June & July 2013
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Rain Gardens for Stormwater Control

The first principles of stormwater management are to reduce the amount of runoff, and to treat stormwater as close as possible to where it falls. Minimizing the amount of rainwater that runs into our built structure of sewers and pipes saves money, can prevent overloading the storm sewer system (which can cause flooding), and can be an asset to the natural environment.

One useful and attractive way to treat stormwater is to direct it to a rain garden. A rain garden is a planted area in a depression that is designed to temporarily fill with rainwater during a storm. A rain garden is not a pond with a liner. It is a low spot that will collect water during heavy rain. After the storm, water will gradually seep down into the soil. Water is directed to the rain garden through downspouts, swales, or rock-lined channels. The gardens are planted with climate-adapted, deep-rooted plants. An additional benefit of a rain garden is that it can provide resources for pollinators such as bees, birds, and bats. It also adds a variation in habitat for wildlife.

There are many design plans available online. The website of the Toledo-Lucas County Rain Garden Initiative includes design information and lists of native plants that are especially well-suited to the local environment. Plants that thrive in a rain garden tolerate flood and dry conditions and tend to have deep roots.

To begin your plan:

Select a low-lying spot at least 10 feet from any building. There is a little math involved but figure out how much impervious area you will be draining (roofs, driveways, etc.). This will tell you how big your garden area should be.
Figure out how quickly the soil drains in your area with a percolation test. Plans will show you how to accommodate for the slope of the sides of your garden.
Select plants, plant the garden, and apply two to three inches of mulch.
In the first growing season while the plants are small you will want to limit standing water, water the garden during dry periods and pull weeds.

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