Tuesday, April 21, 2015

'Tis the Season to Make our Lakes and Streams Merry

Learn How to Design and Install a Rain Garden in Your Own Yard

Gene Whipple adds plants to his home rain garden in the first season.

Sometimes it takes a village….. as the saying goes. Gene Whipple, then a high school junior, decided to build a rain garden in his own yard after he saw several rain gardens installed at his school, Crosswinds in Woodbury. He responded to a survey sent out by students from nearby Battle Creek Middle School who were looking for a yard in which to learn how to design and install a rain garden. Several classes and Master Gardeners chipped in to help him design and construct it.

Take a look at Gene’s rain garden a couple years later. This rain garden captures run-off from both his and his neighbor’s driveways and rooftops, keeping it from polluting nearby Battle Creek which is impaired from sediment. It’s been a win-win. Gene got his rain garden and the students in science classes learned a valuable lesson about keeping Battle Creek clean.

Gene's rain garden two years later. Note the prolific butterfly milkweed
in the front of his garden. His soil drains well because of its high sand content.

You’ve seen them on boulevards, at your city hall, school, library, church and in your neighbor’s yard. A rain garden is a shallow depression dug into the ground that allows stormwater to slowly soak into the soil. Native plants, mulch and soil in the rain garden naturally remove pollutants contained in the stormwater. Rain gardens receive run-off from impervious (hard) surfaces such as roads, rooftops, sidewalks, driveways and patios, reducing the amount of stormwater and pollutants they carry from entering our lakes, rivers and streams.

Frogs and other aquatic life benefit from the
stormwater protections like rain gardens and
other BMPS's (Best Management Practices)
installed in your community.

Why not get inspired yourself and take on a rain garden project this year? You can learn more about doing this at our workshop coming up on May 14. Invite your neighbors to help you and you may inspire them as well. See below for details.

Sometimes it takes a village!

Here are a couple examples of rain gardens done “village style.” 

Mary Leigh Sabean, a resident of South Maplewood,
built this series of shady rain gardens behind
her house to capture run-off from multiple yards.

Mary Leigh Sabean worked
with her neighbors to
redirect excessive run-off
that was washing into her
yard by designing and
installing a series of rain gardens that capture the
run-off in the common space behind their homes.

Dennis Paulson (left) and Mitchell Thompson (right) team
together to plant a rain garden at Our Redeemer Lutheran
Church on Larpenteur Avenue near Lake Phalen.

Dennis Paulson was compelled to install a rain garden at his church, Our Redeemer Lutheran when he learned about them while attending meetings of the Friends of Phalen which met regularly for a year in his church’s fellowship hall. He mentored a Boy Scout, Mitchell Thompson, also a member of the church who earned an Eagle Scout award through this rain garden project.

Our Redeemer Lutheran Church rain garden was thriving in its second summer.


This cheery rain garden in St. Paul, built by
Bill Cranford & Rachel Hanks, won a LEAP
(Landscape Ecology Award  Program)
from the Watershed District several years ago.

Sign Up for the
Design Your Rain Garden Workshop on May 14th!

Learn tips about designing and building your own rain garden from experts from Ramsey Conservation District, Ramsey-Washington Metro Watershed District and Maplewood Nature Center when you attend our next rain garden workshop on Thursday, May 14 from 6:30-8:30 PM at Maplewood Nature Center. The Nature Center is located at 2659 E 7th St. in Maplewood.

We’ll start off the workshop by touring the fun rainwater features at Maplewood Nature Center. Discover what rain garden plants are popping up in mid-May.

Find out how to determine what kind of soil you have and how fast water soaks into your soil. These are details you will need to know to properly design and install a rain garden in your yard.

Learn how to choose plants and get advice from technical staff and Master Gardeners in planning your rain garden design.

Prior to the class you will be sent a questionnaire and a worksheet to fill out that will include a drawing of your yard. Please complete these forms before the workshop and bring them with you to the class. At the workshop we will provide an aerial map of your site to use in planning your rain garden.

This native perennial, butterfly milkweed, blooms in June and makes a great addition to the berm of your rain garden. Monarchs love it!

Purple coneflower is a popular choice for gardeners wanting to attract butterflies to their rain garden. It blooms in July to September. The seeds are a very attractive food source for the American Goldfinch.


Turtlehead, a native wetland plant should be planted in the lower part of your rain garden.
It’s the host plant for the Baltimore butterfly
and blooms from July to September.


This FREE workshop is sponsored by RWMWD, Maplewood Nature Center, the City of Maplewood, Ramsey Conservation District and Blue Thumb. For more information about the class, contact Sage Passi at 612-598-9163.

To register, call Debbie Barnes at 651-792-7959 at RWMWD or email her at deb.barnes@rwmwd.org. by May 1. Please provide your name, address, email and phone number. Before the workshop you'll receive a questionnaire about your yard. Please fill it out and bring it with you to the workshop.

Learn about incentives available through cost-share and grant programs in the Ramsey-Washington Metro Watershed District HERE. In Ramsey County, contact Michael Schumann at 651-266-7275. In Washington County, call Tara Kline 651-330-8220 x28 to help reduce your costs and get technical consulting.

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