How To DIY An Eco-Friendly Rain Barrel and Compost Bin

Hello friends, did you know that June 5th is World Environment Day? I'm embarrassed to admit that I didn't until learning it was the theme for this month's Int'l Bloggers Club challenge. I hemmed and hawed on what DIY project I could make for this theme and then realized, "wait a minute, I've already made it" but never shared it on the blog. This was the perfect opportunity to show you how we set up an eco-friendly rain barrel and compost bin system at the side of our house. Plus it was a great excuse to spruce it up wash the crud and dust off the barrels and pick the organic weed crop growing around it. I even painted the spigot on the rain barrel so it looked all pretty again.

DIY Eco-Friendly Rainwater Collection and Compost-System

Eco-Friendly DIY Rain Barrel and Compost Bin

The rich compost soil not only helps reduce landfill waste but feeds our raised garden beds with all kinds of wonderful organic matter, reducing the need for chemical fertilizer. The rain barrel keeps our bedding plants watered with fresh clean rainwater all summer long. What's even better about this eco-friendly backyard system is that it cost us next to nothing to make and I'll show you how.

Backyard Garden Composting

Links to my talented Int'l Blogging Club friend's Word Environment Day projects are at the bottom of the post. Last month for our black & white challenge I upcycled a handmade stacking keepsake box to use as a desk organizer in my home office makeover on a $400 budget.

If you haven't heard of our Int'l Bloggers Club, we are a group of blogging friends from around the world who come together on the third Monday of every month to share a themed DIY project. We have members from Spain, South Africa, Australia, the United States, and Canada. I'm from a hamlet east of Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, just a 4-5 hour jaunt from the Canadian Rockies.

DIY Eco-Friendly Water Barrel and Compost Bin

What is World Environment Day? Well, the first one was held in 1974 with the theme being Only One Earth. WED is celebrated every year on June 5th in more than 143 countries. The purpose is to encourage worldwide awareness and calls to action to protect our environment and the theme for WED 2020 is The Mighty Earth: Biodiversity.

Biodiversity meaning All variety of life that can be found on earth like plants, animals, fungi, and micro-organisms. I think my compost bin and rain barrel system qualifies! So let's begin with the rain barrel and how we set it up.

This post contains affiliate links so you can see what products I used or recommend for these eco-friendly projects. As an Amazon Associate, I earn a small commission from qualifying purchases at no extra cost to you.

DIY Rainwater Collection

DIY Rain Barrel

You may be wondering about the elaborate downspout system we have going (pictured above). The reason why is because we couldn't put the rain barrel against the house because of the "secret" gate beside the front gutter and a garden shed beside the back gutter. Ultimately, the best spot for a rain barrel is against the house near a downspout but we'll talk more about that further down in the post.

We got our reclaimed 50-gallon plastic water barrel for free and it used to be an industrial distilled water storage container. If you are going to use a reclaimed barrel, make sure it once contained food-grade, non-toxic liquids only.

Spigot installation

The first thing you'll need to do is attach a rain barrel spigot kit to the barrel. To do this, drill a hole in the barrel a few inches from the bottom with a hole cutting bit the same diameter as the water barrel spigot. We wrapped the thread of the spigot with plumbing sealing tape and screwed the valve into the barrel.

DIY Rain Barrel Spigot Installation

Rain Barrel Platform

You want to raise the rain barrel so you can fit a watering can under the spigot. We used a reclaimed oak pallet for our platform, however, you could use concrete blocks, stones, or heavy lumber like landscape ties, old fence posts, old railroad ties OR there are readymade rain barrel platforms available too. Whatever you use it needs to hold the weight of a full barrel. For example, a 50-gallon barrel will weigh 420 lbs when filled with water.

Set the rain barrel onto the platform and next, we'll install the water overflow pipe. In case you're wondering about the beat-up vintage galvanized watering can, it used to be my Mom's. I don't use it, it's just for show and I usually plant flowers in it.

DIY Reclaimed Pallet Rain Barrel Platform

Water overflow pipe installation

For the water overflow valve, we used a 2-inch PVC pipe almost as long as the height of the barrel. You need to use a 2-inch hole cutting bit and drill a hole a few inches from the top of the barrel.

Next, attach an elbow to the PVC pipe then cut a short piece to place on the opposite end of the elbow that will get fed through the hole. Attach a PVC plumbing coupling on the inside onto the short piece to hold the entire unit in place. The overflow pipe will face down towards the ground. I should point out that all the PVC pipe joints were secured with PVC glue. Use silicone to seal around the pipe on the inside and outside of the barrel so no water can escape.

Place a gutter splash block underneath the overflow pipe to direct the water away from the house and wait for Mother Nature to fill your rain barrel.

You can hook up a garden hose to the spigot if it's more convenient but don't expect it to come pouring out like a regular house tap.

DIY Rain Barrel System

Downspout connection

You need to configure your downspout to reach the top of the barrel. You may need elbows to adjust the configuration, depending on the position of the barrel. The easiest placement is putting the rain barrel as close to the downspout as possible. Wherever the downspout comes in contact with the lid, trace the end onto the lid and cut a hole with a jigsaw. Place the downspout into the hole.

Recycled 50 Gallon Rain Water Collection Barrel

How to deal with debris collecting in the rain barrel

You will get debris from the downspouts and there are a couple of ways to deal with it.
  1. You can purchase a rain barrel diverter kit that attaches to the end of the downspout and filters out the debris. Please note, this system will require a different connection to the rain barrel. 
  2. OR you can do what we do and every so often, open the lid and scoop out the debris. 

How to winter the rain barrel

If you live in a climate that gets below freezing during the winter, it's important you winterize your rain barrel in the late fall before the first heavy frost. There are just a couple of things you need to do.
  1. Empty the water from the barrel. This is a great opportunity to water in cedars and evergreens for the winter.
  2. While the barrel is empty, it's a good time to wash it out with a hose or power washer.
  3. Keep the spigot in the open position so water doesn't collect inside the barrel during the winter freeze/thaw.

Enjoy your new rain barrel, your flowers are going to love it! Now let's move onto the compost bin and how to set it up and maintain it.

How To Set Up A Compost Bin

What I love most about our compost bin is that we're helping reduce landfill waste. It's also a great way to ensure our garden has rich nutrient soil readily available without the use of chemical fertilizers. Check with your local municipality to see if they have a compost bin program because you may be able to get a bin for free like we did. If not, I found some alternative outdoor compost bins.

Organic Garden Compost Bin

Food waste collection tip

We keep a stainless steel compost bucket (pictured above) under the kitchen sink to collect food waste, coffee grounds, eggshells, used paper towels, and napkins. It has a replaceable filter in the lid so it does not smell and there are many styles available plus replacement filters.

What should go into a compost bin 

Green Waste

Food scraps
Coffee grounds

Brown Waste

Paper napkins/paper towels
Plant clippings
Lawn clippings
Wood Saw Dust

What NOT to put in a compost bin

Dairy scraps
Dog, cat or human feces
Diseased plant clippings
Chemically fertilized lawn clippings

How to start a compost bin

  • Layer compost waste in a 1:2 or 1:3 green/brown ratio.
  • If you have more green waste than brown the compost will stink.
  • Start with a brown layer 4-6 inches thick.
  • Water a little to moisten the layers to help the decomposition process.
  • Scatter a little soil between layers to add more organisms.

How to maintain a compost bin

  • Turn the compost pile with a compost aerator (ours came with the bin) once a week to keep the compost well aerated.
  • It's important to keep the compost moist by adding water.  
  • Your compost should be hot and steamy when you open the lid.
  • You should have fresh rich nutrient soil within two months.

It's like Christmas morning when you open the bottom door of the compost bin to find the gift of beautiful dark rich soil just waiting to enrich your garden and flower beds.

Unfortunately, I had just emptied the most enriched soil when tilling the soil in my raised garden beds just a few weeks prior to deciding to write this post for World Environment Day. There was a little composted soil left at the bottom (pictured below) but not as enriched as the first batch. Hopefully, the latest brew will be ready in about a month. 

Backyard Compost Barrel Soil

If you have any questions about either our rain barrel system or compost bin, please leave them in the comment section below or the Contact Me tab at the top. I love hearing from you!

If you enjoyed this eco-friendly backyard compost and rainwater collection idea, I'd be so thankful if you shared it with a friend and pinned it to your Eco-Friendly Ideas or DIY Backyard Ideas board on Pinterest.

How To DIY A Backyard Rainwater Barrel

How To Set Up A Backyard Compost Bin

Now let's go see what my talented friend's made for our world environment day challenge by clicking each link below.

Int'l Bloggers Club World Environment Day Challenge
  1. A Crafty Mix
  2. Northern Feeling
  3. Raggedy Bits
  4. Unique Creations By Anita
  5. Interior Frugalista (that's me)

I share my projects at these inspiring link parties.



  1. Your compost bin and rain barrel system most definitely qualifies for world environment day Marie. Snd I'm so envious. We have a big compost heap that's been making all kinds of yumminess for the garden for years but I've always wanted a rain barrel system to help our garden out when we have water restrictions. Sadly we stay in a thatch roof house so it just doesn't work. Hey but a girl can dream and I'm going to figure something out one day. In the meantime I'll just perv over yours ;-)

    1. I love that you live in a thatched roof home, Michelle. Being a Canadian girl it sounds so exotic. You could totally have a rain barrel without the downspouts. You just need to cut a hole on the top of a barrel and add a screen of some kind to collect the debris. If you press the water barrel link in the post, it takes you to other alternatives that would work for you. With your DIY savvy you could make a DIY version for your backyard. Your plants will love you for it!

  2. What a great project and so environmently friendly. I have never thought seriously about putting a system like this in. I think I am a hero just watering my garden from the greywater from my washing machine.๐Ÿคฃ The compost bin could be tricky because I dont like veggies but I do have a huge amount of wood shaving that I need to get rid of. Will it work to add them to my grass cutting? I also like that your system looks so neat and tidy. Well done. ๐Ÿ‘๐Ÿ‘

    1. I'm impressed that you take the effort to reuse the greywater in your washing machine to water plants, Anita! I'm so glad you mentioned wood shavings because I completely forgot to add that to the brown waste list. It's been added now. As long as they are added in layers WITH green (food) waste it's perfectly fine. You NEED green layers (so if you don't eat veggies then fruit peels or over ripe fruit) plus the others on the list.

  3. Wow what an awesome set up you have there Marie!! Where we live we are on tank water but have been wanted to add something to water our garden with without taking from the water from the main tank. I think you may have just solved our problem! Thank you!

    1. Awesome, Sam! A rainwater collection system sounds like a great choice for watering a garden and flower beds then. I know it can be pricey having water hauled for the water tank system.

  4. These are brilliant ideas to use compost material and rainwater to care for your garden. When we setup the rain barrel we placed it on the ground. I wish I had read your advice on placing it on a stand first.
    Have a beautiful summer,

    1. Thanks so much, we love our little eco-friendly gardening system. It's not too late for you to raise your rain barrel when it's empty at the end of the season. You'll be glad you did. Have a beautiful summer back to you, Kippi!

  5. This is super duper! I am saving to pinterest! Visiting from Kathrines!

  6. Thanks for the visit and the pin, Susan ๐Ÿ˜€

  7. Hello Marie, I love your set-up! Living in eco-concious Germany, we've always had a composte system going but it was only when we built our house that we were able to set up a water barrel too. I know my plants benefit more from being watered with natural rainwater rather than our very hard tap water. Your International Blogging club sounds like fun - such great projects!

    1. I LOVE Germany! I visited for the first time a few years ago and absolutely loved every second I spent there. One of the things I admired most was your eco-conscious way of living. It is on my bucket list to return one day ๐Ÿ˜€

  8. Thank you for sharing at #OverTheMoon. Pinned and shared. Have a lovely week. I hope to see you at next week’s party too! Please stay safe and healthy. Come party with us at Over The Moon! Catapult your content Over The Moon! @marilyn_lesniak @EclecticRedBarn

    1. Always appreciate your visits, shares, and pins Marilyn! xo

  9. Such great information. Thanks for sharing with us at Charming Homes & gardens Link Party.

  10. Love this, I'll be sharing it on my blog, Facebook and Twitter when the next To Grandma's house we go link party starts. Thanks for sharing with us!

    1. Woot woot, thank you so much for the feature, Tarahlynn! See you at the next party ๐Ÿ˜€

  11. So excited to feature your post on this weeks Charming Homes & gardens Link Party. Look for your feature on Wednesday.

    1. Thank you very much, Rachel, you made my day! See you on Wednesday ๐Ÿ˜ƒ

  12. I learned so much from you on this post. Thank you! So glad you shared this with the Charming Homes and Gardens Link Party!

    1. I'm so glad you found this post helpful, Kim! Your comment made my day ๐Ÿ˜€

  13. So well written and thoughtful--thank you, Marie. I am a hopeless gardener and need all the the help and hand holding I can get. Found you at the Charming Homes & Gardens party and so happy to discover the inspiration. :)

    1. Thank you so much, Michele, for popping over from the Charming Homes party to visit! I'm so glad you found my eco-friendly gardening system informative. Welcome ๐Ÿ˜Š


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