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Rain Gardens - A Beautiful Way To Improve Water Quality
Stop Water Pollution In Its Tracks!
Did you know that 85% of pollutants in our lakes and streams is the result of stormwater runoff?
Did you know that every parking lot and road that is built only increases the pollution?
Did you know that these pollutants affect wildlife habitats as well as our rivers, streams, lakes and other wetlands?
I took this photo of a sign embedded in the concrete near a street drain in Los Angeles. I was really pleased to see it.
In this article, I'll try to explain why our eco-system is affected by storm runoff and how each of us can make a huge difference.
What Is A Rain Garden?
And Why Do We Need Them?
A rain garden is really a garden planted with native flowers and grasses. Rain Gardens are designed to absorb rainwater runoff from driveways, sidewalks and the roofs of homes and other buildings.
Every time it rains or every time you water your lawn or wash your car, the water runoff goes either directly into a river, lake or ocean or through a city drainage system and eventually into the rivers, lakes and oceans.
All of the water that runs off streets, driveways and roofs ends up in the rivers, lakes and oceans, too.
So think about what's in that water runoff...it's probably chemicals from fertilizers, exhaust from cars, etc.
Instead of flowing down into storm drains, the runoff from these impervious surfaces soaks into the ground, thereby reducing the amount pollution from exhaust fumes and lawn fertilizers, etc. that eventually ends up in our lakes, rivers and oceans.
If you live on a lake or at the seashore, consider lakescaping. Lakescapes are the equivalent of raingardens but they're saving our natural bodies of water right at the source! How great is that?
How A Rain Garden Can Help
Here's a quote from "Land And Water" The Magazine of Natural Resource Management and Restoration in an article about rainwater gardens in Burnsville, Minnesota.
"By capturing runoff in shallow depressions and letting it soak into the ground, rainwater gardens not only lowers the peak flow, but increases the base flow of water that reaches lakes and streams, but help recharge stores of groundwater in aquifers. Moreover, they filter out sediment and other pollutants like oil, grease and heavy metals by catching about the first inch of runoff, which contains the highest concentration of pollutants.
Rainwater gardens transform stormwater from a destructive carrier of pollution into a source of sustenance for plant and wildlife habitats: the plants thrive on nitrogen and phosphorus, while their stems trap sediment."
Just One Example Of A Rain Garden
A Beautiful Solution To Water Pollution
This is a powerful video all about Rain Gardens and well worth watching.
NOTE: It's not as long as it looks because for some reason it will run twice. You can stop it after it's first run.
Grants for Planting Rain Gardens
Check with your county Soil and Water Conservation District to see if they are offering grants for planting rain gardens or lakescaping or other land restoration projects. There may be funds available in your area.
A Newly Planted Rain Garden
This rain garden is in Minnesota and it's brand new. It'll catch the runoff from the road and sidewalk. Notice its shape and position. It'll be beautiful in a very short period of time.
Rain Gardens typically have more wildflowers than grasses so they're usually more colorful when they're mature. Be sure to plant the taller varieties at the back or in the center and the smaller wildflowers and sedges around the edges.
Rain Garden Links
These links will give you all the information you need to design and plant your very own rain garden.
- Native Rain Garden
This is hands down the best website I've found on the subject of rain gardens. No matter where you live in the United States, you will find everything you need at this website to plant your perfect rain garden.
- 10,000 Rain Gardens
This Kansas City website is one of the best I've seen. It's got tons of information that useful no matter where you live.
- Rain Garden Network | Photo Gallery
Rain Garden Network offers planning tools, installation services and education & outreach materials & services to homeowners, organizations and municipalities
Rain Garden Basics - From the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources
I am copying this list verbatim from the Minnesota DNR website because it describes perfectly the procedure for basic planting and maintenance of Rain Gardens. It was written by a guy named Tom Dixon.
I just couldn't have said it better, myself!
- Choose a low or wet spot in your yard where water drains naturally. The closer to the street, the better the spot. Make sure it's at least 15 feet from any home foundation to avoid basement wetness.
- Check the soil. Sand-based soil works well. Clay-soil gardens are not recommended.
- Use a garden hose to outline the area. Any shape is fine.
- After checking for underground power lines and other utilities, dig a shallow depression, with the center at a depth of 12 to 18 inches, feathering out to the perimeter.
- Dig a shallow trench from the downspout or sump pump outlet to the garden.
- Choose native plants and cultivars that tolerate drought and occasional drenching. As a general rule of thumb, plants should be about 18 inches apart, or one plant per 2.5 square feet.
- Mow or remove the dead vegetation each spring, or burn it off if local ordinances allow. Weed three times per growing season. (Tree seedlings are usually the most abundant weeds.)
Native Grasses and Wildflowers
- Native Grasses and Wildflowers | Flickr - Photo Sharing!
There are hundreds of beautiful wildflowers that can be used in rain gardens. Of course, the best wildflowers to use are those native to your particular location. All of the photographs in this link are from my personal collection. Enjoy!
Mulching Your Newly Planted Rain Garden
Protecting the tiny plants
When you create a rain garden or a lakescape, it's important to protect the tiny plants after you've set them into the earth. Mulching the plants helps keep the moisture to the roots until they become strong. After the plants are established and spreading, they will need very little care.
Good Mulch and Bad Mulch - Protect Louisiana's Cypress Forests
Please do not use cypress mulch in any of your gardens. The cypress forests of Louisiana are being destroyed at an alarming rate by indiscriminate clear cutting. This not only affects the critical habitat but it removes the natural protection against hurricane damage to the coastline.
There are a number of sustainable alternatives to cypress mulch and I've listed some here from the Save Our Cypress website. Read more about this at Save Our Cypress
- Recycled Yard Waste
- Pine Straw
- Pine Bark Mulch
- Eucalyptus Mulch
What Can You Do If You Live In A City? - You can help, even if you're an apartment dweller
There are many ways to help save our natural waterways, even if you don't own or live in a home with a yard or garden.
- Never dump anything down a city street drain!
- Pick up after your pets.
- Periodically check your vehicles for leaks.
- Always recycle your motor oil.
- Wash your car at a car wash, not in your driveway.
Did You Know....
...that the average gasoline powered mower tested by the EPA emits in one hour of operation the same amount of hydrocarbons that a 1992 Ford Explorer emits over 23,600 miles?
SOURCE: Green Seal's Report
Learning About Rain Gardens - A Useful Resource
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Thank you very much!