Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Church Rain Gardens Are On a Roll In the District

By Sage Passi

Maplewood Lead Naturalist, Ann Hutchinson, advises French Immersion students
on how to plant at Redeeming Love Church.

The bells doth toll,

Church rain gardens

are on a roll.

With rains like last night’s

they could be full.

All right, I admit this is rather “soggy” poetry. It’s Sunday, it’s sunny, we’ve had way too much rain, the weeds are a mile high, it’s the middle of June and my own gardens are all crying out for help, but the news must get out. So what’s been happening on the church front? And what’s been happening on the weather front? The two questions, after all, are very much related.

A couple of weeks ago four of the rain gardens at Redeeming Love that I had committed to planting the next day with a group of classes sadly looked like this photo below.
A typical rainy date sight in the world of rain gardens.  They are doing what they are supposed to do - capture water!
Oh me of little faith. Not a reason for panic. Just a glitch in the schedule. I knew we couldn’t get them marked and ready for planting the next day, but I was relieved to know that by the end of the day all these rain gardens behind the church had drained properly. Watching them perform well the rest of the rainy week increased my confidence and the rescheduled planting a week later went off without a hitch.

Farnsworth Aerospace fourth-graders planting four
rain gardens at Redeeming Love Church.
I’m happy to report that now most of the rain gardens at Redeeming Love Church near White Bear Avenue and Highway 36 in Maplewood constructed last fall are planted, thanks to the efforts of Outdoor Lab contractor Chuck Hanna, his staff and seventy-five fourth graders from Farnsworth Aerospace and L’Etoile du Nord Schools in St. Paul who helped with the gardens out behind the church. Special applause for the expert assistance of staff from Maplewood Nature Center. It’s no small task marking and preparing these large gardens and getting ready for a planting - it took a couple of days of hard work so hats off to Ann Hutchinson, Oakley Biesanz and their intern for their diligence and organizational skills in helping taking the lead on this. Many thanks also to the Ramsey County Master Gardeners and one Master Naturalist and the teachers who spent the next day in the hot sun, helping students put about a thousand plugs in the ground.
Ramsey County Master Gardener, Kristina DeLaundreau, helps Farnsworth
students plant little bluestem at Redeeming Love Church.
I’ve got an offer from Ramsey Conservation District to help me put the finishing touches on these rain gardens next week along with some Girls Scouts so from here on out it’s all about fending off the little goslings standing watch for lunch on the outskirts of the rain gardens, keeping them weeded and sitting back and watching the seedlings thrive!
Pastor Jerchah Heurh, church volunteers, and Master Gardeners Kris Baird and
Jan House hard at work in the rain garden at First Hmong Assembly of God.
A special thank you also goes to Ramsey County Master Gardeners, Kris Baird and Jan House and Master Naturalist Brian Larson who helped me coordinate the planting of the third rain garden at First Hmong Assembly of God in east St. Paul with their team of 10 multigenerational church volunteers who were recruited by Pastor Jerchah Heurh. It was fun to discover that one of the youngest planters from that church was a Farnsworth student we worked with at the planting at Keller Golf Course this spring.
Left: A completed rain garden behind First Hmong Assembly of God.
Right: Brian Larson, Master Naturalist, plants alongside volunteers at First Hmong Assembly of God.
We are happy to announce that three other churches in the Watershed District that have submitted their applications for upcoming rain garden projects that will tap into our state Clean Water Legacy funds and our BMP cost share program are Grace Church and Prince of Peace Church in Roseville and Woodland Hills Church in Maplewood. Church of the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin in Maplewood intends to submit their application in July. So we are rounding the bend on this grant project and feeling hopeful that we are making a dent in helping improve water quality in these impaired sub-watersheds through the implementation of infiltration projects on church grounds. Kudos to Paige Ahlborg, our Project Manager and Ramsey Conservation District and Barr Engineering staff for their work in recruitment and developing concept plans and designs.

Rule #1: Never plant a rain garden alone. Those
saturated soils can be like quicksand! 
Photo courtesy of Laura Niederhofer.

 At the far south end of the District in Woodbury, another rain garden project was recently planted by church volunteers at Christ Episcopal Church. Since I wasn’t there to witness the process, they contributed a number of photos. I’ve included one here that Carole Pastorius, our Administrative Secretary shared with me. She said it reminded her of an experience she had in one of the Watershed District’s rain gardens shortly after we moved into our new office. On the day of our open house event, she spied a pop can in one of our street rain gardens and she stepped into the garden to retrieve it. She said she sunk into what seemed like quick sand and asked a passer by to help pull her out!  The volunteer planting at this church rain garden  experienced the same thing.  

We want to say a big thank you to the volunteers that have made these gardens happen.  We have made a lot of positive progress in terms of stormwater management and habitat creation, all while meeting some great folks along the way! 

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