Ocean Friendly Gardens, HOW
November 09 2011

Barrels Of Fun For Jersey Shore Chapter Hosting Rain Barrel Building Workshop

The Jersey Shore Chapter hosted a build-a-rain-barrel workshop on a rainy October night in the coastal town of Brielle, NJ. Over 25 enthusiastic people turned out from the community to build and take home their very own rain barrel and learn about what they can do to protect the water quality of our ocean and waterways.

The chapter is embarking on a mission to develop an Ocean Friendly Garden Program tailored for the East Coast with help from our West Coast Surfrider colleagues and East Coast water quality and landscape experts and anyone else who is concerned about clean water. This event was a great first step! Participants included Brielle residents, local teachers, surfers, members of a boy scout troop, retired citizens, and members of the environmental commission.

The Jersey Shore Chapter partnered with the Brielle Environmental Commission to host the workshop. Speakers Ben Pearson (at left, in the red shirt, advising Surfrider activists Paul Stenzel and John Weber on prying off a lid) and Sara Mellor from the Water Resources Program at the Rutgers University Cooperative Extension presented on the water quality issues impacting New Jersey, and solutions such as water conservation, pollution source controls, planting rain gardens, and installing rain barrels. Then the fun began. Rutgers brought along with them twenty-five 55-gallon used olive barrels, which they lead the group in transforming into rain barrels. It’s a lot easier than you think.

All it took was drilling two holes (at right, there's Joe Mairo and Paul Stenzel), one for the spigot and one for the overflow, a little bit (or a lot) of caulk, some screen to keep out the mosquitoes, and some elbow grease to screw on the top. Everyone went home a proud owner of a rain barrel with the knowledge of how to properly install and maintain it, and a little wiser about how they can limit the pollution coming off their own property and better protect the quality of our treasured coastal waters. Since the barrels can be easily painted, many participants had the aspirations to turn them into works of art to compliment their landscapes. 

Each barrel is predicted to capture 1300 gallons of water each year that can be used for non-potable uses, including watering lawns or gardens, rinsing off sandy feet after the beach, or other uses like washing the dog. When all rain barrels are installed, the group will conserve 32,500 gallons of water per year, and thus divert that much from entering our storm drains and waterways. That’s a lot of water! (Editor's note: the barrels also help to slow down rain water and divert it into the landscape, where the soil can help cleanse it of pollutants. The water is stored like a sponge in the soil, where plants can tap into it during dry periods, and excess travels further downward into aquifers.)

Future events are being planned by the Jersey Shore Chapter to promote Ocean Friendly Gardens in our local communities. Stay tuned to the chapter website for updates. We are looking for volunteers to help us out, as well as any ideas for community projects. So far we’ve had a great start! For more information about stormwater, rain gardens, and rain barrels in New Jersey, please see www.water.rutgers.edu.

More photos from the event are at the Jersey Shore Chapter’s facebook page, and at by clicking here.

- by Eileen Althouse, Jersey Shore Chapter, Chairperson of the OFG Committee

P.S. from the Editor: Pamela Berstler from G3/The Green Gardens Group joined me at one of the Jersey Shore's Raptoberfest events: the national One Foot At A Time campaign. Pamela mused in a recent  blog post about Monmouth County being a prime spot for finding dinosaur fossils and that future humans would discover plastics as the lasting thing we leave behind.