From Trash to Rain Barrel Bounty

Harvest rainwater by transforming a trash can into a rain barrel.
By Ron Green
April/May 2011
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From trash to treasure: an easy rain barrel.

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Here in Michigan City, Ind., the city recently supplied residents with 96-gallon trash bins for use with the new power lifts the city installed on its trash trucks. This left many of us with a surplus of standard 32-gallon, round, plastic trash cans. I had four of these and didn’t know what to do with them.

But hey, I’m a MOTHER EARTH NEWS reader — how about creating a rain barrel? Having recently re-plumbed our little house, I had a number of fittings and leftover pipe. With these, I made an overflow standpipe and a bottom drain valve, which go in holes drilled into the side of the trash can. I fashioned a debris screen for the trash can lid out of cedar boards (leftover from various garden projects) cut at a 45-degree angle and covered with some scrap screening. I then routed the downspout to the debris deflector and cut the end of the downspout to match the slope of the screens. I connected a spare garden hose to the overflow to route excess water away from the foundation of the house.

I also covered the drain valve intake with more screen to block out any foreign material that may get past the debris screen.

I have enough water pressure to get good water flow through a soaker hose I use in one adjacent planting. If I place the barrels up on a few cinder blocks, I can use a hose to get to thirsty plants that are farther away.

Ron Green
Michigan City, Indiana

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