Learning how to collect rainwater in your garden is a fantastic eco-friendly way to keep your plants, flowers and vegetable crops well watered.
Conserving rainwater is totally free, plus it saves you money on your household water bill. But the benefits don't stop there: rainwater is particularly suited for your plants. Thanks to its unique pH, rainwater is much less acidic than water from the faucet, and has higher levels of nitrogen and oxygen which helps to boost growth. The tepid temperature of rainwater is also less of a shock for plant roots than hose water.
There are plenty of different methods for collecting rainwater, ranging from the quick and easy to the more labor-intensive and costly. We've put together some of the best to help inspire your own eco-friendly attitude when watering plants and crops in your backyard.
5 simple ways for how to collect rainwater for use in your garden
When gardeners think of rainwater, it'susually in terms of a free drenching in their backyard and not much else. But with a few tweaks to your pre-existing garden setup, you can retain a significant amount of your area's annual rainfall and reap the rainwater benefits for watering plants all year round.
1. Store rainwater in a rain barrel
Rain barrels, also known as water butts, are a classic DIY favorite that require little energy, forward planning or even much budget. With a rain barrel, you can easily collect water from your roof and the surrounding guttersby placing it either beneath your downspout or with a slight alteration made to your guttering or spout.
Placing a spigot at the base means you can easily access the required amount of water at the turn of a tap. Sealing a water butt helps with the prevention of leaf debris building up inside and keeps any insects out too.
Sealed rain barrels can heat up rather quickly though, especially in the hotter months, so you'll need to use the contained water regularly.Remember, the best time to water plants in the summer is either early in the morning or later in the evening when the strongest heat has dissipated.
2. Direct rainwater with a decorative rain chain
A wonderfully elegant way to direct water around your garden is via a rain chain. They need a vertical water source to work most effectively, and hang best from a roof, guttering or downspout and above a collecting receptacle, usually a barrel or bucket – but you can get as imaginative as you like.
Don't underestimate how much rain comes off your roof, either: it's important to use a container big enough to collect significant amounts of water!
3. Incorporate rainwater into a stunning water feature
For a low-maintenance way for how to collect rainwater, consider making a feature out of your containers, like this #knollingwithdaisies garden designed by Sue Kent (opens in new tab) at the RHS Hampton Court Flower Show in 2022.
The collected water travels down a metal channel into a series of troughs which, when seen all together, make an attractive water feature. The area around it is a 'wet area': a permeable area that will absorb any splashes.
Gardeners can dip their watering cans straight into the trough and use it to water their plants, making this just as functional as it is pretty.
You could consider teaming something like this with one of the best self-watering systems so that watering plants while you're away on vacation isn't an issue.
4. Make an underground irrigation system for heavy duty watering
For a large garden or more in-depth watering, investing in a storage tank can bea fantastic idea. Installed either above or below ground, this is a heavy-duty option that allows users to retain gallons of water to irrigate crops.
Cisterns and tanks like this come in a number of different sizes. When kept underground, there's much less chance of algae growth as the conditions are dark and cool –plus it's much less conspicuous.
5. Collect rainwater in a barrel for rustic charm
If you're a fan of rustic garden ideas, you can't go wrong with using old barrels to collect and contain your rainwater. Weather-beaten wood lends a certain aesthetic that has long stood the test of time –and further exposure outdoors only adds to the overall charm.
Make sure to place your barrel at close range to the drainage pipe. If it's too low, you can prop it up with slabs of paving or old bricks.
Why is it important to collect rainwater?
With droughts and hosepipe bans an expected part of each summer, it's becoming increasingly sensible to save water wherever we can.
The experts at Haws (opens in new tab) suggest tracking your water usage: 'The garden hose and garden sprinkler can use up to 1,000 litres of water per hour, so make the switch to a watering can– it will help you become more aware of how much water you’re actually using!
Some of their other garden water saving tips include, 'leaving the water you use to boil your veggies and potatoes in to cool so you can then sprinkle it over your plants. Also, pop your watering can in the shower or bath with you and let it fill up – it will save all that excess water from going down the drain.'
How big should a water butt be?
It can be easy to underestimate what sized water butt or rain barrel you need for collecting rainwater. Sean Lade, director of Easy Gardening Irrigation (opens in new tab), says the mistake many folks make is not buying a large enough water butt.
'During dry spells, when you want to water the garden, you aren’t replenishing the supply of water and you are going to be using more water to keep plants happy. Over a period of just a few days during a hot dry spell, you can quickly use up all the water you have collected if you only have a small water butt.'
'My suggestion is to buy a water butt with a minimum capacity of 100 litres for terrace/small gardens, 200+ litres for small-medium sized gardens and 500+ litres for large gardens. However, the bigger the better in my opinion. Whatever you have space for.'
Tom Hilton, director of hydroponics specialists National Greenhouse (opens in new tab) agrees. Once your water butt has collected plenty of water, he tells us: 'You should then transport it to a secure container with a lid for storage to avoid contamination, and replenish your plants when they need it, especially during the warmer months.
'If you’re collecting and storing rainwater during the winter months, make sure to fill containers up by three quarters to account for freezing expansion.'
How long can water sit in a rain barrel without smelling?
Most rainfall will be collected in the winter, then stored for use on your kitchen garden, flower beds and garden planters throughout the summer –which means there's a danger of stagnant or foul-smelling water if it's left too long.
To avoid this, try to use the collected water as regularly as possible, and aim to empty it completely each month.
Keep a tight fitting lid on your water container to prevent leaves and other organic debris from getting inside, and to discourage insects from entering. This will also help delay any buildup of algae which contributes to the smell.
How can you collect rain water and reuse it? ›
To collect as much of the rainwater as possible, install a larger tank or connect several rain barrels together so that the overflow from a full barrel can be routed into empty barrels. An overflow outlet at the top of the barrel can be designed to channel the excess water when the barrel is full.How do I collect rain water to my lawn? ›
The easiest way to utilize the harvested rainwater is to attach a water hose at the base of the container and attach a sprinkler, drip/soaker hose, or other attachment to the hose. A timer can also be attached to automate the lawn watering.What is the best method to collect rainwater? ›
- Using gutter systems on a house. This is the most common way to collect rainwater. ...
- Using a balcony. Using a balcony to collect rainwater can be very effective. ...
- Using windows. By collecting rainwater at your window, you can still collect enough to water your indoor plants.
Catchment- Used to collect and store the captured rainwater. Conveyance system – It is used to transport the harvested water from the catchment to the recharge zone. Flush- It is used to flush out the first spell of rain. Filter – Used for filtering the collected rainwater and removing pollutants.Can we collect the rainwater and use it later? ›
The method of collecting and storing rainwater for later use, rather than allowing it to run off is called rainwater harvesting. Q. Statement 1: Rainwater harvesting is the technique of collecting rainwater and storing it for future use.What is the best way to water your yard? ›
An in-ground irrigation system with pop-up sprinkler heads is best way to water lawns. The timer automatically waters the lawn at preset times and delivers a precise amount of water for your particular lawn.How do you collect rain water naturally? ›
You could collect rain water naturally simply by using things you already have around your home like buckets, a child's swimming pool, watering cans, etc. Simply allow them to fill up with the rain water and use the water within a short amount of time.What is the easiest method of rainwater harvesting? ›
This is the easiest and cheapest method of rainwater harvesting, especially for homes. In this method, barrels or water tanks are installed below the downspouts of a rooftop guttering system. The water is then funneled or directed into the tanks.
It is better to collect rainwater in ponds or artificial lakes as,it will take a lot of time to recharge the groundwater . It is a faster process , lot of water is collected in ponds and lakes as it rains for a long time.What are the 8 rainwater harvesting? ›
Rain water harvesting is collection and storage of rain water that runs off from roof tops, parks, roads, open grounds, etc. This water run off can be either stored or recharged into the ground water.
How many methods of rain water harvesting are there? ›
There are three methods of harvesting rain water as given below: Storing rain water in collection tanks. Recharging ground water aquifers, from roof top run off (Fig.How many methods there can be to collect rainwater? ›
Rainwater is collected from a roof-like surface and redirected to a tank, cistern, deep pit (well, shaft, or borehole), aquifer, or a reservoir with percolation, so that it seeps down and restores the ground water. Dew and fog can also be collected with nets or other tools.What is rainwater harvesting 5? ›
It is a method that involves the collection and storage of rainwater for further use. Usually, rainwater will be collected from rooftops and stored in tanks. Water can also be collected from other surfaces like parking lots, driveways, and land surfaces.What are the five traditional water harvesting system? ›
Some examples of traditional rainwater harvesting include qanats, contour-bench terracing, spate irrigation, khuskhaba system, rooftop rainfall collection and cisterns.How is rainwater harvested step by step? ›
- Collecting & transporting rainwater. This is done through catchment areas & conduits. ...
- Filtration. ...
- Storage in tanks for reuse / Recharging the groundwater levels.
By directing the water towards a barrel one can store the rain water and use it for future purposes. A rain barrel can be easily made with everyday household items. An old drum, bucket can be used as a storage unit. It can be linked to a pipe fitted from rooftop to collect rainwater.How do you store rainwater for future use? ›
This method is the most common and one that many people are familiar with. This involves installing a barrel at a gutter downspout to collect rainwater. The actual barrel may be a recycled barrel or a new commercially available rain barrel.
Mulch around your garden beds, trees and shrubs with bark mulch, compost or wood chips. The mulch will help trap the rainwater in absorbent areas, where it won't puddle and stagnate (see References 3).What is the most efficient yard watering system? ›
Permanent irrigation systems are the most efficient and convenient method available for watering lawns. They're also the most expensive obviously. No bulky hoses to lug around.Is it better to hand water or use a sprinkler? ›
No water is wasted.
Sprinklers water the garden pathways just the same as the beds. With hand watering, the pathways remain dry. This suppresses pathway weeds – they will be less vigorous and provide less cover for slugs and insect pests. Although hand watering helps conserve water, it is not the most efficient method.
How long should I run my sprinklers per zone? ›
Water Thoroughly: Rotor zones should run for about 30-40 minutes per zone and spray zones 10-15 minutes per zone.How long can I keep rainwater? ›
Summary. Rainwater can be stored indefinitely if you have the right systems in place to ensure the water is safe for drinking once it leaves the tank and into your water system.Can I drink rain water if I boil it? ›
Prevent illness. To lower your risk of getting sick, consider using rainwater only for uses such as watering plants that you don't eat or washing items that are not used for cooking or eating. Avoid using rainwater for drinking, cooking, brushing your teeth, or rinsing or watering plants that you intend to eat.What is the best filter for rainwater? ›
Polypropylene & ceramic cartridge type filters can effectively treat water by removing sediment and bacteria, but will not remove viruses Activated carbon filters are most effective in removing and/or reducing chemicals such as iron and hydrogen sulphide, objectionable tastes, odours and colour, but will not remove ...How many minutes should I water my lawn? ›
The ideal watering schedule is once or twice per week, for about 25 to 30 minutes each time. Taking care of a lawn doesn't have to be an overwhelming, all-consuming task.How many inches of grass do you need to water? ›
The amount of water you need is generally 1 to 1.5 inches per week, but it can vary depending on your grass type, the climate you live in, your soil type, and the age of your lawn. In general, you want the top 6-8 inches of soil to be moist, but not soggy—which translates to 1 to 1.5 inches per week.How long to run sprinkler for 1 inch of water? ›
Most oscillating sprinklers will put off about one inch of water an hour. That would mean that you would need to water your lawn for one hour, once a week (twice weekly in periods of extreme drought). For less established lawns, you may need to increase the frequency as your lawn's root system becomes more robust.What are the 5 ways to save water? ›
- Check your toilet for leaks. ...
- Stop using your toilet as an ashtray or wastebasket. ...
- Put a plastic bottle in your toilet tank. ...
- Take shorter showers. ...
- Install water-saving shower heads or flow restrictors. ...
- Take baths.
- Never use your toilet as a waste basket.
- Do not let the water run while shaving or brushing teeth.
- Take short showers instead of tub baths. ...
- If you must use a tub, close the drain before turning on the water and fill the tub only half full.
Reduces Flooding and Erosion
For starters, it can reduce erosion around downspouts and in gardens. It can also control stormwater runoff. Rainwater doesn't produce scale and corrosion as hard water does. The collection of rainwater may reduce flooding in certain areas as well.
How do you make harvested rainwater drinkable? ›
The most common treatment technologies to purify rainwater include chlorination, ultraviolet (UV) radiation, ozonation, microfiltration and ultra filtration. When collected rainwater undergoes any of these processes then it is safe for potable purpose.How did people save rain water in olden days? ›
In ancient times, houses in parts of western Rajasthan were built so that each had a rooftop water harvesting system. Rainwater from these rooftops was directed into underground tanks. This system can be seen even today in all the forts, palaces and houses of the region.How do farmers save rainwater? ›
Rooftop collection systems for small scale agriculture: Rooftop collection systems are common, taking advantage of drainage & gutter systems. Metal roofs are perfect for rainwater collection. They are easy to keep clean & maintain a high level of rainwater quality.How can we save rain water answer? ›
Rainwater harvesting is the accumulation and storage of rainwater for reuse on-site than allowing it to run off. Rainwater can be collected from rivers or roofs. The harvested water can also be used as drinking water, longer-term storage, and for other purposes such as groundwater recharge.Is it illegal to save rainwater in America? ›
In the majority of cases, the answer is no. Out of the lower 48 states in the US, only two, Colorado and Utah have restrictions in place when it comes to harvesting rainwater.Can you store and drink rain water? ›
Prevent illness. To lower your risk of getting sick, consider using rainwater only for uses such as watering plants that you don't eat or washing items that are not used for cooking or eating. Avoid using rainwater for drinking, cooking, brushing your teeth, or rinsing or watering plants that you intend to eat.