When I started my journey to becoming more green, I knew that urban farming was going to be a priority for me. After planting my first garden, my partner got really excited about helping me with irrigation. He took on the planning, sourcing, and installation to make sure I had a sustainable way to water the garden. Our current backyard setup includes 2 rain barrels: one that collects from the house and another that collects from the garage. We actually don’t have a hose hook up outside to city water so we actually use the rain barrels for more than just gardening; cleaning out coolers, rinsing kids toys, washing garden tools, etc.
If you’re fortunate to have the space like we do, two rain barrels is more than enough to water the four garden boxes in our temperate climate where we get regular rain. But if you can, I say the more the merrier! Rain barrels are relatively easy to set up (a bit of heavy lifting – ask a neighbour if you need an extra hand or two) and require little to no maintenance. Just make sure to empty them for the winter to make them last as long as possible.
If you’re short on space, there are some other options for collecting rain. The RainSaucer is a disc that funnels rain from a catchment area into a container. It would be a good fit for smaller decks or even apartment balconies. Alternatively, one balcony gardener suggests just leaving cups out when you know it’s going to rain.
You can buy rain barrels at most hardware stores but keep you eyes out for local sales. Here is some information at the program we have in Guelph here: https://rainbarrel.ca/allguelph and there’s rain barrel sales across Ontario through the same program: https://rainbarrel.ca/truckload-sales/
Once you have your rain barrel, installation is fairly easy. Again, grab your neighbour if you think you’ll need some help. First, find a slightly elevated location that is nice and flat and is close to a downspout. Keeping your barrel close to your garden will save you extra trips in the long run. To elevate the barrel, you can use a stand, rocks, or a cinder block. Make sure it won’t tip over when the barrel is full! It gets quite heavy. Raising the barrel will let gravity do some of the work when you’re filling your watering can or hooking up your hose. Once you’ve got the barrel in place, you’ll probably need to cut your downspout with a hacksaw to make sure it’s the right height to meet the top of the barrel. We use flexible downspouts to help direct water right into the barrel and I find it super helpful. Ours fits right over the downspout, but you might need some screws to affix it. Finally, attach the spout and the overflow tube and make sure the screen is in place over the hole in the top to keep leaves and other debris out of the water. And there you have it – a sustainable and affordable way to keep your garden watered!