Curb Appeal: Rain Garden Landscaping

Previously, I posted an article about planting spring flowers to increase curb appeal. While perusing the Star Tribune today, I found this relevant article about rain gardens. There may be a few reasons, including environmental and monetary, for you to consider giving up some of your green lawn for different types of flora.  Residents in sections of Bloomington, Eden Prairie, Minnetonka, Edina, Richfield and Hopkins that lie within the Nine Mile Creek Watershed District could be eligible for reimbursement of up to $3,000 if they install rain gardens to catch storm water or plant native plants along a shoreline. Eden Prairie is offering reimbursement of up to $500 for trying more nature-friendly style of landscaping.

Throughout the Twin Cities metro area, watershed officials agree that meeting clean-water goals will require changes in new development as well as changes in individual yards. It has been found that monetary rewards and practical support spurs citizens into taking action. The Nine Mile Watershed District has levied $100,000 this year to begin its incentive program. Individuals can qualify for up to $3,000 and local governments and businesses can qualify for up to $25,000.

So what exactly is a rain garden? A rain garden is a planted depression that is designed to absorb rainwater runoff from things like roofs, driveways, walkways, and compacted lawn areas. The depression catches the water, allowing it to soak into the ground instead of flowing into gutters, stormwater drains, or bodies of water. Deep rooted native foliage planted within the depression will “drink” the water. Besides catching rain naturally where it falls or flows, rain gardens can also soak up water from basement sump-pumps, gutter drain spouts, and other ways your yard becomes soggy. Rain gardens, which require very little maintenance, can cut down on the amount of pollution reaching creeks and streams by up to 30%. It also cuts down on soil erosion and flooding.

Plants selected for use in a rain garden should tolerate both saturated and dry soil. Using native plants is generally encouraged. For Minnesota, native wildflowers, ferns, grasses, sedges, trees and shrubs all make great rain garden additions. Using native plants not only cuts down on maintenance, but also may provide urban habitats for native butterflies and birds.

That isn’t to say that rain gardens are the only environmentally-friendly home improvement projects which are eligible for compensation. Planting native foliage to restore stream banks on your property also qualifies. Installing pervious asphalt and pavers, green roofs, and cisterns may also be eligible for reimbursement.

A rain garden can help alleviate problem spots in your lawn. When trying to sell your home, the exterior is the first thing a potential buyer will see. Having a brown patch on your lawn, either because the soil is too dry or too wet, isn’t particularly inviting. Instead of trying to grow grass there, again, perhaps a rain garden is in order. Not only will it bring an end to the struggle of keeping that spot green, but you won’t even have to mow it!

Don’t know where to start? Here is an article on how to build and design a rain garden. This is just a starting-off point, you will probably want to look around for more information. If you live in one of the communities mentioned in this article in the Nine Mile Creek Watershed District, contact them to find out how to qualify. There are some specific requirements which must be met for reimbursement to occur.

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