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Feb 27, 201310:25 AMHomes & Gardens

All things home and garden

A Ditch by Any Other Name

Feb 27, 2013 - 10:25 AM
A Ditch by Any Other Name

Though you may have already forgotten last season’s floods, the frequency and severity of these events is not lost on folks who are responsible for managing our water supply. 

Storm water is the buzzword for the bad guy behind every rainy day; and folks are desperate to deal with it.

Everything Old

Anytime rain cannot be readily absorbed into the soil it runs off carrying dirt, oil and in the case of lawns and farm fields, fertilizer and pesticides. Most of those materials get moved in the early minutes of those events and are referred to as the “First Flush”.  It’s these first flushes that are attracting so much attention.

Not too long ago, the idea had been to move water quickly off any area that it didn’t infiltrate. Swales, gutters and ditches were where the water went when rain got heavy. Today, water managers are taking a new look at ditches to repurpose them for the first flush.

There’s a lot of irony in the notion that what had essentially been a waste area has become the star of environmental stewardship in a high tech age.

By reengineering the lowly ditch, water managers can trap sediments and chemicals to prevent them from moving into streams where they become more difficult to manage. You did something similar when, as a kid, you used your foot or piled snow in the gutter to detain water on its journey down the sewer.

Bring it Home

When you think about it, home landscapes have become the repository for a lot of chemistry that would be best kept out of the water supply. So if you want to keep that stuff on the lawn and out of the lane do you have to build a ditch around your perimeter?  Thankfully no!

Three effective and aesthetic solutions are available to manage your contribution to storm water flow; rain gardens, pervious paving and rainwater capture.

Rain Gardens are going save the landscape industry.  In an era when folks are less inclined to gold-plate their landscape and want to be on the good side of environmental stewardship, these glorified ditches are going to create their own reality TV shows.

As simple as a depression in the lawn where storm water can hold up briefly, rain gardens can be landscaped to provide habitat for butterflies and pollinators and require very little maintenance. There’re popping up, inconspicuously, everywhere. They’re inconspicuous because they don’t look like ditches; rather an interesting landscape planting. Check out the rear parking area of St. Thomas Roasters in Linglestown next time you’re there; for example.

Pervious paving and rainwater capture are certainly more expensive but integrated into a hardscape or pond project make good economic and practice sense.

Cooperative Extension, The Alliance for the Chesapeake Bay and The Soil Conservation District are all sources of more information on managing stormwater where you live. Ask your landscape contractor is they’re familiar with these techniques when creating or redesigning your landscape.

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