Vedge On The Edge

The Importance of Rain Gardens

A little more than halfway through the The Delaware Riverkeeper Network‘s Virtual Canoe Race, and I’m happy to say that our boat, The Green Zombies, is not in last place. Currently, Adirondacker and Pampitus have a commanding lead, with Howler paddling hard through Port Jervis and gaining fast. Shout out to Sojourn 5, in position 27 – they know it ain’t over! There’s plenty of river miles left, and we’re having a blast despite our virtual blisters.  

For any kids who still want to race, The Delaware Riverkeeper will soon host a second event just for children. Paddlers will be grouped by age, and you can contact stephanie@delawareriverkeeper.org for more information.

We’re learning a lot as we paddle down the virtual Delaware, for example:

  • The Delaware River is the longest un-dammed river east of the Mississippi.
  • The Delaware River provides drinking water to more than 5% of the US population.
  • The Schuylkill River is the Delaware’s largest tributary.
  • Vegetative buffers along local streams and tributaries are key to protecting river water quality.

This week, I was motivated to learn more about the role of Rain Gardens for the extra-credit bonus miles essay question: Describe what a Rain Garden is and what it does…

Rain Gardens are plant groupings placed in a low point, depression or hole in the ground. They provide a place for runoff from impervious surfaces to be absorbed into the ground. Rain gardens are essential to stream health and wetlands protection in several ways.   

Rain Gardens serve to:

  • Reduce pollution in waterways by keeping sediments and pollutants out of streams
  • Reduce local flooding, solve drainage problems
  • Recycle moisture, recharge local groundwater supplies
  • Attract local and migratory birds and butterflies
  • Provide refuge for reptiles, mosquito-hungry frogs and endangered native Pennsylvania turtles
  • Return vapor to the atmosphere via transpiration
  • Require a lot less maintenance than grass lawns

According to Wikipedia: “Native plants are recommended for rain gardens because they generally do not require fertilizer and are more tolerant of one’s local climate, soil, and water conditions, and attract local wildlife such as native birds.

Rain Gardens are easy to install. Plant selection is important. Native plants tend to thrive, and they can be helpful by crowding out invasive, non-indigenous plant species.  I like Joe Pye Weed for its pretty and long lasting pinkish-maroon flowers.

Wetland edge vegetation doesn’t mind having “wet feet” and is at home in heavy clay soil. Their root systems take up the moisture while filerting the pesticides and pollutants carried by heavy rains. Rain Gardens augment soil permeability. They can be tiny and site specific, or they can be grouped and strung together to encompass an entire garden, controlling property runoff.

Planting a Rain Garden is a bit like applying The Precautionary Principle to your own backyard, and it can be as simple as tucking a few dozen daffodil bulbs into the cool, muddy soil.

Three Rivers Rain Garden Alliance publishes a useful Pennsylvania Rain Garden Plant List at www.raingardenalliance.org.

You can learn more at montgomeryconservation.orgPenn State Extension and PA DEP . 

Also found this informative post, I Never Promised You A Rain Garden by Bob Carey, HarrisburgMagazine.com.

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