A water barrel is a common sight next to a shed. Had you ever thought about where the water goes as it drains from your roof and why using a traditional water storage barrel is such a good idea? Most of us see it go down the drain and figure that it is gone for good. It is, however, very taxing on the urban drainage system. It can overload the system in short order unless some of the load is removed. One of the ways that are now being encouraged as a means of reducing the load is the use of water barrels (also known as 'water butts' here in the UK). It helps the urban drains, but it can also be a boon to your garden too.
Water from the tap cab be very harsh on plants. It contains chemicals used to treat it for human use, it can also contain hard minerals (calcium etc.) which makes it 'hard' on garden plants. Rainwater is much better for plants in several ways. One way is that it does not contain any of the chemicals used in the tap water such as chlorine or fluorine. It is also considered "soft" in that it does not have the minerals that the treated water from the taps does. Rainwater is from "nature's watering can" and is very good for the plants (it is what they choose to drink naturally!). By collecting rainwater in a water butt you will have a way to give your garden the watering that it longs for on those hot summer days.
One thing to consider is how much rainwater you should collect in your water storage barrel. You will want to place the barrel in a spot where it is going to easily collect the water you need. In this vein you should consider the volume of water you will need. If you figure the area of the roof by which the barrel sits and multiply it by the average number of inches of rainfall your area receives in a year then you will have a rough idea of the amount of water that will be available. This will help you to decide whether one water storage barrel will do the trick or if you will need more.
The shed in the picture below looks like it has gone a bit over the top with the water storage, however on an allotment where there is no mains water it could be a very practical idea. Linking two or more barrels together is a good way of increasing storage if you need to.
Once you know how much storage you want then you must decide the type you are going to use. A 55 or 30 gallon water barrel are the typical sizes available and they come in a few different varieties including plastic, wooden, or galvanized metal. Once you have chosen the type of barrel that you prefer then you are almost ready to place it. The last thing you must do is to decide what method you are going to use to get water from the barrel. By mounting your water storage barrel on a stand you can drain the water into a watering can for easier use around the garden. You could also use a submersible or drill type pump to transport the water a distance using a garden hose ,but this does requires a source of electricity. (Note: Take great care when using electrical appliances close to water.)
In order to feed your barrel you will need to install a gutter system around the shed where you placed your water barrel. This will ensure that the maximum amount of water reaches the water barrel. It also helps the longevity of your shed. By installing the gutter system around the eaves you prevent water from falling on the ground around the base of the shed. This cuts down on the moisture at the shed base and can help to prevent the woodwork from rotting. This means that not only is collecting water in your barrel conducive to a healthy garden, it also means that your shed will last much longer.
Once you set up your first water storage barrel you will soon learn the benefits. If you have a small garden area then you can just use the one water barrel. If your garden area is very large then you could even consider connecting several water barrels together and increase your storage dramatically. Overflow from your water storage barrel (or barrels!) can be diverted into any close and absorbent flower bed.
Remember, by choosing to use a water barrel you are making an Earth friendly decision. Not only is it good for your plants and shed, it is good for the environment as well.