Tuesday, January 31, 2012 3:03 AM
One Garden at a Time
As we mentioned last week, many cities are turning to green infrastructure, at least in part, to remedy their combined sewer overflows. One of the most recognizable aspects of green infrastructure or LID, at least to the general public, is the rain garden.
“Rain garden” has become a household term in many areas, with homeowners enthusiastically constructing them in their yards and developers sometimes including them on new properties as an amenity. (Green roofs are also a recognizable—and attractive—LID technique, and a few like the one atop Chicago’s City Hall have been well publicized, but they’re more expensive and much less feasible for the average homeowner to tackle.)
From early research in Burnsville, MN, on rain garden performance to ambitious plans to create thousands of them in Kansas City, rain gardens have grown in visibility and popularity. Some programs, like RiverSmart in the Washington, DC, area, are offering grants to homeowners who plant rain gardens. There are questions of how to prepare the soil and what to plant, but the bigger challenge may be how to maintain them over the long term. The property owner will need to weed and mow periodically, perhaps replace some plants, and occasionally remove sediment or debris. And when the property changes hands, the knowledge of how to do those things—and the more basic information that the planting is in fact a rain garden—needs to be passed along to the new owner.
More studies large and small are being conducted to determine rain gardens’ performance and optimal plantings for different regions. And, as one reader commented last week, even if we don’t quantify their performance, the overall volume reduction provides incremental benefits.