Answering Emails: Saving rain water

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Delighted so many of you are interested in saving rain water for your gardens. The following are some of your comments and questions. Please share what you decide to do.

“….I can’t wait to try this in my garden but I don’t want to spend a lot… I don’t have room for those big water totes. Is there something else I can use?” – Paul

Charlotte: Start with plastic, unused paint buckets with lids left out during rainy days. The lids will make it easy to save rain for later use and help you gauge how much water you put to good use. As with most new things, there is a discipline and routine associated with gathering, and using, rain water in your garden so start small to get the hang of it.

You can also re-use plastic barrels, just make sure the original product can be easily washed out. Easily add a spigot to the paint buckets and barrels and you will have your own small, homemade rain barrels ready for use.

“…I’m confused, how do I use an old bird bath to save rain water?” – Christine

Charlotte: Sorry, should have included a photo and better description. I started with a broken bird bath fountain with a round, barrel bottom placed under a gutter. I still use it to collect rain water at the front of my house so I can easily water potted plants. Make sure to use it up quickly, you don’t want standing water to invite mosquito larvae. Mine usually lasts about 3 days.

“Love, love, LOVE this idea. I agree, rain water is second to none when it comes to plants. Where did you get the white pipe that hooks up to your rain barrel?” –Steve

Charlotte: The flexible, white plastic tube is part of a kit from, an invention of Enginuity, LLC, a family-owned manufacturing company out of Mansfield, MO. Each kit per rain barrel has everything you need to install and runs $35-$40 each depending on where you buy them. It is very important to get the level of the diverter installed correctly on the downspout for the kind of rain barrel you are using to read the instructions carefully. Closed barrels require the diverter to be lower, open barrels need the diverter on the downspout to be even with the top of the barrel. If in doubt, email photos to the company, they offer excellent customer service.

“I have a small lot….no room to add a rain barrel. Is there another way to save rain water?” – Frank

Charlotte: Enginuity offers an interesting “build a barrel” system. The design reminds me of large “Lego” building blocks so you can imagine the range of designs you could make with them. I haven’t used them so I cannot attest to how well they work, but I would be tempted if I had a small space. I could see using the blocks as a small garden wall.

Charlotte Ekker Wiggins (hyperlink to is a certified gardener (hyperlink to and beekeeper (hyperlink to Copyright 2016 used with permission, all rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed. Contact Charlotte at


REPURPOSED BIRD BATH – This is the broken bird bath and fountain I now use as a small rain barrel at the front of my house. The deep bottom saves enough rain water for my potted plants for about three days. If I don’t use it up in that time, I scoop out the remainder and water the nearby garden. Standing water can invite mosquito larvae.


CATCH WHAT YOU WANT  – These barrels at a beekeeper’s friend’s house are repurposed into rain barrels with the gutter attachment system. I like the system because when the barrels are full, they divert rain water back down the gutter. In my case, the rain water fills up a pond. (Photos by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins).

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