KY: Rain Garden: A Beautiful Solution
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KY: Rain Garden: A Beautiful Solution

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KY: Rain Garden: A Beautiful Solution

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  • 1. A HOW-TO GUIDE FOR BUILDING YOUR OWNRA I NG A R D E NA BEAUTIFULSOLUTION 1
  • 2. RAIN GARDENS Why The increase in urban growth and development pushes our ? infrastructure to the limits of its ability to handle storm water runoff. Rain runs off roads, parking lots, rooftops, patios and other surfaces that it cant penetrate. As storm water flows from these hard surfaces into streams and drainage channels, it collects harmful oil-based products, lawn chemicals, pesticides, pet waste and toxic substances. In a heavy downpour, when pipes fill to capacity, water mixed with pollutants and sewage overflows into streams — harming fish and wildlife, killing native vegetation and making recreational areas unsafe. Rain gardens help capture runoff before it reaches the storm drains. Designed with shallow level bottoms, rain gardens soak up storm water runoff and filter out pollutants. By diverting storm water into rain gardens from our roofs or driveways, we improve the health of our local waterways and create beautiful gardens which sustain biodiversity. This reference guide contains information collected from many sources and provides the steps needed to create a residential rain garden. Here are the basics: where to put a rain garden, how deep to make it, how big to make it, and what soils are best to ensure success. We’ve listed appropriate native plants and sources, and have provided some general design tips. Our hope is that rain gardens will soon become a common feature of our community.` James Guthrie, Katie Harvey and Joe Weston (at left), members of Louisville YouthBuild E-Corps plant a rain garden at St. Peter Claver, Louisville, summer 2007. 3
  • 3. A Rain Garden: SIMPLE STEPS Helps keep water clean by filtering storm water runoff before it reaches local streams. FOR A SUCCESSFUL `~`a`~` RAIN Alleviates flooding and drainage problems. GARDEN: `~`a`~` Enhances the beauty of your yard and neighborhood.1. Find the best LOCATION `~`a`~` Attracts a variety of birds and butterflies.2. Evaluate your SOIL `~`a`~`3.PLAN the rain Helps replenish the ground water supply. garden `~`a`~`4. Select PLANTS and Reduces the need to mow. DESIGN the layout `~`a`~`5. PREPARE the Reduces the amount of storm water runoff. garden bed6.MAINTAIN your What about mosquitoes? garden A properly constructed rain garden isn’t a breeding ground for mosquitoes. Rain gardens are meant to drain quickly – usually within several hours under “normal” rainfall. Even with a heavy rainfall, runoff will infiltrate within a day. Mosquitoes need at least a week of standing water to complete their life cycle. The Culex mosquito, the primary transmitter for several ` The plant at right is diseases including West Nile Virus, breeds in stagnant Common milkweed. Monarch butterflies water. Poorly maintained birdbaths, gutters and saucers need this plant food under planters serve as ideal mosquito breeding grounds. source to support their annual migration. 4 54 ` TOP: Illinois Bundleflower
  • 4. How a Rain Garden works Rain gardens are designed to collect Choose plants that are rainwater from the native, drought tolerant roof. The redirected and non-invasive. flow is absorbed by plants and infiltrates A berm helps into the ground. contain water during heavy rains. The deep, dense roots of native plants help break up heavy soils and increase infiltration. Common grass seed mixtures, used in lawns, have very shallow roots and as a result, cannot absorb excess water. 1.Finding the best Location Locate your garden to capture runoff as it drains from the roof through the downspout. Many houses have four downspouts, each taking Rain gardens are not only functional, 25% of the whole surface area. Walk around the house and observe what portion feeds the particular downspout that will empty into they are beautiful. Of course, there are your garden. The more captured runoff, the more area needed for the practical considerations in locating garden. Capturing 100% of the runoff is sometimes possible but isn’t your rain garden, but it should also always realistic, especially if you have a tiny yard. be situated where it can be enjoyed! Choose an area for your rain garden that is almost flat or gently sloping. Avoid too steep of a slope as the steeper the slope, the more digging necessary to make the finished garden level. One accepted rule of thumb is to place your garden 10 or more from the house foundation to avoid any possibility of seepage into the In addition to determining where the runoff will enter your garden, be basement. The garden should be located close enough to the source of mindful of where the water will exit in the event a severe storm causes water runoff — your roof downspout or driveway — so that water can it to overflow. You won’t want to send water in an unwanted direction easily be directed into the garden bed. The reach of the downspout can like towards your neighbor’s patio! be extended by adding a length of 4 inch PVC or black plastic drain pipe. Full or partial sun works best although rain gardens can also work in shady areas with careful plant selection. It’s not a good idea to place It is important to place your rain garden in an area that does not tend a rain garden under a large, mature tree where garden construction to hold water. Wet areas of shallow water indicate slow percolation and may damage tree roots. Small trees and shrubs can be successfully heavy soils with no infiltration. incorporated into the rain garden design.6 7
  • 5. 2.Evaluating your Soil Soil texture determines how well ` water will soak through, or infiltrate, the soil. Soil is composed of three Useful tools mineral particles – sand, silt and clay to have or (often referred to as “the texture”). borrow: When soil is made up of a high Shovel percentage of clay, storm water will not soak in. Rake Trowel For a quick way to determine your Wheelbarrow soil’s texture, grab a small handful of moist soil. Begin pressing the soil Garden hose with spray nozzle between your thumb and index finger to make a ribbon. Soil with a high clay Length of 4 inch content will form a ribbon longer than PVC or black plastic drain pipe, if needed, two inches. Also, clay soil will stick to direct downspout together and be light in color. water to the garden A rain garden is designed to absorb water and should not leave pools of standing water for more than 24 hours following severe storm events. Compacted soils or soils indicating high clay content will need to be amended in ensure proper drainage. To improve water infiltration, mix in organic materials — at least 50% in total volume.8 ` Oakleaf Hydrangea ` TOP: Butterfly Milkweed 9
  • 6. 3. Planning the Rain Garden Surface size Rain gardens come in all sizes and shapes. Choose what is best for your yard, budget and your ability to manage. A small rain garden can handle a variety of rain events, even though it may not capture 100% runoff from the roof. Surface area of the rain garden can be determined by figuring the size of the drainage area that will feed it. To calculate the drainage area of your roof, measure the length and width of the house and multiply the two together. Divide by the number of downspouts. The result gives you the approximate square footage of the roof surface drained by each downspout. (Example: 20 x 60 =1200 sq. ft.; 1200 ÷ 4 downspouts = 300 sq. ft. resulting in a garden size of 10 x 30). If possible, the longer side of the garden should be perpendicular to the downspout. It needs to be wide enough to spread water evenly over the entire garden reaching all the plants. Depth Your rain garden should be dug deep enough to drain within 24 hours. To measure the drainage rate of your soil, dig a hole the size of a coffee can and insert a ruler. Fill the hole with water and mark the level on the ruler. Wait four hours and mark the water level again. To determine the daily percolation, multiply the number of inches drained in four hours by six. For example, if the water drains 1 inch in 4 hours, it will drain 6 inches in 24 hours (1 inch every 4 hours x 6 = 6 inches every 24 hours). In this example, you would dig your garden 6 inches deeper than the surrounding soil. Most residential rain gardens will be about 4 – 8 inches deep. If the water in your test hole has not drained within the 24 hour period, it is probably best to select another location, or work to amend the soil.10 11
  • 7. Roof Roof 4.Selecting Plants and Designing the layout Start with a rough plan for the Downspout pipe extension River Oats placement of plants. Graph paper is useful for designing to scale. Depending New Smooth on the location, keep the taller plants to Great England Bundleflower Aster the back with medium and short plants Penstemon Blue Aster in front. If it is possible to walk around Lobelia Common Joe Pye Weed your entire rain garden, you might Milkweed Giant Coreopsis Vervain consider placing the tallest plants in Sunflower the middle. Illinois Butterfly Bundleflower Ironweed Blazing Star How you arrange your plants Milkweed New England Aster determines the design. Some people Indian Grass Smooth Aster Mistflower like a more natural look modeled after Coneflower how plants grow in nature. Some prefer Mistflower Black-eyed Susan Common a more refined or not so “wild” look, Butterfly Milkweed grouping flowers and grasses in masses. Purple Prairie Clover Milkweed In any case, you can accomplish your preference using native flowers Mulched path Bottlebrush Grass and grasses, including small trees and shrubs if you choose. Non-native plants are acceptable if they are not invasive. River Oats Plants survive best when needed requirements are met. Some plants Mistflower need a lot of sun for a longer period of time. Others prefer a more shaded environment. To be successful, do your homework and select the right plant for the right place. Full or partial sun works best although rain gardens can also work in shady areas with careful plant selection. Place a bird house or bird bath nearby to attract birds. Use rocks to define boundaries or add garden ornaments in and around your rain garden. Rain gardens can provide a unique aesthetic beauty to your neighborhood. When locating the garden consider all views from both inside and outside your house. As with any garden they can be designed adjacent to a patio or right outside a dining area window, whatever best suits your yard. ` This rain garden plan places taller plants in the center and is designed so there are plants in bloom throughout the season.12 ` TOP: Penstemon 13
  • 8. BLOOMING PERIOD SPECIES NAME COMMON NAME HEIGHT SUN or SHADE WILDFLOWERS (Forbs) SPRING Aquilegia canadense Columbine 2 - 3 full/part sun Asarum caudatum Wild Ginger 4 - 8" shade SPRING/SUMMER Baptisia alba Indigo 3 - 4 full/part sun Tradescantia ohiensis Ohio Spiderwort 2 - 4 full/part sun EARLY SUMMER Desmanthus illinoensis Illinois Bundleflower 2 - 3 full/part sun Choosing your plants Phlox paniculata Phlox 2 - 3 full/part sun SUMMER Asclepias incarnata Swamp Milkweed 3 - 6 full sun Asclepias syriaca Common Milkweed 3 - 4 full/part sun Native plants connect us with our Asclepias tuberosa Butterfly Milkweed 2 - 3 full/part sun natural heritage and celebrate our Blephilia ciliata Downy Wood Mint 12 - 18" full/part sun Dalea purpurea Purple Prairie Clover up to 3 full sun unique eco-region. They attract Echinacea pallida Pale Purple Coneflower 3 - 4 full/part sun an entire network of critters that Eryngium yuccifolium Rattlesnake Master up to 3 full sun support our local biodiversity. Many Ludwigia alternifolia Rattlebox 2 - 3 full/part sun butterflies depend on native plants Parthenium integrifolium Wild Quinine 3 - 5 full sun to sustain them on their migration Penstemon digitalis Foxglove Beardtongue 2 - 4 full/part sun Polymnia canadensis Leaf Cup up to 5 partial sun journey. Pycnanthemum tenuifolium Slender Mountain Mint 2 - 3 full/part sun Silene regia Royal Catchfly 3 full/part sun Native plants have deep roots Silphium trifoliatum Whorled Rosinweed up to 7 full sun and once established, require little Vernonia gigantea Ironweed 6 full/part sun maintenance. They have the ability LATE SUMMER Eupatorium fistulosum Joe-Pye Weed 7 - 8 full sun to withstand extremes in weather Eupatorium perfoliatum Boneset 4 full/part sun and long periods of drought. Verbena hastata Blue Vervain 4 - 6 full sun LATE SUMMER/FALL Aster novae-angliae New England Aster 3 - 5 full/part sun As with any plant, it is best to Coreopsis tripteris Tall Tickseed 3 - 7 full/part sun Helenium autumnale Sneezeweed 2 - 5 full/part sun select natives from our local Helianthus giganteus Giant Sunflower 8 - 10 full sun genotype. A purple coneflower Liatris spicata Dense Blazing Star 3 - 6 full/part sun from Oregon will not survive as Lobelia cardinalis Cardinal Flower 2 - 5 full/part shade well as a purple coneflower from Lobelia siphilitica Blue Lobelia 1 - 4 full/part sun Ratibida pinnata Yellow or Gray-Headed Coneflower 3 - 6 full sun Kentucky. Rudbeckia hirta Black-eyed Susan 1 - 3 full/part sun Silphium laciniatum Compass Plant 4 - 10 full sun You may also consider non-native, Silphium perfoliatum Cup Plant 8 full/part sun non-invasive perennial species. Solidago sp. Goldenrod — Kentuckys State Flower various full sun Shade-loving Hostas are an easy FALL Aster sericeus Silky Aster 1 - 3 full/part sun to grow, non-native plant suitable Eupatorium coelestinum Mist Flower 1 - 3 full/part sun for your garden. Helianthus angustifolius Narrow-leaved Sunflower 4 - 6 full sun Liatris squarulosa Southern Blazing Star 2 - 4 Full/part sun This chart is a partial list of Silphium pinnatifidum Cut-leaf Prairie Dock 7 - 10 full sun Silphium terebinthinaceum Prairie Dock 6 - 10 full sun desirable plants to help you get GRASSES/SEDGES/RUSHES started. For more suggestions, EARLY SUMMER to FALL Chasmanthium latifolium River Oats 3’ full/part sun consult with your local nursery, or EARLY to LATE SUMMER Hystrix patula Bottlebrush Grass 3’ full/part sun research Kentucky native plants on SUMMER Andropogon gerardii Big Bluestem 3 - 9’ full sun the internet. Plant books, available Andropogon scoparium Little Bluestem 2 - 3’ full sun free from the library, are helpful Carex frankii Frank’s Sedge 2 - 3’ full/part sun Carex vulpinoidea Fox Sedge 2 - 3’ full/part sun tools in planning your rain garden. Elymus virginicus Virginia Wild Rye 3’ full/part sun Juncus effusus Soft Rush 3’ full sun Sorghastrum nutans Indian Grass 4 - 8’ full sun14 `Columbine Sporobolus heterolepis Prairie Dropseed 2 - 4’ full sun 15
  • 9. BEFORE DIGGING Garden area 5. Preparing the garden bed START DIGGING HERE Prior to digging, use spray paint or a garden hose to AFTER DIGGING outline the edges of the garden. If building the rain Garden area garden in an existing lawn, digging is made easier by killing the grass first or removing grass with a rented fac e o l d l a w n sur sod cutter (see GETTING RID OF GRASS sidebar). BERM LEVEL BASE OF GARDEN The deeper the rain garden, the more storm water will infiltrate. For most residential gardens, 4 – 8 inches will be the average. Dig a level depression. If the soil is compacted, mix in compost while tilling the bed to Getting rid of grass about a foot deep to loosen the soil. Grade the garden so that water will spread out over a large area. ALWAYS call There are several ways to remove BEFORE U DIG vegetation such as grass and weeds. (BUD) at In the first year, you may want to cut a notch at the The cost will depend on the amount 800.752.6007 top of the garden to let rain water flow out so that of labor you are willing to do to identify yourself. the bed will not fill to the top and drown young plants buried utility before they have been able to establish root systems lines that may Grass is efficiently eradicated by for infiltration. be in the way use of an herbicide containing of the shovel glyphosate (Round-Up®, Kleen-up®, Blot Out®, and Knock Out®). Be sure Planting the garden or tiller. to follow instructions. Don’t allow kids or pets on the area for Once you’ve decided on the plan, lay out the plants a day following an application. Also check the weather and according to your design approximately one foot apart. Keep the plants only apply when there isn’t rain predicted for 2 or 3 days. in containers until you are ready to put them in the ground to prevent Another method to get rid of grass is to use black plastic. the roots from drying out. Never “work” soil when it is wet. Squeeze Black plastic heats up the ground underneath and keeps light a handful of soil and if it crumbles, it is dry enough to “work” or till. out, allowing the grass to die slowly over several months. The downside of using black plastic is that accomplishing a “good” For a shrub or tree, dig the hole twice as wide as the root ball or kill takes time. container and deep enough to keep the crown of the plant level with Renting a sod cutter from a local equipment company provides the existing grade, just as it was in the container. Fill the hole and firmly instant gratification. Although the cutter uses gas to drive the tamp around the roots to avoid air pockets. motor, there isn’t a need for herbicide application.16 ` TOP: Phlox 17
  • 10. 6. Maintaining your garden Just like any garden, your rain garden will need some basic maintenance COST to keep it healthy and functioning. Although mulching will help reduce The cost of any weeds, some weeding is required, especially in early spring before garden depends on the plants have filled out. Weeds should be pulled the size of the garden, when young, by hand. Labeling as you plant will plant selection and make it easier to recognize the weeds from the sources for materials. young native plants. April and May are the months where Mulching is an important part of garden many local plant maintenance. The main purpose of mulch is to sales happen. Some keep the soil moist, and prevent the top soil people attend regular surface from developing into a hard crust. We plant swaps. recommend spreading 2 to 3 inches of double shredded hardwood mulch after planting. (Leaf mulch is also an option.) Both types of Example of mulch add nutrients to the soil as they decompose or “break down”. approximate expenses Hardwood mulch doesn’t float during periods of flooding and stays for installing a 1000 in place longer. It is available at garden centers. Compost is available square foot rain garden: through annual Operation Brightside sales. Sod cutter: $54.00/4 hours rental The rain garden will require watering, especially during the first year 100 native 2 inch after planting while young plants are developing roots. Once plants potted plants $3.00 to are established, watering is only required as needed. The beauty of $4.50 each using native plants is that they usually take less maintenance. You may substitute a favorite annual flower or cultivar for a native as long as it is Compost: $20 for a pickup-full not invasive. Hardwood mulch: Never spread or spray fertilizers too close to your rain garden as it may x bags @ $9.00 /bag increase weed production. Plants that are not doing well may need to be relocated or removed entirely from the garden. Every garden is a unique situation and requires tending until established. 700 West Liberty Street Louisville, Kentucky 40203-1911 www.msdlouky.org18 ` Black-eyed Susan 19
  • 11. © 2007 Louisville and Jefferson CountyMetropolitan Sewer District.700 West Liberty StreetLouisville, Kentucky 40203-1911502-587-0603www.msdlouky.orgAll rights reserved` Plants pictured: front cover, top: Illinois Bundleflower bottom: Common Milkweed with Monarch butterfly back cover, left: Black-eyed Susan right: Oakleaf Hydrangea Produced by Phyllis Croce for MSD Thanks to the following for their contribution to the production of this manual: Margaret Shea, Dropseed Nursery Donna Michael, Jefferson County Extension Service Kurt Mason, Natural Resources Conservation Service Loren Levitz, MSD Jefferson County Soil and Water Conservation District Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources URS Corporation Design and illustration: Marilyn Motsch /Stellar Design Photography: Phyllis Croce, Jack Francis and Marilyn Motsch