rain barrel near a house
Photo: John Glover/ Garden Picture Library
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2. Hook Up a Handsome Rain Barrel

Why Now: Harvesting spring rains means you'll be ready to water the garden come summer's first dry spell. New, faux terra-cotta barrels, such as the 65-gallon Cascata with a built-in planter and brass spigot (about $199; homedepot.com), are also an attractive addition to the yard.

How To Do It: Select a downspout that's close to where you'll need extra water, like near a planted bed. Level the ground where the barrel will sit, and set a cinder-block foundation to elevate it about 8 to 15 inches so that gravity can help drain it. Use a hacksaw to cut the downspout 6 to 9 inches above the top of the barrel, and reinstall the bottom elbow. If the barrel has a screened top, orient the elbow so that water flows into the center of the lid. If the barrel has a diverter, use a flex tube to extend the downspout into the diverter.

The Payoff: About 1,300 gallons of water during peak summer months.
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