Collecting rainwater on a balcony generally isn’t difficult, provided you actually have access to some sky! There are various options for how to catch it depending on the size of your balcony and your current rain runoff system.
Let’s look at how (and why) you might want to catch rainwater on your balcony.
The most obvious reason why you’d want to collect rainwater is to water your plants. Rainwater is pretty much always better for plants, mainly because it has a lower pH and is free of (most) chemicals. Using tap water means chemicals (such as chlorine) can build up in the soil, which can make your plants ill.
Plus, rainwater is free. If you have a lot of indoor and outdoor plants, this can save a lot of money compared to constantly running the tap. For water-heavy crops like potatoes and tomatoes, collecting rainwater is a no-brainer.
Rainwater also contains traces of organic matter and nitrates that come from contact with roofs and other surfaces. These are helpful for plants and mean you don’t have to rely as heavily on fertilizer.
In theory, you could also use rainwater around your home for some less important purposes. For example, if you wanted to be really eco-conscious, you could flush your toilet with it!
Of course, don’t use rainwater for anything like washing, drinking or food preparation. Keep it well away from your dishes and your bath because it’s almost guaranteed to be unsafe to drink. Focus on using it for your plants and, provided you’ve got enough of them, this’ll be enough justification to start catching rainwater.
There really isn’t much to think about before you start collecting rainwater. Consider the following to decide the most suitable method:
- Storage. If you live somewhere without regular rainfall, you’ll want a collection system. A rain catcher can easily hold 100 gallons, which will last you a while.
- Covered or uncovered balcony. A covered balcony requires a bit more thought because you don’t have any direct rainfall. It’s still possible, though.
- Required amount. If you’ve got an indoor jungle, you’ll need a lot of water. However, if you’ve only got a handful of houseplants, a few quart containers with lids will probably do the job.
The most obvious place to start is with a rain catcher. Also known as a water butt, it’s simply a big container connected to a gutter system. They can collect rainwater surprisingly quickly and also provide convenient storage. We’ve got a full article on rain catchers, so check that out for more information.
You can’t get more basic than placing some buckets on your balcony when it’s raining. Use any containers you have lying around at home: quart containers, buckets, washing up bowls. Make sure they’ve got a wide opening so they fill up faster. Also, lids are useful if you plan to store the rainwater for future use.
If you’ve got a covered balcony, your options are a bit more restricted. Calling this a DIY option is overselling it a bit, but it’ll definitely do the job. Set up a system that has a rain catcher outside of your balcony (such as attached to the rail) and funnel it into a collection system.
Downspout extenders (such as this) are perfect for just such a job. They’re made from flexible extendable pipe, so you can easily set them up wherever.
Alternatively, set up any kind of water channel system that diverts rainfall onto your balcony. This could involve adding some more guttering or using a piece of plastic as a funnel.
This is another option for those with covered balconies. Provided you don’t have a major overhang on your roof, a simple plastic railing planter (such as this) will collect rainwater. Obviously, make sure it doesn’t have holes in the bottom.
Set out a few and you’ll get a surprising amount of rainwater. This option could also work out of windows, although you might need to secure the planters.
You can make a freestanding rain collector out of basically anything. A tarp (such as this) would work stretched over a frame. Alternatively, you could use an inverted heavy-duty umbrella or simply a plastic tub.
As you can see, catching rainwater is pretty easy on a balcony. Hopefully, one of the methods above will be suitable for your space and needs. Your plants will thank you for the better quality water.