Saturday, December 14, 2013

Rain Garden Pilot Program Recap: Year 1

By Nicole Soderholm, District Inspector

As we’re sure you’ve all noticed, it is definitely winter. The District’s rain gardens have temporarily turned to ‘snow gardens,’ but not before Minnesota Native Landscapes was able to finish the year’s maintenance on the rain gardens selected for RWMWD’s pilot study targeting rain gardens in Little Canada. If you’ve missed the introduction or mid-summer update of our pilot study on rain garden maintenance, take a quick peek at our April 11, 2013 and June 6, 2013 Ripple Effect posts for more information.
Rain garden on Noel Drive in Little Canada.

RWMWD has enjoyed contracting with Minnesota Native Landscapes this year, and we’re all impressed with the noticeable changes to the function, health, and aesthetics of the rain gardens under their care. Regular maintenance is truly one of the most important factors in improving the function and longevity of a rain garden –preserving its ability to effectively capture and filter pollutants in rainwater.

Rain garden on Carla Lane on the east side of Lake Gervais.

This year, maintenance included weed and debris removal (trash, leaf litter, etc.), sediment removal, mulch replacement, and cutting back plants to allow for new growth. In October, Minnesota Native Landscapes planted a variety of native plants in over 30 rain gardens in Little Canada that had previously been looking a little bare. See some species examples in the photos below. We’re excited to see these new plants flourish this coming spring!

Left to right: Columbine (Aquilegia canadensis), butterfly weed (Asclepias tuberosa), little bluestem (Schizachyrium scoparium), Purple Prairie Clover (Dalea purpureum). 

Left to right: Swamp milkweed (Asclepias incarnate), tussock sedge (Carex stricta), Jacob's ladder (Polemonium reptans), wild bergamot (Monarda fistulosa).

Now that we’ve gotten these rain gardens back to their height of function and beauty, we are planning on implementing ‘Year 2’ of this pilot study. We are especially interested in whether we will see a change in the amount of time and materials spent now that the gardens have been regularly maintained for an entire growing season. Stay tuned for future updates!

For more information on the pilot program, please contact

Paige Ahlborg (paige[at] or 651.792.7964)
Rain garden at Rondeau Park in Little Canada

For tips on maintaining your rain garden, see our Rain Garden Maintenance Guide.

Interested in learning more about rain gardens and the role they play in protecting our lakes and streams? Visit our
Rain Garden webpage for information and helpful links/resources.

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