How to build a watering system

One of the most exciting features built for the Growing Schools garden at the Hampton Court Palace Flower Show earlier this year was Royston's renewable energy watering system, built in partnership with Today's Energy Systems. The system was designed to keep plants, pots and beds watered throughout the year using recycled rainwater and was powered by renewable energy (wind and solar).

Working with renewable energy is a great way to get pupils thinking about sustainability, pollution and recycling, as well as many other subjects. It is also a good way of attracting investment and creating partnerships, as has happened at Royston.

Several of the components of a renewable energy watering system are available only from specialised companies, including solar panels, wind turbines and gel batteries (from pound;100 to pound;400 each). You also need a drip-feeder watering system and 12-volt surface-mounted water pump, a water filter to fit on the end of a hose, rainwater drums and a timer switch which runs on a DC current. Wiring the system together is a task for a skilled electrician.

* Position the solar panel in a south-facing location where it will receive maximum sunlight and, in the case of the wind turbine, in a windy spot away from sheltering trees. Put the panels out of harm's way - on the roof, for example. The wind turbine can be anchored into the ground on a free-standing pole.

* The batteries should be in a well-ventilated weatherproof and tamper-proof enclosure, or indoors. They should be close to the energy generators and the water supply to avoid too many cables.

* Put the timer switch to control the pump in a convenient place within the system.

* The irrigation pipe with attached filter should be in the rainwater collector tank and secured so it is always submerged. To avoid topping up water levels with mains water, put one or two additional rainwater collector tanks next to the main holding tank, at a higher level to refill the holding tank as it empties.

* The drip-feeder irrigation system comes with irrigation piping, fixing hooks, drip spouts, a pump attachment and a fixture that allows six or more irrigation pipes to run off in different directions. This is attached to the pump, while the pipes are among the plants.

* Once connected, the solar panel andor wind turbine will generate enough energy to keep the batteries charged and the system going indefinitely, saving time, resources and ensuring the school grounds stay colourful all year round.

Martha Godfrey is project manager of the Growing Schools garden. Contact her at: schools's Energy Systems works with schools to create renewable energy features. For further details contact Donald Astley. Tel. 01889 584667

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