Oct 17, 201211:13 AMHome & Garden
Bob Carey, D.B. Frank and All Things Home
I Never Promised You a Rain Garden
In my practice, issues related to water and rainfall has created more problems in the landscape than pests and disease this season. But in many ways, the surfeit or rain has graver consequences on buildings, infrastructure and the quality of our water supply.
This problem isn’t limited to our region but affects communities rural and urban nationwide.
The reasons our basements flood, roads become impassible and streams leave their banks is easy to understand. Much too much rain water drains away from the spot where it falls rather than being absorbed by the soil. Roof tops, pavements and even residential lawns shed practically all the water that falls on them only to return when sewers back up or swollen streams flood.
Historically, better drainage was the solution to local flooding. Get that stuff away from my place and it’ll be somebody else’s problem. These days, you and I are that somebody else and the places to divert excess storm water have about run out.
Or have they?
Remember, the way things used to work was for all by the most ferocious rain events to be soaked up by spongy layers of soil in forests and fields. Pretty much detained where it fell, rainwater irrigated the plants that grew there and was evaporated into the atmosphere or was slowly released to nourish springs and streams.
Generally, we’re well beyond the point where forests and fields can prevent floods; there just aren’t enough where they’re needed.
Meanwhile communities are challenged to manage the damaging effects of storm water even as they accommodate the growth that can exacerbate the problem.
Few of us feel capable of saving the world or even the neighborhood; even if we were disposed to do so. We are motivated by a payoff however.
Rain Gardening is as old as Asian mountainside rice paddies and as new as a recent seminar at the county Conservation District.
Fundamentally, rain gardens are designated areas that attempt to replicate what used to happen when we lived in cities in the forest, rather than the other way around. By detaining roof and pavement runoff in the landscape, water can infiltrate the soil and stay out of the storm sewer. The more water that’s retained on the properties where it fell, the less severe is the potential for damaging floods and fouled water supply.
That kind of payoff might be a little hard to get your head around here’s more to consider.
Rain gardens usually consist of hardy plants that need far less care than other ornamentals. It can also go a long way to reducing the amount of lawn you need to mow. Because much of the palette of rain garden plants consists of species needed by pollinators, you may be creating a Monarch Butterfly Way Station in the deal.
Many homeowners are trying to get by with fewer pesticides. Discontinuing the use of pesticides though, sometimes results in a surge of insect pests. Rain garden habitat provides food and cover for beneficial insect species that can take over the pest patrol once the hazardous fog of insecticides has cleared.
Resources about rain gardening are easily found at extension websites. Interesting, Pennsylvania extension has been using the good work done in Ohio as a model; no need to reinvent the wheel. I promise you’ll not look at your back yard the same again.