I've recently started gardening on my small balcony, finally.
It's lovely to see little green plants growing from tiny seeds and all, but sometimes I forget to water my plants because I just can't be bothered. Since there's no water source on my balcony, I have to bring water from either the kitchen or bathroom sink to the balcony, and more often than not, end up splashing water all over the living room floor and sofa.
The many other rain water collector instructables on the site are awesome and all... when you have a huge house, lawn, garden, and the works. Oh, and a bunch of tools and fancy gadgets. But, have you seen the size of the 55-gallon drums in real life? The only drums that are going to fit in my tiny NYC apartment are from Rock Band.
So, after being frustrated with the mass of plastic waste from take-out, I came up with a no-frills, primitive, and extremely easy solution to a natural water source on my balcony.
Step 1: Supplies
The supplies are free, because you probably have it lying around at home already. The containers are from many take-out orders of noodles and soups. If you don't have these types of quart containers, you can just use any kind of container with lids, like large yogurt tubs, old Tupperware, or even snack tubs (yes, you cheese ball snackers!).
Clean thoroughly with soap, and wait for rain. (Sorry, there are no substitutes for rain.)
- plastic quart containers
- plastic quart container lids
Step 2: Collection
When there's rain, line your containers underneath the points of heaviest rainfall to collect water. Since my balcony has a cover, the rain falls mostly near the railing.
Wait for your container to fill up, then cover tightly with lid. You need to cover the water because still water is a breeding ground for mosquitoes. This page will explain much better than I can.
And as for algae growing in the clear plastic containers, I've been using this rain water collection for the past month and have not encountered any problems. Since my collection is at such a small quantity, I use the water relatively quickly. Also, my northern-facing balcony gets little sun, and the water is kept in the corner, so this is probably why algae doesn't pose a problem for me.
If your balcony has no sunshade covering, or receives a lot of sun, you might have to either use dark colored containers, or keep them stored under a tarp, in a storage box, or even inside your apartment.
*Note: I also lined my plastic watering can under the sunshade to collect rain water. It's great because it can hold more water, but you do need to find something to cover the opening once it's filled. Or, if you're going to able to use all the water up right away, then go ahead and leave it uncovered. Either way, I'd suggest you try to use the water from the watering can before you use the container-stored water.
Step 3: Use
Store your rain water collection in a shaded area of the balcony. I keep it near my balcony door so I can just reach out and water my plants directly without even stepping outside.
Since my little plants aren't exactly Botanical Garden sized, the water I collect in 9 containers can last me for at least 2 weeks. If you have more/larger plants, you might have to eat take-out more often to collect even more rain water.
I hope you find this Instructable useful and start using that balcony of yours, no matter how big or little it is!
Happy collecting and gardening!