Rain is Rushing Down My Street

It’s raining – again! Do you wish you could save some of that rainwater for later? Maybe you are tired of seeing your soil and mulch wash down the street during heavy downpours. There are some things you can do.

Stormwater Management in the Garden

by Michelle Wallace, Consumer Horticulture Agent, Durham County

There are butterfly gardens, children’s gardens, and vegetable gardens – all of which are designed and developed around a central theme. So, what kind of garden is built around the theme of rain? Rain gardens are gardens created to help with stormwater management.

In the past, the goal has always been to manage stormwater by getting rid of the surface water as fast as possible. The water from roads is drained into the city sewer system, where it disappears. With more flooding of streams, creeks, and rivers, everyone is becoming aware of how important it is to manage storm water. In addition, the old methods of managing stormwater did nothing to reduce pollutants from entering our watershed.

It has taken some time, but the old method of managing storm water is changing. Instead of trying to get rid of the stormwater as fast as possible, stormwater is retained and allowed to slowly percolate into the soil. Wetlands and bog plants are used to help filter out the pollutants in the water.

More subdivisions are required to manage their own stormwater. Bio-retention ponds made beautiful with plantings of attractive water loving species become desirable focal points and also increase the bio-diversity of insects and wildlife. Some subdivisions are even doing away with tradition curb and gutters along the streetscape and utilizing drainage ditches, more common in rural areas.

What can you do? To start, consider utilizing the water that falls on your property. If you have gutters, connect the downspouts to a rain barrel or cistern. Cisterns will also solve your water problems during the long dry spells in the summer. They can be attached to an irrigation hose. Another solution is creating a slight depression in your landscape where water can collect and drain. Amend the soil in the depression to avoid standing water for extended periods. Utilize water loving plants that can sustain themselves while submerged in water over a short period of time. Many of these plants are also well adapted to dry periods. There are several plants that will flourish in wet soils including: Hibiscus moscheutos (swamp hibiscus), Iris pseudacorus (yellow flag iris), Baptisia species (false indigo), Lobelia cardinalis (cardinal flower), and Itea virginica (Virginia sweet spire). For more information on Rain Gardens visit http://www.bae.ncsu.edu/topic/raingarden/index.htm.

[From Ann Barnes, blog administrator]: One of my fellow Master Gardener Volunteers shared this photo of a rain garden on her property. Beautiful, isn’t it? It’s also good for water quality and the environment. If you have a suitable area in your yard, please consider installing a rain garden. You can contact the Master Gardener office for more information.