DIY Rain Barrels from Garbage Cans

You know what's better than making sure your garden has all the tasty water it can drink, thus ensuring giant lush plants? Why, doing all that and cutting your water bill in half too! Enter the rain barrel, one of the best garden ideas ever invented. Hook it up to your gutter, wait for rain, and then sit back and enjoy all that eco-friendly goodness.

The only problem is that have you seen the prices that they're asking for rain barrels these days? It's insane. And because I'm all cheap budget-friendly, I was like, "Forget that! I'm making my own". And since I love you, my dear Interpeeps, I'm going to share with you my surefire DIY recipe for making homemade rain barrels out of garbage cans.

Ohhhh yes. Hold on to your keyboards, Quirky fans! It's project time!

Quirky's Super Duper Budget-Friendly Rain Barrels

Gather the following provisions:
  • 32 gal rubber trashcan with lid (you can technically do any size you want with these, but I've found that the round ones hold their shapes the best, and 32 gallons gives you about two weeks of soaker-hose watering ability, so that's why I went with it).
  • Y connector with open/close valves
  • 3'-5' of 5/8" OD garden hose with male end connector
  • plumber's waterproof glue
  • screen (I used some left-overs from my screened-in porch)
  • 3/8" drill bit with drill
  • knife or other hose-cutting tool
  • 2 FHA cinder blocks
  • duct tape (optional)
  • twisty ties (optional, but recommended)
  1. First, cut the male connector part off of the hose. Get as close to the metal part as you can. (In case you aren't sure which is male and which is female, the male part has the screw threads visible. It screws into the female side. Your Y-connector should be female. You might want to check to make sure these two parts go together. They'll be partnering up in a minute). Once you've effectively separated the male from his, um, hose, snicker uncontrollably and dedicate that to feminists everywhere.

  2. Next, grab your drill and make a 3/8" hole in the side of the trashcan, as close to the bottom as you can get. Now take your newly castrated male connector, and stuff it through the hole in the barrel, screw threads on the outside. (Note, at this point, you're trying to stuff a 5/8" hose connector through a 3/8" hole, and you're thinking that I've completely lost it. Well keep stuffing. If you push hard enough, the rubber will give and the connector will go through the hole. This part has to be water-tight, so a snug fit is key. If it absolutely isn't budging, wallow the hole just a smidge with the drill bit.)

  3. Once you have the connector through the hole, go ahead and seal all around it with the plumber's glue, inside and out of the barrel. Remember, the name of the game is water-tight, so be liberal with the sealant. Set aside to dry.

  4. While that's simmering, turn your attention to the trashcan's lid. Now, if your lid is flat, you can put the lid on the normal way, or if it's domed, you can invert it. (I personally like inverting it because it does a better job of catching water, but the choice is yours). Either way, you need a screen in your lid to keep the debris out of your barrel. Cut a 6"x6" hole in the center of your lid. Take an 8"x8" square of window screen and glue it to the lid. (Hint: if you're inverting your lid like mine, be sure to glue the screen to the top of the lid. If your lid is flat, glue the screen to the bottom. I also like to reinforce the edges with duct tape so that the glue adheres better.)

  5. Now put your inverted lid on your trashcan and drill four evenly spaced holes through the rim of the lid and the lip of the can. Run your twisty ties through the holes and secure. This keeps raccoons, cats, neighborhood kids and other critters from pulling the lid off and falling in. If you have really pesky critters, you may want to go to something more deterrent than a twisty tie, but just remember that you will want to remove the lid from time to time, so make sure that you can still get it open.

  6. Take up that trusty drill again, and this time drill a hole in the side of the can that is up near the top. Make the hole even with or just below the screen filter. Stick the end of the 3'-5' hose through the hole. This is your overflow hose. If the water gets this high, the overflow hose will divert the water away, (or into a second rain barrel).

  7. By now, your glue should be dry, so screw the Y-connector (that's the female, remember) to the male part that you attached to the barrel. From there, you can attach your soaker and/or regular hoses for all of your watering needs.

  8. Last thing. Position your fancy new rain barrel under your gutter spout so that the water runs into the lid and down through the screen. Oh, and rain barrels work with gravity, so put your rain barrel on the two cement blocks (make sure they're level!) to increase water pressure to your hoses.
So that's it! One super-duper rain barrel that cost about $15 to make. I have several of them all over the place so that none of my flowers ever go thirsty. And let me tell you, it's made a HUGE difference with my tomatoes. Plus Tony likes it because I'm not running up the utility bill by watering all the time.
If you make one for yourself, let me know how it turns out!