in the last two weeks. During one of the breaks The Deer Hunter installed the barrel. He diverted the gutter pipe into the top of the barrel;

Side of Rain Barrel

made an over flow pipe, which connects back to the gutter system;

Spiqot on Rain Barrel

inserted a spigot in the bottom of the barrel; and

Rain Water

we have a rain barrel! We were totally amazed how quickly the barrel filled with water. Our new raised beds are in the back of the house near the rain barrel so the water will be perfect for watering those plants.

When Granny was growing up they didn’t live close to a suitable source of water for washing clothes so her mother saved rain water to do her washing with (there were 9 children can you imagine the washing?). I recall Blind Pig Reader David Templeton writing about his mother and sisters using rain water for washing clothes and for washing their hair. What about you-ever saved rain water? What did you use it for?



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  • Reply
    David Templeton
    April 22, 2012 at 1:30 pm

    How much I do enjoy reading your stories and essays. Appalachia isn’t very far away afterall, when I can read your thoughts. I can’t live there but you take me back every day.

  • Reply
    John Reese
    April 21, 2012 at 8:48 pm

    We always Had a rain Barrel or two. Used to water the garden. My wife said They always had one for their gardens too. Do you know the song that has a rain barrel mentioned in it. My mom used to sing it to us when we were kids and I taught it to my wife and kids and now we sing it to our grand kids. The title is Oh Little Playmate.

  • Reply
    April 21, 2012 at 8:26 pm

    What a great design! Only thing I see is, it might need some kind of filter to keep dead bugs and things that fall into the gutter system from accumulating in the barrel to sour the water. Love the overflow design too.
    We had rain barrels beneath the gutters of the house when we were children. We had a well, and it wasn’t a very good one. Oftentimes we used that water to water the garden. We’d dip a bucket into the barrel and go put a tin can full of water on each plant. We also used it for washing when the well went particularly low or dry. We’d dip out a bucket of it, put it on the picnic table, put our head over it and ladle tin cups of it over our head. Then we’d lather up and rinse with the tin cup again.
    God bless.

  • Reply
    April 21, 2012 at 9:15 am

    I love your rain barrel, too!

  • Reply
    April 20, 2012 at 5:07 pm

    Yes we had a rain barrel for collecting rain water which mama said was soft water and was used to wash our hair. We had long, long hair worn in braids all week and on Sat it was washed in rain water and put up (curled) with rags or old hose for long curls for church on Sunday. And sometimes she used a curling iron which was heated by putting it in a glass lamp shade on a kerosine lamp. Now you know I grew up in the 30’s & 40’s. The “good” (??) old days. Maybe not so good but we didn’t know anything else and neither did our neighbors.

  • Reply
    April 20, 2012 at 1:49 pm

    Never tried to store water in a rain barrell. I like your invention; I’ve thought about it, but wasn’t too sure how I would go about diseminating the water to the plants that needed it. Very interesting!

  • Reply
    Rick Kratzke
    April 20, 2012 at 1:44 pm

    Free water from mother nature, how can you go wrong with that.

  • Reply
    April 20, 2012 at 1:01 pm

    I remember when you posted about
    this rain barrel. Thought it was
    a terrific idea back then, and
    still do. I have a rope tied to
    a 5 gallon bucket and keep it on
    my footlog leading to the garden.
    When I need water to mix fertilizer, or just water for my
    freshly planted tomatoes, I just
    drop the bucket into the creek
    and pull it back up. Works good.
    Sometimes all you have to do is
    “make do” with what is there

  • Reply
    April 20, 2012 at 11:39 am

    I have tubs, that cattle feed came in, under the drip of one of the chicken houses, near our pitiful little garden. I have no spiget however, and water is heavy to carry. lol I tried to siphon it out but it didn’t work. I also have one at the house. Now I need a spiget installed!

  • Reply
    April 20, 2012 at 10:59 am

    When I was growing up we had to draw our water by hand from a deep well. We always caught rain water off the roof in tubs, etc. Used it to wash clothes & take baths.

  • Reply
    B. Ruth
    April 20, 2012 at 10:57 am

    We aquired to large white barrels at a yard sale last year…When you buy a barrel known as specific for a rain barrel they are very expensive…
    We plan on making rain barrels out of these as health and time permits…Wish we had them going the last week or so when we had so much rain…
    We’ll have to secure these like Deer Hunters cause we have so many different little froggies..they make homes just about anywhere…LOL
    One more cool spell I hope till the heat for planting sets in…
    Thanks Tipper,

  • Reply
    April 20, 2012 at 10:54 am

    I have two,they are repurosed blue barrels found via Craigslist. My neighbors have about five rainbarrels around their house. We do live in Seattle so get lots of rain.

  • Reply
    Bob Aufdemberge
    April 20, 2012 at 10:32 am

    When I was a kid we had a cistern at our house that collected rainwater that was used for the washing of our clothes and us, but our drinking water we carried from a well that was about 50 yards from the house. At the one-room country school I attended, there was a cistern for drinking water. There was a charcoal filter that the downspout fed into, and it was supposed to take out all the bad stuff such as what the birds had left behind on the roof. Must have worked because none of us ever got sick. That cistern had a “pump” that was actually more of a water elevator. It had a continuous chain with little buckets of about pint-size attached. The chain went over a big sprocket at the top, and you turned a crank to bring the buckets up and over to empty out the nozzle. I don’t think I’ve ever seen another one like it.

  • Reply
    Uncle Al
    April 20, 2012 at 10:05 am

    Great idea. Have had similar setups in the past, but don’t have one now. I’ll have to keep an eye out for a suitable container. Those things aren’t cheap as I recall.

  • Reply
    Lonnie Dockery
    April 20, 2012 at 9:38 am

    I have a much less elaborate “system”. It’s just a barrel with an open top under the dip in the shed roof! It’s near the garden, so it does come in handy during dry spells!

  • Reply
    April 20, 2012 at 9:28 am

    I have pleaded with “Mr. Ethel” for years to rig me up a rain barrel.
    I can water with tap water every day, and the plants stay alive, but the whole garden takes a growth spurt after a good rain!

  • Reply
    Ray P. Algee
    April 20, 2012 at 9:08 am

    Tipper, I’m guessing that for the first 15 years of my life we collected all the water that we used for drinking and all other needs. It was a cistern that would fill during the rainy season – great tasting water. Ray 🙂

  • Reply
    Richard Beauchamp
    April 20, 2012 at 9:05 am

    We always had rain barrels when I was at home. Only problem I remember was wiggle tails from Mosquito larva. Mother always said that the soft rain water was better for her hair than other water from a well or spring.

  • Reply
    Gary Powell
    April 20, 2012 at 8:39 am

    Granny always had rain barrels for washing clothes. Drinking water came from the spring about a hundred yards from the house. It seemed like a mile away to a skinny little kid carrying a full water bucket. The rain barrels were open so got wiggle tails in them. I guess no one cared that they were mosquito larvae.

  • Reply
    Miss Cindy
    April 20, 2012 at 8:24 am

    I just love the way you and the Deer Hunter come up with ideas AND do it. Whatever it is, you figure out a way to do it. I believe that is one of the top traits among our Appalachian Ancestors…..finding a way to get things done.
    My grandparents had a well but they were very careful with water. When my Grannie got through washing dished she used that same water to mop the kitchen. She also used the dishwater for the hogs.
    They were careful with all their resources.

  • Reply
    Julie at Elisharose
    April 20, 2012 at 8:20 am

    This is next on my list of garden accessories. It should have been first after the drought we suffered last year, but it didn’t happen. Maybe this year.
    Hope all is well with you. Sorry I’ve been so out of touch.

  • Reply
    Janet Smart
    April 20, 2012 at 8:14 am

    We had rain barrels growing up. I remember using the water for washing hair, it made our hair so soft. Of course, we used it for lots of other stuff, too. I wish we had one now, maybe we’ll get around to getting one. My sister has one, it is open topped, when we were out to her house a year or so ago a frog had gotten in and laid eggs. The rain barrel was full of little tadpoles – hundreds of them. I’d like to have been there when they became little frogs and made their escape.

  • Reply
    Bill Dotson
    April 20, 2012 at 7:47 am

    Mom always had a rain barrel as a matter of fact she had as many as 3 around the house and used it for a lot of things especially watering her flowers, she had so many potted plants they pretty much lined to whole edge of the porch plus we also used it in the house and watering garden plants as well.

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