Simply Grateful Gardener

Gardening To Fill The Pantry!

Rainwater Harvesting – Rain Barrel Crazy


Last July Hubby and I installed our first rain barrel for harvesting rainwater. At the time I wasn’t sure if this was legal in Michigan, but have since learned that the only two states that had laws against rainwater harvesting were Colorado and Nevada. Michigan, in fact, has legislation that encourages homeowners to collect and use rainwater.

For our first rain barrel I purchased a kit from Wal-Mart as well as a brand new 32 gallon garbage can. The kit cost around $20 and the can was $8, so for a $28 investment I thought it would be a good way to save some money on water bills.

It took us less than 1/2 and hour to install the rain barrel.


All summer as the rain barrel would fill, I would empty it into my watering can and water as much of the gardens and potted plants as I could before opting to use the hose attached to the house. This was so successful, because we had a fairly regular pattern of rain and dry spells, that this year I decided I wanted to expand our water collecting.

Although they do sell connector kits to attach rain barrels so as one fills it will overflow into the next, Hubby decided he could rig something up using — what else — PVC pipe. This would be a fairly inexpensive investment. The major expense would be in purchasing additional rain barrels/garbage cans and another initial rain barrel kit to attach to another downspout on the other side of the house.

Being frugal when it comes to spending money even on things that will eventually save us money in the future, I really did not want to fork out the money for more garbage cans. I mean if Hubby could come up with a way to attach the rain barrels together without having to buy the connecting kits, there had to be another option for the garbage cans as well.

Do you believe in: The universe shall provide? Well, I do, especially after what happened.

A few days after we decided we were going to expand our rain collection, we received a notification from our garbage collecting service that we would be issued a brand new 50 gallon garbage can (free of charge) that we would be required to use for all garbage pickup. They went on to state that any other trash cans could either be left on the curb for pickup/recycling or labeled with a “Compost” sticker and used for that purpose.

So being a daughter of a true sheeny-man-at-heart father, I knew what I had to do. The Sunday after the new garbage cans were delivered, which is the night before our garbage pickup, Hubby and I headed out into our subdivision in search of garbage cans with notes stuck to them stating “PLEASE TAKE.” That’s all we needed!

Within two weeks we had collected 6 perfectly usable garbage cans with lids. Four of them would be used for additional rainwater collection while the other two would be used for compost (why buy those paper bags when you can keep reusing the plastic cans?).

What luck! So for about $30 (which included the complete rain barrel kit we had to purchase for $20 to attach to a different down spout) we had four more rain barrels set up and ready to go. Three barrels were installed on the side of the house with room for more if I want.


The black tube running from the down spout to the garbage can in the back fills that can first, then any overflow is run to the can in front of it as well as the one to the right. In retrospect Hubby thinks we should have attached the cans together at the bottom with the PVC pipe so they would all fill up at the time. I’m not so sure. This year the rain water has been nearly non-existent, so rather than having one can full, I’d have three cans 1/3 full. Much harder to retrieve water from using a watering can. For now I’m content with they way he set them up.

The first rain barrel that was installed last year was moved into the garden directly below where it had been attached and a 50 gallon Rubbermaid garbage can that we found in someone’s trash was put on the patio.


Once the yellow can fills, the overflow goes into the can in the garden.

In all we now have the ability to collect 178 gallons of water with still room for expansion.

Now this is all well and good, but there is one catch to this wonderful rain harvesting system — it has to rain in order to use it!!!!

We installed all the new rain barrels at the beginning of June and since then we have not had enough rain to fill one rain barrel even half-way, let alone five. It has been very frustrating. Then, last night while we slept it happened! You got it — IT FINALLY RAINED. And we’re not talking just a passing shower. No, we got enough rain to fill every one of our rain barrels.

DSCF5135 DSCF5136

I didn't take a picture of the other two full barrels, but they get filled before this one. Trust me, they are all full.

I didn’t take a picture of the other two full barrels, but they get filled before this one. Trust me, they are all full.

Success! And now we are really getting ambitious. Hubby doesn’t like the fact that I plan on just using my watering can to empty the barrels. It doesn’t bother me to walk back and forth, and in fact it would be a great way to workout my biceps, but Hubby has bigger ideas. He wants to invest in a pump that we would place in the full rain barrels and then attach to our hose and use it to water the gardens that way. It would be about a $60 investment, with coupons, and would save me a lot of time and he thinks aggravation.

I’m still not completely sold on the idea, probably because I haven’t had the joy of emptying all five barrels yet, but it is an option. For now, I am excited to have all my rain barrels full, the garden presently drenched with rain water, and a day off of watering, and for this I am — Simply Grateful.

9 thoughts on “Rainwater Harvesting – Rain Barrel Crazy

  1. Good to see your success with rain harvest!


  2. good for you. Water collecting and conservation will become more critical as heat and droughts seem to be spreading across the US.
    I posted sometime back on the same subject. You may or may not find this post useful.
    Happy Gardening


    • What a great post. I checked out the drip irrigation and can definitely see something like that in my future. Let’s see, every week someone throws out an old garden hose so already I’ve got one part covered, now I just need a few more things and Hubby’s got himself a new project. Thanks for the information.


  3. Pingback: Surest Way To Make Sure It Doesn’t Rain | Simply Grateful Housewife

  4. I was ready to make a rainwater collection system this summer but, in my part of Michigan, we haven’t had rain! But I’m definitely going to revisit this post when we do start creating our system! Thanks!


    • We hadn’t had any until two days ago and now we’ve had two days of it. Makes me wish I’d hooked up more rain barrels. Oh well, Sunday is garbage night so Hubby and I might get lucky and find a few more garbage cans to connect.


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