Thursday, February 04, 2010

Rain Gardens

This is a very cool idea, as reported by the Sacramento Bee, and for those of us who have a slope somewhere in the yard—as we do—a real boon.

An excerpt.

“When you plant a rain garden, the harvest isn't so obvious. But it's everywhere.

“By creating berms and swales in your yard, you can imitate how nature itself captures rain. Instead of letting rainwater run off to the street, rain gardens encourage it to soak into the ground under your regular garden, building a reserve to help trees and bushes thrive.

“After a three-year drought, this age-old concept is catching on again. Right now, while the rainy season is at its peak, is a good time to get started.

“And soon, Sacramento County homeowners may be able to tap into rain garden rebates, too.

"A rain garden is a way to utilize the rainwater without it actually going to waste down the storm drain," says Rob Lenney of Rain Harvesting Systems in Rocklin.

“It doesn't have to look like a round pond or a gravel pit, he says: "In creative ways, a landscaped garden can have channels dug in the dirt, meandering throughout the garden, where the rainwater can go where needed, as directed by the homeowner or landscape designer," Lenney says.

“While looking for ways to help customers save water, engineers at Sacramento County's Water Resources Agency became intrigued by rain gardens.

"We've been studying this since 2005," says Summer Christensen, one of the agency's experts. "We thought it would be a great idea for Sacramento. It's something homeowners could do without much money."

“The agency created a demonstration rain garden at the new Sacramento County Animal Care Facility on Bradshaw Road. The first county building to be LEED-certified for environmental responsibility, the state-of-the-art, $23 million complex features recycled building materials and drought- tolerant plants.

“Situated near the main entrance, the 200-square-foot rain garden blends into the shelter's landscaping. Water that falls on the roof is redirected to the garden, which is a few inches lower than the surrounding sidewalk.

"We just used normal downspouts," says Christensen, explaining the collection system. "The water runs off the roof to a pipe that goes under the sidewalk to the garden. Rocks disguise the inlet and outlet. A homeowner could do this, too, or you could let the water run over land (to the garden)."

“During recent deluges, the shelter's rain garden worked as designed, filtering thousands of gallons of water into the soil instead of to the street.”