Saturday, August 3, 2013

Maintaining rain gardens--and identifying weeds

As rain gardens multiply in Madison, their maintenance is a growing problem--no pun intended.

Rain gardens require annual maintenance, to remain attractive and functional.  This means weeding, thinning, and replacement of plants that die.

Their inlets also require cleaning to remove debris, so runoff can get in.

Inlets for gardens the City built on Keyes St soon clogged with leaves.

The berms of some gardens erode when they overflow.  This reduces their capacity.

Weeding can be a challenge.  Orange Schroeder wanted to weed a garden the City had built in front of her house--so she asked me which plants were weeds.  I wasn't sure about some, so I took samples of them to my neighbor Bob Kowal, a retired botany professor.  Bob couldn't identify them either!  I heard that Genesis Steinhorst had a look--I hope her visit solved the mystery of which plants to pull.

Suggestions for making weeding easier
  • Publish on the web a list of species planted in each rain garden in Madison.
  • List weeds that tend to be a problem in specific gardens. For example, in my rain garden under a maple, maple seedlings must be pulled before they get too tough.
  • Show a map of all rain gardens, and who's responsible for maintenance of each one.
  • Publish photos of all the various weeds likely to be a problem.  
  • Start an "Adopt-a-spot" program, like the one in Lansing, MI.  Businesses adopt rain gardens (photos below).
  • Plant only a few species in each garden--a short plant for the edge of the garden, and a taller one for the center.

Rain gardens for street runoff in downtown Lansing, MI.

If you have any suggestions, please post them below!

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