5 Ways to Collect Water for Your Garden

By Colleen Vanderlinden, Planet Green

Conserving water is an important aspect of growing a “green” garden. The fewer resources we have to use, the better. And since water is an important part of most gardens (and also the most egregiously wasted — it drives me crazy to watch people put their sprinklers on and let the water all run down their driveway!) it’s a good idea to try to find alternative ways of watering than solely depending on tap water. Here are five that I’ve used for my own garden.

1. Rain Barrel
This is kind of a no-brainer, but I know that many people don’t have them because ready-made rain barrels can be pretty pricey. Luckily, there are very good instructions online for making your own, inexpensively:

2. Buckets Under Downspouts and Eaves
This is a good option for those who don’t want to go all out with a rain barrel, or who, for one reason or another, can’t have one where they live. If you’re an apartment dweller with a balcony or patio — you can use this tip, too. Simply set five gallon buckets or whichever watering cans you have under your downspouts, at the edges of roof eaves or overhangs, or just out in the open to collect the rain water. You won’t get as much as you would with a rain barrel, but some is better than none, right?

3. Kid-Size Swimming Pool
If you have kids and find yourself filling up a little pool for them to splash around in during hot weather, don’t just let that water flow out onto the lawn when you empty the pool! Use buckets or watering cans to get the water out, and use the water for your garden instead. Even if you don’t have kids, a small kid’s pool is another excellent way to capture rainwater as described in #2, above.

4. Buckets in the Shower
One of the easiest ways to capture water that would otherwise be wasted is to take a shower with a bucket or two. You’ll be surprised by how quickly the buckets fill (even if you do take short showers) and you can use the water for your houseplants or garden.

5. Cooking Water
If you’ve boiled a bunch of vegetables or pasta, don’t just pour that water down the drain when you’re done with it! Let it cool completely, then use it to water plants in your garden. It’s perfectly safe for them, and actually contains a bit of nutrition for your plants, especially if you’ve boiled vegetables.

These are just a few ways to gather otherwise “wasted” water and put it to use in your garden instead.

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Marie W.
Marie W.4 years ago

Rain barrels.

Pat W.
Pat W.4 years ago

I use empty milk jugs or vinegar jugs (which are sturdier) to use until the water gets hot to do the dishes (of which I have to do by the old fashioned way w/out a dishwasher). I then use the water for coffee or water my plants indoors or out.

Vero Gall
Past Member 5 years ago

Even if you can't use a rain barrel for roof run-off, they can be useful for storing the rain water and gray water from elsewhere. We have 2 that we use for cooking water, wasted water when waiting for the tap to heat up and for rain collected in other ways.

This summer we have started using cache pots to collect rain water. All my houseplants go outside in the summer & we've had a terribly rainy summer, so the cache pots are empty. They're pretty, so look good standing around the edge of the garden. Every few days to a week ( I told you we've had a very rainy summer), we empty them into the rain barrel.

If it ever stops raining and we need to use the rain water, the advantage to the rain barrel is that it has a cover (no mosquitoes or bad mold/algae) and it's compact. Some can be quite attractive too.

As someone else mentioned, a trashcan with a well-fitting lid could work. Make sure it's small enough you can reach the bottom with your watering can and/or pick it up to empty it out. That's assuming you don't live where I do and might actually reach the bottom one day. :-)

Denisszia Gerocz
Denisszia Gerocz5 years ago

It's so wonderfull to have a rain barrel. Ours is quite small, it can hold about 100 L of water, but the backyard is small too, so it's worth it. We can save up to 20% of water in the summer, which we would use on wateriing the plants in the garden.

Debbie L.
Debbie Lim5 years ago

Thanks for the tips! We're definitely living in a world where we need to save more and more water. Our water supplies are running low all over the world or they're just too polluted to drink.

Millie B.
Past Member 5 years ago

Brilliant article. I'd never thought about saving cooking water before. I use the water at the bottom of the tea pot (and the tea leaves) to water a potted plant or two, and you can use washing up water (if you don't have a dishwasher). I've never killed anything with soapy water so I assume it's not a problem!

Sophia Milkowski
Sophia Milkowski5 years ago

Cool ideas. I just worry about acid rain..

Mary R.
Mary Robert5 years ago

Veggie cooking water can be stored in a glass jar in the frig for up to a week & used as the water in a soup or stew. Fill an ice-cube tray with veggie water. Freeze it, then use 2 or 3 cubes for saute's. Leaner than oils and preferable to sprays, it adds a light flavor to your dish.

Aparna Amrita
Aparna Amrita5 years ago


Anna S.
Anna S.5 years ago