It’s spring time in Kansas City. Royal’s games, walks on the Plaza and beautiful spring days intermixed with heavy spring time rains. The old time axiom of “April showers bring May flowers” could not be truer in the heartland. However, you could make this year a bit different around your home and garden with an eco-friendly rain garden. Not only will you be exercising your green thumb but you’ll be helping to change the environment for the better.
You may ask, “What’s a rain garden”. I know I did when I first heard the term and I did some quick checking on the internet and found it to be just what the name implies-a garden watered by rain.
Now I know what you’re thinking, all gardens get rain. True enough but a rain garden differs in 2 key ways. First, rain gardens are located and designed so they collect run off from your driveway, sidewalk or from your yard.
Rain gardens were really born out of the world of green urban design in an effort to both cut down on watering for landscaping and to help deal with the flooding potential of the kind of down pours like the ones we get here in Kansas City. In fact, many buildings across the US now feature rooftop rain gardens like the one pictured here. Not only do the plants process carbon dioxide, they also service to reduce the solar reflectivity of the roof and cut down on the rain water runoff.
Homeowners can easily have their own rain garden by converting low spots in their yard into a rain garden since the location will pool runoff. Another potential location is at the bottom of a hill or inclined section of the yard. In my own case I have some daylilies at the bottom of a small incline on the east side of my yard and they easily catch the runoff from the hill and the downspouts on that side of my house.
Another example of rain gardens we can see in everyday life are the roadside swales which collect run off from road ways.
Secondly, rain gardens typically feature indigenous plants since they are already acclimated to the area and can withstand the ups and downs in temperatures and rainfall amounts. Some great examples for Kansas City are the many varieties of prairie grasses and wild flowers like purple cone flower and black-eyed Susan’s. These latter plants have the added benefit of supplying a steady supply of beautiful cut flowers for your home or office.
There are some challenges in building a rain garden which may be addressed by working with a professional like Next to Nature in the local area or by seeking out resource material. While not insurmountable, the primary challenge is in making sure that your rain garden supports proper drainage. This is to say that while it provides moisture for the plant life in your rain garden, you don’t want the water to pool for too long and breed pests or fungus. This can be especially tough to overcome in the Kansas City area given the high clay content found in soils around here.
So as you make your plans for spring time in Kansas City, consider locating a place around your home which you think would be suitable for a rain garden and do the DIY thing or work with a professional. A rain garden is a great way to beautify and conserve while at the same time helping to diminish the threat of flooding from our spring time downpours.