Collecting Rainwater to Use in Your Family’s Garden

By Maureen Wise in Thinking Sustainably

Involving your children in gardening is more than a lesson in yardwork; it teaches them the beginning aspects of sustainability. Collecting rainwater to hydrate your family garden is especially worth it, not only because gets your kids thinking about how plants grow but also because it starts a conservation about why these plants are important.

Start teaching your kids about the water falling from the sky by gathering and using that same rainwater. The first step is to educate your kids on what exactly it is you’re collecting before you even pick out your seeds.

What Is Rainwater?

No matter where your water comes from, conserving it is an important practice to teach your family. And rainwater (and stormwater) can be a major problem. Stormwater is rain plus snow mixed with other water sources—amassed in storm drains from rooftop runoff, streets, parking lots, and other impervious surfaces (the rainwater that has yet to find a home, essentially). This water should naturally seep into the ground to recharge aquifers, but instead makes its way into storm drains before reaching local rivers and lakes. The fluid is dirty and often unnaturally warm as it picks up heat from the ground. Thus, it ends up polluting the waterways and harming fish that aren’t used to it.

raining on flowers

Furthermore, during large rain events, storm sewers can get overwhelmed and cause sewage to enter the sewer, which also pollutes waterways. This is called combined sewer overflow. Keeping your rain on your own property not only hydrates your garden and makes your kids smarter, but prevents your home from contributing to this harmful effect.

The best part? Gathering that water is fun and pretty simple! Here are three ways to harvest water right from the clouds to hydrate your garden:

Rain Can

Certainly the easiest way for your youngsters to understand the process of collecting rainwater for your garden is to put a watering can outside while it’s raining and let it fill up.

Watering can

Your harvest will be low unless you have fifty cans outside, but the price is right, as is the investment both in cost and time. It’s effortless to then show your kids how and where to water your garden this way, too. When ready, show them which plants need the most moisture and let them inspect the soil for dryness.

Rain Barrel

A common way to start collecting rainwater is to use a rain barrel. These water receptacles can be huge, fancy terra-cotta pots, wooden barrels, or plain 55-gallon drums. A rain barrel connects to your gutters’ down spouts and saves the rain runoff from your rooftop. A spigot at the bottom of the barrel hooks up to any traditional hose to give your gardens a soaking. You can find a rain barrel kit at most hardware stores.

rain barrel

Keep in mind they do take a bit of time to install, but the free water and healthier creeks may be worth the expense. Kids can help with the installation and help water your outdoor plants with the rain they collect. Be sure to point out how full the barrel is both before and after watering your growing garden.

Rain Gardens

Another way to employ rainwater for plants in your garden is to steer it directly into a thirsty garden. Rain gardens are a great way to divert water away from a wet basement as well as storm sewers. These gardens should be at least 10 feet away from your home and in a low-laying area.

rain garden

By planting shrubs, flowers, and other plants that are native to your region and carry deep roots, this garden will act as a sponge and soak up the stormwater. This may be a hard concept for your kids to grasp until they’re a bit older, though. The best way for your child to understand a rain garden would be to get out in the rain and see it in action. Learn more on how to install your rain garden at The Family Handyman.

Do you collect rainwater for your plants? Tell us what method you use on Twitter.

Image sources: Flickr | Flickr | Pixabay | Flickr | Wikimedia Commons

This article was brought to you by Tom’s of Maine. The views and opinions expressed by the author do not reflect the position of Tom’s of Maine.

Why It’s Good

It's well known that getting kids outside helps them learn and grow. Everyone needs a good dose of nature, but kids should be exposed to it more often. Adding gardening to your outdoor time is a crucial learning experience that makes it even more worthwhile. This exercise conserves water, prevents pollution, and waters your garden all in one.