Spring 2010   

Project Plant is supporting the concept of Rain Gardens in Athens

Athens Soil and Water Conservation District is spearheading the effort to introduce rain gardens to the Athens County area

rain garden coverThe picture above is from the cover of the excellent Rain Garden document which can be viewed at: http://clean-water.uwex.edu/pubs/

What is a Rain Garden?

Rain gardens, sometimes called bio-retention areas, are shallow depressions in the landscape that capture stormwater and allow it to gradually percolate into the soil. Planted with moisture-loving plants that help filter out pollutants, rain gardens provide an attractive way to reduce the impact of stormwater on the environment.

Homeowners, cities, and businesses in many parts of the country are catching on to rain gardens -- landscaped areas planted to wild flowers and other native vegetation that soak up rain water, mainly from the roof of a house or other building, driveways and parking lots. The rain garden fills with a few inches of water after a storm and the water slowly filters into the ground rather than running off to a storm drain. Compared to a conventional patch of lawn, a rain garden allows about 30% more water to soak into the ground.

Why are rain gardens important?

As cities and suburbs grow and replace forests and agricultural land, increased stormwater runoff from impervious surfaces becomes a problem. Stormwater runoff from developed areas increases flooding; carries pollutants from streets, parking lots and even lawns into local streams and lakes; and leads to costly municipal improvements in stormwater treatment structures.

By reducing stormwater runoff, rain gardens can be a valuable part of changing these trends. While an individual rain garden may seem like a small thing, collectively they produce substantial neighborhood and community environmental benefits. Rain gardens work for us in several ways:

Frequently asked questions about a residential rain garden:

Does a rain garden form a pond?

No. The rain water will soak in so the rain garden is dry between rainfalls. (Note: some rain gardens can be designed to include a permanent pond)

Are they a breeding ground for mosquitoes?

No. Mosquitoes need 7 to 12 days to lay and hatch eggs, and standing water in the rain garden will last for a few hours after most storms. Mosquitoes are more likely to lay eggs in bird baths, storm sewers, and lawns than in a sunny rain garden. Also rain gardens attract dragonflies, which eat mosquitoes!

Do they require a lot of maintenance?

Rain gardens can be maintained with little effort after the plants are established. Some weeding and watering will be needed in the first two years, and perhaps some thinning in later years as the plants mature.

Is a rain garden expensive?

It doesn't have to be. A family and a few friends can provide the labor. The main cost will be purchasing the plants, and even this cost can be minimized by using some native plants that might already exist in the yard or in a neighbor's yard.

Where do we go from here?

The Athens Soil and Water Conservation District (SWCD) has been meeting with interested parties from the area to plan and implement a rain water initiative in southeastern Ohio. Project Plant will be working with the SWCD to support their efforts.

If you would be interested in finding out more about Athens area rain garden plans and projects contact Cathy Bobo, District Manager, Athens SWCD at (740) 797-9686 or (800) 582-8890.