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A Little Rain Must Fall

rain-garden-1

With the seemingly endless rains of the last month, it’s a good reminder that Prince George’s County residents who install storm water mitigation projects can apply for a rebate check from the county under the Rain Check Rebate program.  (Many of the other counties in this area have similar programs.)

Last year Behnke’s was chosen as a site to install examples of the seven installations that qualify for the rebate: installing a rain garden, planting a tree, installing rain barrels, installing a cistern, removal of asphalt, installation of permeable pavers, and installing a  green roof (the latter on a doghouse; this would not qualify, but it presents the idea).   We have a map of the location of each, and we can point you toward finding more information on qualifying for the rebate.  The excavation and construction of the garden was done by Stormwater Design and Consulting.  Behnke’s sourced the plants and did the planting.

I’ve been keeping an eye on the rain garden.  I helped plant the 200 shrubs and perennials in the garden last summer on what I think was the hottest day of the decade, and have also been keeping the weeds under control.  It looks like 194 of the 200 plants made it through the first winter—we lost a couple of the perennials, but I was impressed with how well the plants did.  They were carefully chosen: they are all Maryland native plants, tolerant of occasional flooding, and the garden soil drains very well.

The rain garden captures water from our parking lot.  This reduces the immediate flow of rain water runoff to the little channelized stream at the edge of the property, which in turn reduces erosion further downstream.  It captures plastic and other debris from the parking lot, and it filters the water from the lot, removing any toxic chemicals that are a side effect of having hundreds of customer cars in our lot each week.

In the rain on Saturday morning, I would guess that we diverted a thousand gallons of water.  As the rain ended, the water level in the garden was already dropping from its high mark of about four inches depth.  It’s engineered to drain within 24 hours; it drains by seeping into the surrounding soil.

The other benefits of having this rain garden:

  • It’s going to be a really nice mixed shrub/perennial garden. The plants are vigorous and in a couple of years, it’s going to be spectacular.
  • We already have one at least one resident toad.

To bear in mind:

  • It is an active garden; it needs to be weeded, watered during drought, and we have to come up with a way of fertilizing the plants.
  • Keep an eye on the inflow points. Debris tends to collect at the entrance and block access to the water.  You need to look at the garden in the rain and make sure the water is actually entering.

If a rain garden is too big of a project for you to handle, you should consider some of the other projects eligible for a rebate.  The rain barrel installation or tree planting are both easy options.  Check out the website and think about what you can do to help reduce runoff.  It’s not often that someone wants to give you money to make your yard more beautiful than it is already!

by Larry Hurley, Behnke horticulturist

Larry Hurley

Larry Hurley, perennials specialist for Behnke Nurseries (now retired), started with Behnke’s in1984. Larry enjoys travel, food and photography. He and his wife Carolyn have visited Australia, New Zealand, Thailand, Brazil, South Korea and much of Europe. Their home is on a shady lot where a lot of perennials have met their Maker over the years.

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