Rain Barrels and Rain Gardens
Storm water runoff can pick up pollutants found on the roofs of our houses as well as impervious surfaces, or surfaces where water cannot be absorbed into it (roads, sidewalks, parking lots, etc.)
These pollutants (fertilizer, pesticides, pet waste and vehicle fluids just to name a few) are bad for water quality. That storm water runoff ends up directly in our streams, rivers, and lakes. As we increase those impervious surfaces, flooding is more likely to occur that causes damage to property and decreases water quality.
We can reduce pollution from entering our waterways and reduce potential property damage by installing Rain Barrels and Rain Gardens.
Rain Barrel and Rain Garden Workshops
The SWCD gives workshops* and programs about Rain Barrels and Raingardens.
Check our Facebook page to see if there is an upcoming event!
If you are interested in scheduling a workshop or a program, please contact our office.
*Note: Rain Barrel workshops do have a cost to participate.
What is a Rain Barrel?
Rain Barrels help reduce roof rainwater runoff and improve water quality...
A great way to further reduce rainwater runoff is to use Rain Barrels. Rain Barrel (sometimes called cisterns) are aboveground water storage vessels. A Rain Barrel collects water from your roof downspouts and stores it for later use. Rainwater can be used for any non-potable purpose such as watering plants, washing cars, or bathing pets. Rain Barrels divert water from storm drain systems and thus reduce pollutants and the velocity of water entering local rivers and streams;
Rain Barrels will collect the water on a rainy day and conserve it for use on a dry day. A typical house has a roof area of 1,200 square feet and four downspouts that will each drain about 300 square feet of roof. That means a rainfall of 0.3 inches will fill a 55-gallon rain barrel placed under each downspout.
Save money on your water bill by using water stored in Rain Barrels
For more information about Rain Barrels:
Check out our educational brochure: "Recycling Rain Water: How to Save Money and Conserve Water with Rain Barrels"
Want to make your own Rain Barrel?
Want to learn where you can buy a Rain Barrel in the St. Joseph County, Indiana area?
How to Install your Rain Barrel:
(Note: This method is just one method for installing your rain barrel)
Garden hose or soaker hose
One 15’ section of garden hose
One 5’ flexible downspout diverter
Cinder blocks or short lengths of 4x4 lumber
*most supplies are available from a local hardware store
Select a location to install your rain barrel. You will want it to place it near a gutter downspout from your house, garage, or shed.
In order to increase the output water pressure and provide for easier use of the spigot near the bottom of the barrel, you may wish to elevate the barrel using securely-placed cinder blocks or 4x4 lumber scraps. Keep in mind that the lower spigot of the barrel must be higher than the highest point you wish to water with the collected rain.
Modify your downspout by cutting it with a hacksaw approximately 12” above the top of the barrel. Use the flexible downspout diverter to divert the downspout into the opening on the top of the barrel. Save the cut section of downspout and reinstall in during winter months while your empty barrel is stored in the garage.
Secure the 15’ hose to the upper spigot and open the spigot. This hose will act as an overflow allowing you to divert the excess water away from the house.
Secure a garden hose or soaker hose to the lower spigot and close the spigot until you are ready to water your garden. You can also use your rain barrel without a hose to fill watering cans, fountains, etc.
Winterizing your Rain Barrel:
Leaves are falling and the scent of apples baking means it’s already time to think about getting ready for winter. One thing you need to do is winterize your rain barrel. Preparing your rain barrel for winter can prolong its life and save you from replacing it anytime soon. Linked here is an easy to follow document from the City of Lafayette, IN with a step-by-step process to get this off your to do list.
As long as the water collected doesn’t remain in the barrel for more than a week or two, mosquitoes shouldn’t be a concern.
Consider connecting a soaker hose to your barrel for watering flower or garden beds.
Does your rain barrel fill up to quickly? Consider adding a second rain barrel.
Paint away! Most paint manufacturers offer spray and brush on paints for use on plastics.
Using artist’s oils is not recommended. Basically they “never” completely dry, and you cannot seal them like acrylics.
You can use the new specialty spray paints for plastics. Be sure to follow the manufacturer’s directions. On average it will take 2-3 cans to cover one rain barrel.
Painting Your Rain Barrel:
1. Clean the barrel with warm soapy water and baking soda.
2. Use fine grit sand paper on the outside surface. This helps the paint stick, but also smooths out any shallow cuts that may be on the barrel.
3. If you are going to use acrylics, apply a coat of bonding primer next.
4. Paint until you are happy.
5. Allow enough time for it to dry completely.
6. A clear coat seal is recommended to protect your artwork. You may be able to get a local body shop to clear coat it with automotive paint. You can also do it yourself with the clear coating that comes in a spray can.
What is a Rain Garden?
Raingardens are gardens planted in a depression, designed to catch rainwater runoff and contain plants that don’t mind being wet or flooded for a short period of time (less than 24 hours).
Rain Gardens are gardens that contain flowering plants and grasses (preferably native species of both) that can survive in soil soaked with water from rain water.
Rain Gardens can:
Reduce roof rainwater runoff
Collect and slow stormwater runoff and increase its infiltration into the soil
Improve water quality
By helping reduce the rapid flow of stormwater from homes and businesses to storm drains, Rain Gardens protect streams, rivers, and lakes from pollutants that are washed from house roofs and other impervious surfaces.
Rain Gardens can also reduce potential of basement flooding and improve or eliminate wet spots in yard!
Where Can a Rain Garden Go?
From Your House to the Street…
Along Your Driveway…
Along a Sidewalk...
At Your Home...
At Your Business...
In a Parking Lot...
What is NOT a Rain Garden?
A rain garden is NOT:
-A retention pond
-Designed to hold water for over 24 hours
-A haven for mosquitos
Rain gardens are small ponds. BUSTED!
Rain gardens breed mosquitoes. BUSTED!
Rain gardens cost too much to install.
BUSTED! BUSTED! BUSTED! BUSTED! BUSTED!
For more information about Rain Gardens:
Blue Thumb - Planting for Clean Water has a great book and online resource for all things Rain Gardens.
The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources has an especially informative page on Rain Gardens.
The University of Wisconsin Extension website features a wonderful guide called "Rain Gardens: A How-to Manual for Homeowners". You can download the PDF version.
Rainscaping.org - Imitating Nature with Rain Gardens
For a listing of Indiana Native Plants