If you’re into sustainable gardening and want to conserve resources like water, install a rain barrel in your yard.
The barrel, which collects runoff from the roof, is an efficient way to capture water that you can reuse to hydrate plants, flowers, and the lawn. It’ll reduce your summer water usage by about 4,800 litres, according to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
But you don’t have to sacrifice style for sustainability: Rain barrels come in many shapes, sizes and colours so it’s easy to find something you like.
Here are several ways to let a rain barrel work with — not fight against — your landscape.
Choose a nature-inspired style and colour
Many rain barrels are made of durable plastic but the look is far from industrial — some are made to resemble wood or cobblestone and come in green, khaki, terracotta, red brick and other earth tones.
If you don’t want a plastic barrel, look into wood, stone or metal.
Match it to your home’s exterior colour
Blending it in with your house colours will make the barrel practically disappear. If you’ve got a yellow house with a white door and trim, for example, paint your rain barrel white and it’ll look like part of the house. The Rutgers New Jersey Cooperative Extension recommends using a primer and acrylic spray paint on plastic barrels for the best coverage.
Let it blend into the garden
Position the barrel as if it were another plant container in your yard — it won’t be as noticeable if it’s surrounded by actual containers. Or match the barrel to whatever material your pots are made of, such as terracotta or metal. Some rain barrels come topped with planters so you can grow flowers!
Make a statement
Who says you can’t have a little fun with a rain barrel? Try painting it with polka dots, stripes or something related to earth like water nymphs.
Go big or go small(er)
Depending on your garden’s layout and your preference, you could have one large barrel or a few small barrels installed at different spots around the outside of the house.
According to the EPA’s Reduce-Runoff.org, rain barrels are designed to hold about 150 to 250 litres of water that collects from the downspout.
Keep it safe
Get a rain barrel with a top. Rainwater that’s exposed to the sun and air may breed algae. Keeping the top on will also prevent mosquitoes, who love pools of water, from being fixtures in your yard. Since water hits the roof before landing in the barrel, make sure your gutters are clean and free of debris.
And definitely don’t drink it!