‘Barrels and Bins’ Teaches Responsible Gardening Practices

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The self-watering grow bins pictured here are suitable for growing a variety of plants, ranging from herbs and flowers to fruits and vegetables.
The self-watering grow bins pictured here are suitable for growing a variety of plants, ranging from herbs and flowers to fruits and vegetables.

The James City County-Williamsburg Master Gardeners are hosting a class Saturday for gardening enthusiasts with limited space, time or resources.

Barrels and Bins, a 90-minute presentation, offers information to aspiring gardeners about how to create their own rain barrels and self-watering grow bins.

Since starting the class six years ago, the Master Gardeners have offered it numerous times at locations around the Williamsburg area, including the Farmers’ Market and a number of garden clubs.

Saturday’s class will take place at the Williamsburg Botanical Garden in Freedom Park. They are bringing it to the garden as part of the Learn and Grow Educational Series, which features monthly gardening classes on a variety of topics such as attracting birds and gardening with physical disabilities.

Though at this time the version of the class that the area Master Gardeners offer is only a demonstration, rather than a hands-on workshop, pre-made barrels and bins will be available for sale on site.

For those gardeners who want to make their own barrels and bins, the class will tell them everything they need to know.

The rain barrel is made up of a 55-gallon plastic drum with a spigot attached to it through which water can flow. Once assembled, it should be placed beneath a rain gutter in order to collect the water the runs off the roof in a rainstorm.

“In an average spring or summer rain shower, you’ll get 400 or 500 gallons of water that run off the roof, down the gutter and then seep out into your yard,” Master Gardener Dennis Wool said.

The rain barrel allows gardeners to put some of that water to more productive use.

In order to encourage locals to adopt this water conserving gardening method, James City County offers a cash rebate of $25 for every rain barrel installed, up to four.

“We’re all about promoting positive environmental impacts in the community,” Wool said of the Master Gardeners and their partnership with the Williamsburg Botanical Gardens.

The self-watering grow bins are also considered a “water-wise” gardening solution. Rather than requiring frequent watering by the gardener, which can result in excess water being wasted, they feature a two and a half-gallon water reservoir in the bottom of the bin that plants draw from as needed.

“This is a fun way to garden for people who may not have the space or time to have a larger garden,” Wool said. “You can grow pretty much anything in them- keep it simple with herbs or get extravagant and grow a watermelon.”

The grow bins are also ideal for use as a starter garden for children because of their manageable size.

Wool hopes that Saturday’s class will attract between 50 and 75 attendees. The class does not require a pre-registration and is free to the public, though a donation of $5 is suggested for maintenance of the Williamsburg Botanical Garden. The class will meet at the large shelter near the children’s playground at Freedom Park.