A blustery day for building rain gardens

1172
2
Neighbors and community volunteers pitch in to plant one of six new rain gardens on Sierra Drive in Edmonds' Seaview neighborhood.
Neighbors and community volunteers pitch in to plant one of six new rain gardens on Sierra Drive in Edmonds’ Seaview neighborhood.

A rainy, windy Saturday morning did nothing to dampen the spirits of a score of local garden enthusiasts who turned out to help build a cluster of rain gardens for residents of Edmonds’ Seaview neighborhood.

It’s all part of a joint project by the Snohomish Conservation District, the City of Edmonds, and WSU Master Gardeners to use rain gardens to help mitigate storm water runoff and erosion in our neighborhoods, while providing and enhancing habitat for everything from soil organisms to birds to tree frogs.

The Seaview project brought together half a dozen homeowners along Seaview’s Sierra Drive who wanted to help address rainwater runoff by building rain gardens in their neighborhood.

So what is a rain garden anyway, and why are they a good idea?

Kate Riley, Program Manager and resident rain garden expert for the Snohomish Conservation District points out how this rain garden absorbs and traps runoff water.
Kate Riley, Program Manager and resident rain garden expert for the Snohomish Conservation District, points out how this rain garden absorbs and traps runoff water.

According to Kate Riley, program manager for the Snohomish Conservation District, rain gardens can help restore many critical benefits that are lost as the built environment becomes more pervasive.

“Our native soils naturally absorb, store, filter and slowly release water into our rivers, streams and wetlands helping ensure a steady supply of clean water to these areas,” she explains. “But as the region grows, our native forests are being replaced with roads, rooftops and other hard surfaces that don’t absorb water. This means more and faster runoff that carries contaminants like oil, pesticides and other pollutants right into our streams.”

Riley points out that contaminated runoff has already been identified as the major cause of juvenile salmon deaths. “These fish depend on spawning and rearing areas free of pollution and contamination,” she said. “A big part of the solution is better management of runoff water, and rain gardens are one way to help make this happen. It’s an easy, low impact way to manage runoff.”

A rain garden acts as a natural trap for runoff from roofs, roadways and other impervious surfaces. The base soil acts as a sponge that absorbs and slowly releases the water, while filtering out particulates and providing habitat for a rich flora of micro-organisms that help remove contaminants (from The Rain Garden Handbook published by the Washington State Department of Ecology and WSU Extension Service).
A rain garden acts as a natural trap for runoff from roofs, roadways and other impervious surfaces. The base soil acts as a sponge that absorbs and slowly releases the water, while filtering out particulates and providing habitat for a rich flora of micro-organisms that help remove contaminants (from The Rain Garden Handbook published by the Washington State Department of Ecology and WSU Extension Service).

In its simplest form, a rain garden is a landscaped area that collects, absorbs and filters stormwater runoff from rooftops, paved roads, driveways and other hard surfaces. Typically a dozen feet in diameter, they are filled with absorbent compost, covered with chips or mulch, and planted with a variety of grasses, sedges and flowering plants. Located strategically in a homeowner’s yard, the rain garden can trap uncontrolled runoff from roofs and driveways, retain, filter and release it slowly to be naturally absorbed into the soil and flow into streams and creeks.

Mike Cawrse of the City of Edmonds Public Works Department helps indentify areas in Edmonds where rain gardens would have the greatest benefit in controlling runoff.
Mike Cawrse of the City of Edmonds Public Works Department helps indentify areas in Edmonds where rain gardens would have the greatest benefit in controlling runoff.

And in addition to their environmental benefits, Riley points out that “rain gardens make a great addition to home landscapes. They’re beautiful and interesting visually, they attract birds, and you don’t have to mow them.”

Learn more about rain gardens at www.12000raingardens.org. If you are interested in finding out more about building a rain garden, contact Riley at 425-377-7004 or by email at kate@snohomishcd.org.

Paved roads, roofs and other impervious surfaces have exacerbated the runoff problem.  By not slowing the stormwater flow, these surfaces contribute to local flooding.  They also add oil and other contaminents to runoff water, which is having deleterious effects on fish and wetland ecosystems, and subverting the natural cleansing and filtration of rainwater as it passes through soils and into the groundwater supply.  Rain gardens are a low-impact way to mitigate these problems.
Paved roads, roofs and other impervious surfaces have exacerbated the runoff problem. By not slowing the stormwater flow, these surfaces contribute to local flooding. They also add oil and other contaminents to runoff water, which is having deleterious effects on fish and wetland ecosystems, and subverting the natural cleansing and filtration of rainwater as it passes through soils and into the groundwater supply. Rain gardens are a low-impact way to mitigate these problems.

— Story and photos by Larry Vogel

2 COMMENTS

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here