Sprouting With Green Ideas

A rain garden is a planted depression that captures runoff from nearby impervious surfaces, such as rooftops, roadways and parking lots, allowing the water to infiltrate the soil . As with the rebates for rain barrels, many communities offer financial incentives and cost-sharing to support these projects.

Because each rain-garden project is unique, consult a local landscape professional to design one. The following list should get you started:

• Locate it. Select a site where runoff occurs. This may be near a parking lot, a problem site that stays wet for long periods or an area that may be used for environmental education.

• Design it. Consult a landscape architect, landscape contractor or soils engineer, and perform a soil percolation test to understand how quickly the existing soil drains, as the specific design will depend on the existing soil type. Also, consider the size of the parking area, rooftop or roadway because the size of the impermeable surface determines the size of the rain-garden basin. The larger the impervious surface, the larger the basin.

• Dig it. Dig the rain-garden basin, replacing the soil you remove with a proper mix of sand, compost and loamy soil. Consult a landscape professional because the actual mix will depend on the percolation test and the existing soil types, and an engineered mix may be required.

• Plant it. Plant natives which are tolerant of moisture extremes. A rain garden will experience periods of both drought and saturation, so select plants that can tolerate these conditions.

• Maintain it. Just as with any other planting bed, rain gardens require periodic weeding, mulching and replacing some plants as they become established.

Permeable Pavements

Permeable pavement is a great way to “go green” at camp. Pavers may be used in patios, terraces and other places where traditional paving is used . The difference is that permeable pavements allow rainwater to pass through because there are slight gaps between the individual bricks or pavers. Again, consult a local landscape professional because permeable pavements are built on top of an engineered stone base that varies from location to location, depending upon the soil type and climate. The colder the climate, the deeper the pavement base usually needs to be set.

Maintenance Considerations

As with any landscape project, eco-friendly projects require a proper level of maintenance if they are to be successful. Nothing ruins the beauty of a native wildflower meadow than dandelions, so it is important that the eco-project is not only designed properly, but also receives the proper level of maintenance. With some additional planning and care, you can create an eco-friendly landscape that not only supports your environmental education program but also improves the aesthetics of the camp.

Tom Neppl is a landscape architect and owner of Neppl Landscape Architecture and Planning LLC, an environmental design firm that serves clients with interests in the outdoors and the natural environment. He can be reached at (515) 232-6530, or via e-mail at tom@neppllandscapearchitecture.com

Weston Wunder is the president of Landscapes By Design, Inc., a landscape-design build firm specializing in creating functional and low-maintenance landscape designs utilizing native plant materials. He can be reached at (515) 685-2508, or via e-mail at weston@lbdiowa.com

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