If you have a garden, then you will surely know this. Again, the rain barrels are empty and no rain in sight.
Happy can now consider himself, who has collected enough rainwater in the garden. Your plants will thank you.
The precious water is the elixir of life for your vegetable plants, flowers, shrubs and trees. Water is life.
Not for nothing, rainwater has been stored in large underground cisterns for thousands of years.
What used to be large underground water storage tanks are now rain barrels, rain barrels and underground tanks that collect rainwater directly from the downspout.
This not only saves a lot of money, but also protects the environment and valuable resources. In addition, rainwater is very soft water and very well tolerated by plants.
In this article, I’ll introduce you to the best ways to collect rainwater in the garden.
Collect rainwater without a roof – Is it possible?
Yes, you can collect rainwater without a roof. Instead of paying for water expensively from the tap, nature gives us soft and low-calcium water – completely free of charge.
Rainwater is particularly suitable for watering garden and house plants.
Rainwater is also used in aquaristics, as many fish and shrimps prefer soft water as their habitat.
Collecting rainwater without a roof – What are the options?
1) Retrofitting foil greenhouses with a rain gutter
Foil greenhouses can be used on any property or in any garden. Who would not like to harvest delicious tomatoes or cucumbers in the summer? At the same time, you can collect rainwater on the surfaces of the foil greenhouses.
I use this foil greenhouse* in my garden. It is extremely sturdy and has survived several thunderstorms and storms.
There are universal rain gutters and downspouts on the market that are designed directly for foil greenhouses. These rain gutters* can be glued to the foil of the greenhouse. I think this is a very nice idea.
A rain barrel is placed under the downspout. You should use rain barrels with lids to protect the water from organic contaminants.
A gazebo is also very suitable for collecting rainwater. You can retrofit gazebos with a rain gutter and downspout.
The gazebo can be set up in early spring and safely stored back in the basement in the fall. This pavilion* has a very high UV resistance and is cheaper than other suppliers.
3) Putting up bowls and pots
Another way to collect rainwater without a roof is to place bowls and pots in the garden. While the yield is not as high with one vessel, if you set up numerous vessels, you can collect a considerable amount of rainwater.
If you only want to water a few houseplants or vegetable plants, this method is very effective and recommended.
4) Installing a tarp or awning
Tarps or awnings are great ways to collect rainwater without having a permanent roof. A tarp can be stretched between trees. You are very flexible, because a tarp can be adapted to different locations.
A sun sail can be installed permanently on the property or in the garden. It not only protects against the sun, but also catches large amounts of rainwater when it rains. This way, you kill two birds with one stone, so to speak.
I particularly like the Arona* tarp because it has 80 UPF UV protection and a very large area to collect rainwater.
5) Build a rack to collect rainwater
Another possibility is that you build yourself a rack. To do this, anchor 4 square timbers in the ground and connect them with wooden slats. Roof battens are screwed onto the timbers.
Now only the foil is missing, which is fastened on it. You should make sure that there is a slight slope. Then install a rain gutter, which collects rainwater and directs it to a rain barrel.
You should build the frame high enough to fit a rain barrel under it.
Collecting rainwater with a tarp
Using tarps is another simple, inexpensive and effective way to collect rainwater without a roof.
Tarpaulin with a rotary clothes dryer
If one owns a rotary clothes dryer, a tarp is placed on it and secured with cable ties. The tarp used should have eyelets for this purpose.
To catch the water, cut a hole in the center of the tarp and push a garden hose through it. This is sealed with insulating tape. The end of the hose leads into a rain barrel or canister.
With this large “funnel” you can easily collect rainwater.
Tie off the tarpaulin at anchor points
But even without a rotary clothes dryer, rainwater can be collected with a tarp. All you have to do is stretch out a tarp. Trees or other fixed points on the property can be used as anchor points.
In the middle of the tarp should be placed a stone or similar. This creates a kind of funnel in which the water collects. Through a hose, the rainwater is directed into a rain barrel.
How to stretch a tarp to collect rainwater?
To catch rainwater, tarps must be well secured. Tarps have to bear a lot of weight during heavy rainfall. Therefore, strong ropes, nylon straps or similar should be used for hanging.
Snap hooks can also be helpful for attaching. These snap hooks* here are super value for money and can support up to 1200 kg of weight.
If you have enough trees on your garden plot, tarpaulins are excellent to stretch between them. Fences and well-built climbing aids for plants can also be suitable anchor points.
What kind of tarpaulins are suitable to collect rainwater?
Suitable tarpaulins must be water-repellent. There are tarpaulins made of tent fabric as well as canvas and sun sails. All these materials are impregnated and therefore waterproof.
Whether the tarps are triangular or square cut, they all perform well. I use this tarp in my garden. It is 6 m* 8 m. That’s 48 square meters. You can collect a lot of rainwater with it!
Collecting rainwater without a roof – alternatives
How to collect rainwater with a funnel?
Make a funnel from a canister
Collecting rainwater with a funnel is a very cheap way to collect rainwater without a roof. You can easily build the funnel yourself.
You buy a 5 liter canister of distilled water (This is often used for ironing, for example. Therefore, it is often found in the household department of large supermarkets.) and cut open the canister.
The resulting funnel is attached by means of cable ties (for example, on the wall of a (greenhouse) house, shed, carport pillar). A plastic hose is used to create a connection between the funnel opening and the rain barrel/canister so that the collected water can drain away.
A tarpaulin funnel
Another option is to stretch a tarp (The size of the tarp depends on how much rainwater is to be collected.) on the ends. Less tension is more here, because the center of the tarp can be allowed to sag a bit.
This is the only way to create the desired funnel shape. Cut a hole in the center of the tarp and connect it to a PVC pipe (don’t forget the gaskets!) that leads to a rain barrel or cistern.
How to fill a rain barrel without a downpipe?
If you have a friendly neighbor, it is worth asking if you can use their roof to collect rainwater. It would be a pity if the rainwater seeps away without being used and disappears into the sewers.
How do you collect rainwater with a downspout?
Nothing is easier than collecting rainwater in an apartment building if you live on the first floor. Since I myself was faced with the question of how to water my terrace plants cheaply, I briefly asked the property management. This allowed me to use the downpipe.
In the next hardware store I bought a high-quality water thief with overflow protection and filter. The filter prevents contamination of the rainwater by leaves/dirt that may be on the roof and in the gutter.
Installation of the water thief
The installation of the water thief was quite simple. Included in the kit is a circular tool that is placed on a drill or cordless screwdriver.
With it, you cut a small round hole in the downspout. In any case, the height of the barrel should be measured beforehand!
The hole must later be connected to the rain barrel with a hose and seals!
I can recommend the Beckmann V1 Filter Filler* with a clear conscience. I had bought this because of the many positive customer reviews and was not disappointed!
The rain barrel should stand on a pedestal
It is important when setting up the rain barrel to ensure a secure stand. My rain barrel holds 200 liters of water. Often it is not enough just to place the barrel on a pedestal (A pedestal is useful to be able to use the outlet tap of the barrel properly).
Thus, a watering can can be filled. If the ground on which the barrel is to stand is not asphalted, it can tip over. In my case, for example, the rain barrel stands on a wooden board (remnants of a kitchen countertop).
Is collecting rainwater worth it?
Yes, collecting rainwater is worthwhile. Not only does it save water costs, e.g. for watering, it also protects the environment.
The quality of rainwater also benefits plants and animals. These mostly prefer soft and low-calcium water – all that only nature offers us.
Collecting rainwater on the balcony – is it possible?
Yes, of course, you can collect rainwater on the balcony. After all, just like in the garden or on the property, the plants also need to be watered.
It is also possible on the balcony to fill a small rain barrel or other rain collector with valuable rainwater. This can be done either by a rain strainer on the downspout or direct collection.
On balconies without a roof, collecting rainwater is very easy, the rain hits the balcony directly. If you have a balcony with a roof, things get a bit more difficult.
In this case, you need to have some handyman skills and desire to do a small project. I have written a complete article about this very topic. The link is right below here.
How can you collect rainwater “outdoors”?
Besides setting up containers, which you usually don’t carry with you in rough quantities on trips/outings, you can dig yourself a pit.
In the pit you put a tarpaulin, which is fastened with a stone. In this way, quite clean rainwater can be collected in an uncomplicated way.
A real “outdoorsman” is also never without rainwear on the road. These can be immediately converted to collect rainwater. The rain jacket is attached at all ends to bushes or trees.
Water will collect in the middle of the rain jacket. If you put a cup or a mug under the hood of the raincoat, the collection will be even more effective.
Cotton shirts are also suitable. If you hang them up when it rains, they will soak up water. Then you only have to wring out the wet clothes to be able to collect water.
If you miss the downpour, rainwater that has not yet seeped away can be soaked up and used on meadows or in puddles with cloths/clothes.
How to collect rainwater?
The rain barrel
The classic, which is probably found in most gardens, is the rain barrel. It is cheap to buy and easy to install.
Either you place an open rain barrel under the drain of your gutter or you connect a closed rain barrel to your downspout using a water thief.
Rain barrels have a limited capacity of up to 1000 liters.
Open barrels have the disadvantage that the rainwater quickly becomes contaminated by dust, leaves and insects. In addition, flooding may occur, the capacity of the rain barrel is exhausted.
Rain barrel with water thief
To be on the safe side, a so-called water thief with overflow protection and filter is recommended.
This way you will always have clean rainwater and the overflow protection will take effect when your rain barrel is completely full. The remaining rainwater from the downpipe is then automatically fed into the sewer system.
Rain barrel with lid
In general, a lid for rain barrels has only advantages: Your rainwater stays clean, it does not evaporate and children and small animals are protected from falling into the water.
Are you thinking of the usual green rain barrel that everyone knows? Meanwhile, there is a suitable variant for all tastes in the trade: from the noble wooden barrel to the amphora.
Rain barrel with water tap for withdrawal
If you buy a rain barrel with a water tap, water extraction is a piece of cake. However, the faucet also has a significant disadvantage: you can not drain the entire amount of water from the barrel.
Shallow tank for collecting water
Shallow tanks can store up to 4000 liters of rainwater.
If you do not want to excavate in your garden, it is best to choose a so-called flat tank.
Only 1.50 meters depth is necessary to install a flat tank. It should be noted that these are not accessible by car.
If you want to collect a larger amount of rainwater, the purchase of an underground tank is worthwhile. These can store up to 10,000 liters of rainwater.
In addition, the underground tank is space-saving because it is sunk into the ground. Due to the lack of UV radiation, the water remains fresh and clear for a long time.
A special advantage is its frost resistance. This saves you the annual emptying, which is necessary from autumn with a rain barrel, so that it does not burst.
Since underground tanks are made of polyethylene and are additionally reinforced on the inside, they are considered extremely robust. They are so stable that you can even drive on them with your car.
Why not put the underground tank directly under the driveway to the garage?
Cisterns – The ultimate rain collectors
Do you want the ultimate rain collector in your garden? Then choose the cistern with an incredible capacity of up to 13,000 liters.
If your garden plot is large, you want to flush the toilet with rainwater or even convert your washing machine to rainwater, such a purchase is worthwhile.
To determine exactly which cistern size is ideal for you, you need to consider factors such as local rainfall, downspout and roof area size.
If you are unsure about the volume of your planned cistern, make sure that it can be retrofitted. This way, you can connect additional tanks in case of doubt.
Cisterns made of plastic or concrete
Cisterns are located underground and are made of either concrete or plastic. They always provide clean rainwater, because a filter system is integrated at the downpipe.
To extract water from a cistern, you need a submersible pump. Regular cleaning of the cistern is also feasible, as it is often large enough to be walked on.
Excess rainwater is automatically fed into the sewer system, making it impossible for it to overflow.
Make sure you get permission to install your cistern before you buy.
Consider possible sewage costs for cisterns
If you discharge rainwater into the sewer system, you will incur wastewater costs (see the municipality’s wastewater ordinance).
Although the obligation to pay fees means a financial expense at first, it is absolutely worth it! After all, you save an immense amount of water costs every year.
If you want to use your rainwater also in your household, you have to report your intention to the local health department according to the drinking water ordinance.
IBC containers are available in different sizes (500 -3000 liters).
The cuboid-shaped containers are used in large-scale industry to store chemicals and other liquids.
IBC means intermediate bulk container. In European, it can be translated as large storage container.
IBC tanks are also becoming increasingly popular as storage for rainwater. The tanks are very sturdy and durable and are very inexpensive compared to other rainwater collectors.
A UV cover protects the collected rainwater from UV radiation. There are also different colored covers to give the IBC tank a great design.
Why should you collect rainwater?
You save a lot of money
You save a lot of money by collecting rainwater. If you also use the rainwater for your household, the savings will be even greater.
Soft water is good for your plants in the garden
Since rainwater is soft water without lime and without additives such as ozone, chlorine and Flor in contrast to the hard tap water, your plants will be thrilled.
You save the environment
If you use rainwater you save the environment. Tap water in drinking water quality must be purified by special procedures in the waterworks. This costs energy!
Location of rain collectors in the garden – What to consider?
No matter which rain barrel you choose, choose the location of the rain collector wisely.
Your rain barrel or IBC container should not be in full sunlight. Otherwise, there is a risk that the water will quickly turn foul and begin to stink.
If you don’t have a house on your garden plot, use the greenhouse to collect rainwater.
More ideas I have summarized in my article:
Collecting rainwater without a roof for you.
Calculate the required amount of rainwater
To know what size your future rainwater tank should be, you need to know the amount of water you will use when watering.
If you use a garden hose to water your plants, there is a very simple trick. Fill a 10-liter bucket with the hose and measure the time with a stopwatch.
This way you can calculate how much water you need on average.
Is it possible to drink rainwater?
Yes, under certain circumstances you can drink rainwater. It depends on the quality of the air. If there are many dust particles and exhaust gases in the air, they will be absorbed by the rainwater on its way to the ground. These particles can affect the quality of the rainwater.
Is rainwater distilled water?
No, rainwater is not distilled water. Various substances are absorbed by rainwater on its way from the clouds to the earth. Therefore, rainwater is not “pure”.
Does it rain salt water over the sea?
No, it does not rain salt water over the sea. The salt components of the water remain when it evaporates. Rainwater is always freshwater.
I have 30 years of experience and i started this website to see if i could try and share my knowledge to help you.
With a degree a Horticulture BSc (Hons)
I have worked as a horticulture specialist lead gardener, garden landscaper, and of course i am a hobby gardener at home in my own garden.
Please if you have any questions leave them on the article and i will get back to you personally.