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Watering Systems: Rain Barrels, Bucket-Drip Irrigation,

And Plain Old Hoses

Keeping a kids' garden watered consistently can be a challenge. You certainly have to have water for a garden, especially on Planting Day and in the early growing weeks.

If you're located at a school or a community garden, you can probably hook in to whatever water system they are using. In a back yard, it should be simple because most homeowners have outdoor water faucets that can be used.

But if you're in a place that doesn't already have a watering system, or a faucet nearby, you may be in for a little extra effort and expense.

The easiest thing to do is to find a place to hook up a hose. Bargain with the closest neighbor who does have access to water. If you can hook up your hose once or twice a week, offer to pay the extra water bill and supply fresh vegetables and flowers all summer long.

You may be surprised: most people, when asked politely by cute kids, will let you use their water free! Just work carefully with your students so that they know that to effectively water plants, you water the roots - not too much water pressure - and you use a "rose" (sprinkling device on the end of the hose) so that you don't move dirt around and the water can soak in.

Another good idea is to stretch a soaker hose along the base of plants while you are doing your regular garden lesson, and move it from place to place so that in your 60- or 90-minute lesson, all plants get watered with a minimum of effort by you and the students. Note that water sprinklers waste water; watering around the plant's base is best.

Second choice is to set up rain barrels with screens on top. Make sure the barrel that you buy or borrow does not have toxic substances that can leach, or melt, into your water supply. If it used to contain chemicals, forget it. If it used to contain food, and can be cleaned, go for it.

Have someone build a screen lid for each 55-gallon barrel to keep out bugs, sticks, leaves, etc.

Then just cut a few plastic milk jugs into mini-pitchers, and leave them in the rain barrel. To get started on the first day, you can haul in water in drywall buckets, coolers, and other large containers to fill the barrel full.

Sometimes, you barely NEED water after the first few weeks. With rain barrels, it can be feast or famine - 'way too much rain in May and June give way to drought in July and August. But you can always haul water in if you need to.

Third choice is to set up a bucket drip irrigation system that uses gravity to get water to flow to the plants' bases.

Buy a bucket with a spigot for this purpose. Use an old table or make a stand of some sort to hold the bucket about three feet above your garden. Run drip tape from it along your garden bed.

The water will gradually drain out with the simple force of gravity.

Fill the bucket with water daily in the early weeks, or as needed.

By Susan Darst • Projects 03 © 2010

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