There’s an old saying, “April showers bring May flowers.” In addition to beautiful blooms, spring rain also brings an abundance of water that can be collected and used in gardening and household chores. Water harvesting is growing in popularity, particularly in parts of the country that are prone to dry spells and drought. It can be as simple as diverting water from your rain gutters into a large tank, but it doesn’t have to be an eyesore. There are many creative ways you can direct and store rainwater for use in your landscape.

Rain Barrel Camo

Camouflage your rainwater barrel. While watertight and easy to keep clean, large plastic barrels used in water harvesting can stick out like a sore thumb in an otherwise beautifully kept yard. Old whiskey or wine barrels can be modified to disguise a plastic container. Planting large, hardy bushes around it can hide it away without too much extra effort. You can even build a small shed around the container to match the look of your home.

Use rain chains instead of piping. Water is typically directed into a barrel using a pipe connected to the gutters on your home. However, for a functional but decorative alternative, you can use rain chains. These linked cups or bare chains act like waterfalls and direct water into your tank. Rain chains are beautiful alternatives to downspouts that also add a sound element to your yard, as the water coming down the chain provides the calming sound of moving water.

Rain Chains
Rain Garden

Cultivate a rain garden. If you’re interested in strategically diverting runoff rather than storing water in bulk, a rain garden may be your best choice. Rain gardens are depressions in the landscape designed with the intention of collecting rainwater and allowing it to seep into the ground rather than flow unused into sewer lines. Plants that are grown in rain gardens should be hardy and able to withstand saturated ground. Rain gardens reduce pollution and prevent unwanted erosion, and they can help mitigate flooding problems. They can also be used in conjunction with collection barrels—overflow from a barrel can be directed into a rain garden, ensuring that water that would otherwise be lost in a deluge is put to good use.

Build your containers into landscape features. Take camouflaging your water container to a whole new level and build around it. If you’re serious about collecting as much rainwater as you can, consider incorporating water containers into your deck features. Fixed outdoor furniture, such as benches and decorative walls, can be built to accommodate water harvesting features and overflow piping. Your barbecue guests won’t even know they’re sitting above stores of water.

Building Around Rain Barrels

You can harness the water that falls on your property on a large or small scale without sacrificing the beauty or function of your yard. You may even be able to add new landscaping features to enjoy. Water harvesting is a great way to conserve water, as the water you collect can be used in many ways. Having a stored supply of water can be particularly beneficial in areas prone to drought. Once you’ve set your system up, you’ll have a sustainable supply of water at your disposal.

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Sources: City of Berkeley, CA; HGTV Gardens; Texas A&M AgriLife Extension; World Wide Fund for Nature.