No Rain Barrel? No Problem! Harvest Rainwater Simply by Liz Caskey

New to Rainwater Harvesting?

You don’t need to purchase a premade barrel or install a full capture system to harvest rainwater. A great first step to collect rainwater for your garden is to use pans, buckets, or any empty drink container.

Buckets and an old tea pot used to harvest rainwater

Any clean container can be used to capture rainwater.

I can tell a difference in my plants when I water them with rainwater, since it does not include the chemicals found in tap water. I prefer to use rainwater on my decorative plants and vegetables. My Japanese Maples especially like it, since they seem to be particularly sensitive.

Any Clean Container Will Do

Harvest rainwater using rain chains to direct water from eaves

Rain chains hang from eaves and guide roof water to a designated spot

Any clean container can be used to collect rain from rooftops, such as buckets, pans, even garbage cans. During the next rain, look at your roof for points of heaviest rainfall run off. You can gather your containers into one area or spread them out in each area that has run off. Since I don’t have gutters, I scouted my roofline to see where the rainwater was heaviest. In one area, I added a decorative rain chain to guide the rainfall to its collection point. And remember, it doesn’t have to be from your house. Check your greenhouse or shed for rainwater run off too, all can be used to harvest rainwater.

After a rain, I like to consolidate my rainwater into a small trash can. Then, when I’m ready to use it, I add a liquid organic fertilizer. I then put the mixture into a watering can or a recycled milk jug to water my plants.

Prevent Mosquitoes

Mosquito dunks contain bt, that kills mosquito larva. It is not toxic to anything else.

Mosquito dunks or granules, as shown here, contain bt to kill mosquito larva. It is not toxic to anything else.

Mosquito Granules contain bt to kill mosquito larva. It is not toxic to anything else.To prevent mosquitos, I add BTI (Bacillus thuringiensis israelensis) in the form of mosquito dunks or granules into the water as soon as it is collected. BTI is deadly only to mosquitos and will not harm other wildlife or pets. You can purchase them at most big box stores, garden centers, or online.

Once you start collecting a bit of rainwater, I’m sure you’ll be hooked and will want to advance to rain barrels!

Additional Resources

Grow Green Fact Sheets on Cisterns, Mosquitos, and Rain Gardens

Making a Rain Barrel

Build Your Own Rain Barrel

Texas Sales & Use Tax Exemption Certificate
(Per the State of Texas tax code, equipment and supplies purchased solely for capturing and storing rainwater are exempt from sales tax; present the Tax Exemption Certificate to merchants to receive the sales tax exemption)

Waterwise Landscaping

November Gardening Checklist


Liz Caskey

Liz Caskey will celebrate 25 years as a master gardener in 2021 and has completed Rain Water Harvester Advanced Training. She enjoys growing vegetables and begonias, although she’s hardly ever met a plant she doesn’t love.

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