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?
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.”
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.
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.”
— Story and photos by Larry Vogel