Learning Garden 9: Rain Barrels

June 18, 2012 | 11:06 am

The day after installing rain barrels at the school, it rained! It was a thrill to turn the faucet and see the water flow out. A rain barrel is nothing more than a container that collects rainwater from rooftops. This low-cost conservation technique saves water and decreases storm water runoff.

Water is critical to plant life. It helps the seed germinate, and as the plant grows, the roots absorb the water that carries the nutrients from the soil throughout the plant. Ask any farmer; they will tell you that their greatest stress is whether their crops are getting too much or too little water.  Installing rain barrels, in our outdoor classroom and learning garden, will allows us an opportunity to teach why and how to conserve water; as well as application to math, science and history. Our rain barrels are white 55-gallon recycled food grade barrels; once school is back in session the students will use their creativity and art skills to turn them into colorful artwork. I am so excited to see their designs.

Before installing the rain barrels, we first determined where to put them. School personnel made this decision.  As you can see from the pictures, we had to cut into the existing down spout (do not do this without getting permission). We then decided to use a two-barrel configuration in two locations to increase storage. After deciding where to put the rain barrels and how many to purchase, we contacted a local company specializing in rain barrels to make our purchase. Garden centers and garden magazines also sell rain barrels. Each rain barrel will have specific instructions for installation.

I look forward to our students connecting a hose or filling a bucket for watering flowers, trees, shrubs, and potted plants. There is no definitive answer for whether or not it is safe to use rain barrel water for your vegetable garden. The only way to know for sure is to have the water in the rain barrel tested.

Rain barrels are the “new cool” landscape (and might I add, educational) tool that has been around for centuries. Our school is now innovative and historical! Join the crowd and install your rain barrels today.

Read more about classroom gardens in our Learning Garden blog series:

Learning Garden 1: Overview

Learning Garden 2: Long-Term Sustainability

Learning Garden 3: Validation

Learning Garden 4:  Designing the Garden

Learning Garden 5:  Volunteers

Learning Garden 6: Building

Learning Garden 7:  Raised Beds

Learning Garden 8: Plant Selection

Learning Garden 9:  Rain Barrels

Learning Garden 10:  How Does Your Garden Grow?

Learning Garden 11:  Planting Day

Learning Garden 12: Teach the Teacher

Learning Garden 13: First Harvest

Learning Garden 14:  How Do You Say Thank You

Learning Garden 15:  Plant a Seed and Watch It Grow

Learning Garden 16: From the Learning Garden to the Cafeteria