Winterizing your rain barrel
Now that its getting cold out and your garden is going dormant, it's time to winterize your rain barrel. You don't want the water in it to freeze and expand!
Start by draining your rain barrel. Be careful as a full rain barrel is heavy, a gallon of water weighs more than 8 lbs., so a full rain barrel can weigh over 400 lbs.
Disconnect it from your downspout, so that it can't fill and freeze. If your downspout convertor leaves a hole when disconnected, attach the winter cap to cover the hole.
Once empty, I usually take this time to clean out the inside of my rain barrel. I know I'll be too lazy come Spring. Add ¼ of a cup of distilled vinegar to a gallon of warm water with a teaspoon of a mild dishwashing detergent. Pour the solution into the rain barrel and swish it around with a mop or brush. Rinse it clean with water. This diluted solution is safe to empty onto your lawn.
Once clean and empty, you can store it for winter. Some people bring them into their garage or shed. I typically leave mine in place, with the spigot remaining open. I do place my downspout convertor and hose in my shed for safe-keeping. If your rain barrel is open, or open and screened on top, simply store it upside down so that it can't fill.
It is recommended to clean and maintain your gutters and downspouts by removing leaves and debris that can clog up gutters and rain barrels. This will leave an open pathway for rain to flow through during the winter thaw, and will make for quick and efficient rain barrel setup come springtime.
Finally, make sure the splash guard is in place at the end of your downspout. You want to make sure the water is directed away from your foundation.
Throughout the winter months is a great opportunity to assess your yard and home. Is there anywhere else it would make sense to add another rain barrel? Or, could you daisy-chain barrels together to increase your water storage? Is there somewhere you can develop a rain garden to further increase rain water storage on your property? A rain garden is a planted depression that is designed to capture rain water from a roof, driveway, or other impervious surface. The garden allows water to slowly sink into the ground instead of rushing off our property and into the creeks. Rain barrels and rain gardens, by capturing this stormwater, help reduce flooding and pollution in and around our creeks.