A blog about the restoration, remodel and renovation of a 1929 Chicago-style brick bungalow

Barrels o’ Rain

When we planted our arborvitae recently, we discovered that the PO had the downspout from the house attached to plastic tubing which is buried under the grass and empties out to the alley. Tsk, tsk. That’s going to change.

Thanks to a post I read a while back at Our Tiny Oak Park Bungalow, I discovered that local residents can purchase discounted rain barrels from the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District. We immediately bought two (back in February when we were still buried in snow) and picked them up at the plant in Skokie.

Originally we were going to set up one by the garage and the other at one corner of the house closest to the garden, but I wonder if it’d be better to connect them and place them both by the house? I have no idea how quickly these will fill, so we’ll probably need to make adjustments in the future. If we build a raised vegetable garden next year, then a rain barrel or two by the garage would make a lot of sense.

As another part of our effort to reduce runoff I’ve also been collecting articles and information on Rain Gardens. Wisconsin’s Department of Natural Resources has a downloadable pdf on the subject, for one. Another great resource is the web site of local landscape architect Marcus de la Fleur, who was recently featured on NPR. (The time-lapse of the prairie burn on his site is especially cool!)

Many of the native prairie species that we’ll be planting are ideal for rain gardens. Our neighbor already has a downspout directed away from their house and toward our property line (but not in a bad way), so we’ll likely focus our rain garden efforts there. We really don’t get standing water in our yard nor has our basement ever flooded (knock wood), so I don’t know if we really need to dig much of a depression. After all the digging we’ve done for the patio, I really don’t want to think about digging more for the garden.

That will have to wait anyway since we have our hands full right now with our patio. However we can at least take this first step by setting up the rain barrels and using them to water our newly-planted shrubs.


  1. jenni on April 29, 2008 at 8:51 pm

    I have been thinking about Rain Barrels so this post really caught my attention. We have a big blue barrel that Chris found on the side of the road. (He is always picking up something.) I think I could turn it into a rain barrel.

  2. Jennifer on April 29, 2008 at 9:58 pm

    We’ve also been thinking of getting rainbarrels… I have the perfect spot, and have been searching for the perfect barrel. The only catch? No gutters. 🙂 Not sure I want to go there… the house (and the house next door on either side) has never had them, except across the front porch.

  3. denise on April 30, 2008 at 9:33 am

    Jenni—definitely check out Marcus de la Fleur’s website. He used barrels that he got from somewhere and he has an info sheet on the plumbing needed.
    Jennifer—I wonder if you can hook up something like a rain chain to divert the water into the barrel? I’m sure it’ll take longer to fill than having gutters, but might be worth trying!

Leave a Comment