Page 74 - 2017-greengate-Gardensense-magazine
P. 74

rain gardens
Do your part to preserve the ecosystem!
What – Rain gardens are a low maintenance, eco-friendly, solution to underutilized low, and/or damp spots, on your property. Lush green spaces are created while rain water is captured and filtered, by a process known as bio-retention, before returning to the water system. Hardy, water resistant, usually native plants are planted in irregularly shaped beds that take advantage of the natural, or man- made, landscape to collect rainwater for filtration. Plants collect waterborne contaminants along with the nutrition that they require. Up to 30% of the contaminants may be removed before the water that has been collected by the rain garden return to the water system.
Why – This gardening process allows you to utilize more of the moisture that falls on your property while helping to improve the eco-system. By collecting moisture that would usually be lost to evaporation only to fall unfiltered once again, and filtering it through your water garden you achieve two major things. A previously underutilized portion of your yard is now a lush feature utilizing water that was already falling on your property, providing you a very low maintenance feature. A second, and maybe more important, achievement is helping to improve the environment by filtering rainwater normally running directly, and unfiltered, into storm drains and back into the water system, or lost to evaporation only to fall again as rain.
Location – Natural low spots, or any area where water already collects, in your yard is an ideal spot for a water garden. If these types of areas do not already exist in your yard downspouts may be diverted, and/or extended, and landscapes can be slightly altered to achieve an effective rain garden. Slightly irregular shapes are ideal for rain garden since they take advantage of the contours of the landscape, which will aid in water collection, as well as retention. Stake out an area approximately 50% of the area being drained. This amount of area is necessary due to Calgary soils high clay content which tend to hold water close to the surface encouraging evaporation.
Click before you dig! -
Process – Once you have selected a suitable site for your rain garden the real work begins. Dig out the entire area approximately 6-8 inches (15-20 cm) deep. Ensure that the bottom of the bed is even to prevent pooling and allow for even water distribution and dissipation. The simplest way to achieve this is using a string line and ruler for consistent depth. Remove soil from desired area and mix with organic compost (SeaSoil) and/or peat moss (Beats Peat) before returning to garden. Start with a 2-3 inches (5-8cm) layer of compost and then slowly add in previous soil, which can be also be mixed lightly with compost and peat moss.
Level using a 2 x 4 but do not compact the area heavily, and try to avoid walking on it, as compact soil will not retain, or filter, water as well. A berm can be built around the bed using any excess soil that was previously removed.
Plants – Native plants tend to be most effective for rain gardens. These plants tend to be quite hardy and will do well in most cases, but other hardy non-native perennials will also work well. Plant larger perennial shrubs, like Willows, Saskatoon and Dogwood, near the center of the bed where they will anchor the arrangement in both size and stature. Smaller plants should be planted in succession from larger to smaller from the center to the outside of the bed to create a tiered bed where all plants are visible. Mulch between plants using tree bark or other heavy mulch to help suppress weeds and retain water.
Enjoy – Feel the satisfaction of a job well done. You are now doing your part in helping the environment while creating a lush feature that will sustain itself for years to come.

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