The Benefits of Rain Barrels and Rain Gardens

The Benefits of Rain Barrels and Rain Gardens

Whether you’re looking for an easy way to go green and do your part to protect the environment or you simply want to save a little money all year long, setting up a rain barrel or creating a rain garden on your property will help you to do both.

The Benefits of Rain Barrels & Rain Gardens


By collecting rainwater that falls from the sky and storing it in a tank for later use, you can minimize the amount of water you use from your hose or faucet when watering flowers or the fruits and veggies in your garden. The average rain barrel saves homeowners more than 1,000 gallons of water per year—which translates to savings of up to $50 each month. You’ll also prevent rainwater from flowing down your driveway and into the street, where it collects an assortment of fertilizers, oil and pesticides that ultimately end up in rivers, sounds and oceans, causing harm to the wildlife that call these areas home.

Photo: This Old House

The benefits of rain gardens are similar to those of rain barrels—they also prevent runoff from your property from ending up in area waterways—but this type of rain collection is also a great way to redirect water in your yard to one designated spot, which can relieve flooding issues. In addition to helping to minimize flooding and preventing runoff, rain gardens also offer homeowners a way to conserve water and create a new habitat on their property for wildlife ranging from birds and butterflies to frogs and beneficial insects.  

Types of Rain Barrels

Photo: The Watershed Council

Rain barrels come in a wide array of shapes, sizes and styles, so no matter what your budget or space may be, you’re sure to find the perfect one to fit your needs. Rain barrels are typically made of plastic, and the most common varieties hold around 50 gallons of water that flows off your roof and through downspouts—although bigger options are available and can hold more than 100 gallons once they are full. You can purchase a rain barrel at your local home improvement store—such as Lowe’s or Home Depot—and there is no shortage of options available from online retailers.

Photo: HGTV

Rain barrels are also typically composed of dark-colored plastic, as lighter colors allow sunlight to pass through the container and can result in the growth of algae inside the barrel. Purchasing a rain barrel with a lid is a must, as having a cover on the top of the barrel will keep out children and pets as well as prevent mosquitoes from breeding in the standing water.

Photo: Home Depot

Most rain barrels feature a small spigot, which is used to access the rainwater that is stored inside the unit. And if you’re concerned that a large plastic barrel on your property will harm your home’s curb appeal, fear not: numerous aesthetically pleasing rain barrel options are available—including varieties that boast a deep indention on the top that is designed to be used as a spot for planting flowers, herbs or a miniature vegetable garden.

What is a Rain Garden?

Photo: North Londonberry Township

If your property is prone to flooding or you simply want to help filter runoff and recharge the groundwater supply, building a rain garden in your yard is an easy and inexpensive way to solve all of these issues and then some. Chances are, you drive past several rain gardens in both urban and suburban areas every day and don’t even realize it. Rain gardens are defined as a shallow depression in the soil that contains an assortment of plants and grasses that are native to the region. The goal of a rain garden is to position the depression near a downspout, driveway or some other source of runoff to prevent the water that flows to that area after a rainstorm from continuing on its path and eventually reaching the sewer system or flowing into nearby streams, rivers, sounds or the ocean.

Photo: North Carolina Health News

How to Build a Rain Garden

To determine where on your property you should put a rain garden, wait until the next time a storm rolls in—and then scope out the area to see where the majority of rainwater is pooling up or where it leaves your property and pours into the street or sidewalk. Once you’ve found the spot where water runs to naturally, you can construct a rain garden in the same area to capture the pooling water and prevent it from flowing off your property.

Photo: Seattle Ocean Friendly Gardens Program

When choosing the types of vegetation for your rain garden, it’s important to keep in mind that rain gardens comprise three specific zones. Zone 1 is the centermost area within the rain garden, and because it contains water the majority of the time it should be filled with water-tolerant plants that can withstand standing water for long periods of time. Zone 2 is the middle ring within the rain garden and should be stocked with a mixture of plants that can tolerate standing water occasionally but are also capable of withstanding dry spells. Zone 3, the outer ring of the rain garden, should contain plants or grasses that don’t need much water to survive and thrive, as this zone is rarely full of water for any extended period of time.

Photo: Ocean County Soil Conservation District

By planting a rain garden on your property, you’ll not only enhance your home’s curb appeal—you’ll also help protect the environment by capturing rainwater before it can contribute to runoff and can cause issues for plants and animals within your region.

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