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The thunderstorms this past May are just a memory now, but they left many homes and streets in northeastern Illinois with standing water. A 1-inch rainfall on an acre produces about 27, gallons of water and it must flow somewhere. Impermeable surfaces such as roofs, sheds, patios, sidewalks, and streets shed rain to surrounding earth and sewers. Although a lawn would seem like a good permeable surface to catch rainwater, grass roots are only 3 to 4 inches deep.
When the soil is dry, the water initially runs right off the lawn into adjacent areas. As cities and suburbs continue to develop and build structures and roads, there is less permeable space for water to enter the ground and, as a result, there is more flooding in many areas. Allowing rainwater into the soil helps recharge underground aquifers and reduces surface runoff and pollutants that would otherwise end up in streams and rivers.
One way to capture excess water on your property is to plant a rain garden. Rain gardens are basically shallow depressions in the ground filled with topsoil, sand, and compost.
Picture a low spot where water can gather and infiltrate the soil. Rain gardens are sometimes located where water is collected from a downspout and directed away from the house. The rain garden philosophy—create a landscaped basin where rainwater can gently seep back into the earth instead of into a basement, garage, or sewer—is good, but a common complaint is that rain gardens can look messy.
Designing a rain garden can be a challenge. The site can be a little too dry or too wet for certain plants. Determine where and how the water flows on your property and the quality of soil as first steps in selecting the location and the plants. Edging a rain garden with boulders, permeable pavers, or gravel will help define the space and neatly separate it from the lawn. Rain gardens can be placed just about anywhere—sun or shade—as long as you choose the appropriate plants.
Rainwater generally soaks into the ground in 24 hours or so, depending on the intensity and frequency of the storms. With that in mind, know that rain gardens are not always moist. You need not use all native plants but you should give consideration to the type of plants. Some are rhizomatous and form large mats and should only be used in large landscapes, while others form well-behaved clumps. Create a rain garden as you would any other perennial border.
Select plants based on their ornamental qualities—flower and foliage color, form, texture, and seasonal interest—and plant them in drifts or groupings. Choose plants that not only tolerate occasional flooding, but those that can also handle the hot, dry months of July through September.
Mesic-prairie plants such as big bluestem, black-eyed Susan, and compass plant are native plants that can tolerate wet soil for short periods. Herbaceous native plants for rain gardens in sun include swamp milkweed, common tussock sedge, blue flag iris, wild bergamot, marsh blazing star, rosin weed, spiderwort, switch grass, Joe Pye weed, and cup plant. Creating rain gardens is an important way to bring sustainable practices to our gardens while attracting beneficial insects and birds. Many native herbaceous perennials provide pollen, and some serve as specific host plants for moths and butterflies.
Once established, native plants require little irrigation or fertilization. Think of rainwater as a resource, not a waste product.
Designing a rain garden for shade is a matter of picking the right plants. For example, common mountain mint and showy black-eyed Susan Rudbeckia fulgida grow in full sun but will also grow in light shade.
Brown fox sedge Carex vulpinoidea and palm sedge are some of the native sedges that perform in moist woodlands. Native shrubs that tolerate shady floodplain conditions include paw paw, bottlebrush buckeye, smooth hydrangea Hydrangea arborescens , red-twig dowood, button bush, spicebush, and nannyberry Viburnum lentago.
Rain gardens often require less care than other types of perennial beds. There is no need to buy bags of mulch, especially if the perennials are placed closer together when planting. As they fill out, they will help deter weeds. If you are planting a rain garden this fall, provide irrigation if the season is dry.
A helpful tool is a triangular hoe to remove weeds from between the plants the first season. Cut the perennials down in spring, leaving some stems standing 6 inches tall for tiny native bees that will lay their eggs in them. If the clippings are chopped fine, you can leave them as a mulch that will break down quickly. Skip to main content. Rain Gardens August.
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By collecting rainwater, rain gardens help reduce flooding on your property spring plant sales that offer native plants and sometimes “rain garden kits”.
As a landscape designer, this dad has a keen interest in promoting sustainable practices as well. So he used his backyard to experiment, building every part of the rain garden himself. Gregory is proud to say that when it rains, approximately 95 percent of the water stays in his yard as a temporary water feature. A rain garden uses berms, trenches and dry-creek beds to direct water flowing out of gutter downspouts and off hardscape such as patios to a low area where it temporarily pools. During a downpour, a dry streambed can burble to life, mimicking a real stream. Because the low area has wetter conditions than the rest of the yard, it allows a greater diversity of plants. And the slow seeping of the rainwater through the roots and soil screens out contaminants much better than if the runoff were to simply gush into the street. Gregory created two shallow basins connected by a subtle channel curving through the lawn.
A: There are those who suspect Wildflower Center volunteers are the culpable and capable culprits. Yet, others think staff members play some, albeit small, role. You can torture us with your plant questions, but we will never reveal the Green Guru's secret identity. Did you know you can access the Native Plant Information Network with your web-enabled smartphone?
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Native plants are a great way to liven up your outdoor space and help local wildlife while spending less time landscaping. Have you ever looked across a meadow or a riverbank and thought, how are these wildflowers growing all by themselves while my garden needs constant work? Native plants are adapted to the Illinois landscape. Remember, this is by no means a comprehensive list. The first plant on our list looks like something out of a Dr. Suess story.
Create an Account - Increase your productivity, customize your experience, and engage in information you care about. Skip to Main Content. Loading Close. Do Not Show Again Close. Sign In. Rain Garden FAQs : This 2-page handout goes over the 10 most frequently asked questions about rain gardens. For more information about rain gardens from IRWP, please visit their website.
Designing and planting a rain garden is Young plants, or plugs, are best for rain gardens because they are IL bundle flower, IL tick trefoil.
Rain gardens are shallow depressions filled with plants that are designed to hold significant amounts of water. Rain gardens can collect rainwater and snowmelt from the surrounding surfaces like driveways, cement walkways and sidewalks that do not absorb water. Their sloped sides create a bowl-shaped depression which increases the amount of water that is captured.
We can all do a little something to lessen flooding and stormwater runoff. Our combined efforts can really add up! These BMPs look good, work well, are cost effective and help improve our environment. Does your yard flood?
Many of these practices can earn you Stormwater Utility Fee credits and incentives.
The mourning cloak is found throughout the Chicago region and spends the winter here as an adult. So, as the snow and cold surround us, so do these gorgeous adult butterflies—their maroon wings rimmed in gold around iridescent blue spots set in black. They fold their wings to hibernate, and the undersides look much like their wintry surroundings—mottled and brown but for the yellow edge—a very effective camouflage. You may find this species hiding under the loose bark of a tree, in a log pile, or between the boards of your backyard shed. And on warmer winter days, even as snow remains on the ground, mourning cloaks can emerge from hibernation to take a short flight before returning to their winter resting spot. The mourning cloak has the longest lifespan of any of our butterflies, up to a year. It is a master of energy conservation and spends the hottest days of summer estivating, or slowing to a sleepy torpor and consuming no food.
Master Gardeners are trained horticultural experts that volunteered to help us maintain these beautiful and pollinator-friendly spaces. Participants were able to remove the unwanted plants at the Little Prairie on Campus and the newly constructed Arthington Mall rain gardens. The project looked to the goals of the UIC Climate Commitments to provide a welcoming, hospitable space that retains stormwater on-site and make a perfect habitat for local pollinators, helping to increase their populations and overall biodiversity.