Enhance Your Rain Barrel with a Drought-Resistant Garden

Lucy Mercer
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Hosta | The Home Depot's Garden Club

Rain barrels can be a lifesaver for gardens and lawns in times of drought. Even if you’re not in a drought zone, installing a rain barrel makes sense as an efficient way to collect rainwater and use for your lawn and plants.

A rain barrel system collects and stores rainwater from your roof by diverting it from a downspout into a barrel or container. Diverting rainwater saves you money by decreasing your reliance on municipal water, and protects your home by keeping storm water away from your home’s foundation or basement.

Rain Barrel | The Home Depot's Garden Club

Rain barrels can be rustic and traditional, resembling old-fashioned barrels, or curvy modern shapes with the look of pottery, or utilitarian types made from repurposed food-grade barrels and containers. You can also make your own DIY rain barrel.

Some have built in planters, perfect for a pop of annual color on top. Here’s a guide that will help you make smart rain barrel buying decisions.

Whatever the look, like outdoor trash cans, they tend to be placed on the far side of the house where they won’t draw attention away from the flower beds and landscape. This year, consider plantings that will incorporate your rain barrel into your garden.

Use native perennials as a foundation for your rain barrel garden. Natives can handle times of plenty and times of drought.

As water allows, supplement the perennial bed with annuals for color and to keep visual interest throughout the season.

In the Garden Center, check plant tags for drought tolerance and light requirements. Some perennials do better in sun and you’ll get more flowers, but others, like hosta, dazzle in the shade, too.

Coneflower perennial

Native Perennials for a rain barrel garden:

  • Ornamental grasses
  • Hosta
  • Sedum
  • Autumn Joy
  • Black-eyed Susan
  • Daylily
  • Artemisia
  • Lobelia
  • Coneflower
  • Joe Pye weed
  • Milkweed
  • Aster
  • Sunflower
  • Yarrow
  • Sweet flag

When planting your rain barrel perennial garden, amend the soil with organic compost, top with a layer of lightweight mulch and feed with an organic fertilizer every few weeks.

Black Eyed Susan | The Home Depot's Garden Club

When installing a rain barrel, keep in mind:

  • Rain barrel water is for the garden. It is not potable for pets or humans.
  • The weight of water makes rain barrels very heavy. A full 55-gallon rain barrel weighs more than 400 pounds. Make sure the barrel is structurally sound and secure.
  • Standing water equals mosquito breeding potential. Avoid problems by keeping the barrel covered, keeping mesh over the openings, and by tossing in a mosquito pellet once a month.
  • Rain barrels should be elevated on blocks at least 18 inches off the ground. This allows for easy access to the spigot and to let gravity do its work to get the water out. 

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