A key principle of being environmentally-friendly is to try and reduce both the resources that we use to begin with and additionally to reduce the resources we waste. Water is a perfect example which is a limited resource, uses a lot of energy to clean and make available to you, yet typically isn't treated with the degree of care and attention it deserves.
By putting a little bit of effort in it's possible to collect, store and use rainwater to keep your garden healthy and doing so not only reduces the amount of treated water you need to use but also ensures the rainwater itself goes where it is really needed. Add to this the fact that for those people on water meters it will also likely save you some money too and it's clear that anybody looking to live a more eco friendly lifestyle should consider this simple yet beneficial strategy.
Buy A Water Butt
If you're going to collect and use rainwater in your garden you're going to need a container to store it in and a variety of water butts are available from garden centers up and down the country. A good technique is to buy one that includes fittings so that you can connect the guttering of your house to your water butt so that every time it rains the water that falls on your roof is automatically filtered into your water butt. Doing so makes the collection of rainwater automatic once the initial set-up has been done and so makes the process automatic and hands-off.
Consider The Location
If you're going to water your garden with rainwater from a water butt consider how far the water butt is from your garden. Whilst it's true that you should aim to place your butt somewhere close to your house so you can catch the water that falls on your roof, try to additionally site it somewhere that is easy for you to access and reasonably near to your garden to save time and effort when it comes to carrying watering cans to and fro.
Raise The Water Butt
Place your water butt on a raised platform for easier access. Typically you can build a platform of 30-45cm high quite cheaply and easily out of old house bricks and/or paving slabs and this platform will be both strong and rigid.
The reason for raising your water butt is that most of them have the outlet - most normally a plastic tap - at the very bottom. This makes getting a watering can under the tap something of a challenge but by placing your water butt on a solid platform you will find there is more than enough space to put your can under the tap making using your collected rainwater much easier and more practical.
Use A Lid
Not all water butts come with lids so if yours didn't come with one then try to find one that fits tightly. Additionally if you butt did come with one then ensure that you use it. There are two reasons for this. Firstly using a lid prevent your precious rainwater from evaporating back into the atmosphere on warm days and so conserves this precious resource. Secondly water butts that are left open can quickly become unpleasant places filled with rotting leaves and/or the wriggling larvae of flying insects like mosquitos. Keeping a lid on helps to keep your water fresh and clean and thus more pleasant to use.
The final tip I want to mention here is that now you've set up a simple system to allow you to collect rainwater without lifting a finger and easily access it to water your garden you need to put that water to the best use possible. This means don't just cover your entire garden in water - instead use your watering can to water at the very base of your plants so that the roots can soak up as much of the water as possible. Also try to water in the early morning or evening where the temperature will be lower and so less of the water will evaporate and more will be available to your plants.