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Getting Paid to Save the Bay


And the Anacostia and streams that feed into it along the way.

Behnke Nurseries in Beltsville was chosen to be a demonstration site for the Prince George’s County Raincheck Rebate, a program that offers rebates for seven projects* to improve and reduce stormwater runoff.  Homeowners qualify for up to $4,000 in rebates, while community groups and businesses may qualify for up to $20,000.  It is funded by the Chesapeake Bay Trust.  Ultimately the funding for the Raincheck program comes from you, from the surface water fee that is part of your property taxes. Montgomery and Howard Counties also have similar programs; check with your county to see what they offer.

Why should you worry about stormwater runoff?  When it rains, water goes to the storm water drainage system (sewers), then to streams/rivers and the Bay.  The goal is to reduce the flow especially during heavier rainfalls, so that the sewer system is not overwhelmed.  Although a better sewage treatment plant is being built, during heavy rains, raw sewage mixes with storm water and gets dumped into the Anacostia along with the rainwater.  Not good.  So reducing the total water volume reduces this problem.  The water volume is reduced by reducing hard surfaces and increasing absorption into the ground, filtering the water at the same time and maybe catching a few of those plastic bags and bottles that otherwise would be floating down the Anacostia.

The seven projects that qualify for rebates in Prince George’s County are: planting a tree; installing rain barrels; installing a cistern (which is essentially a big rain barrel); removing impermeable paving such as asphalt; installing permeable paving; planting a rain garden; and planting a green roof.  Some of these things may be done by you (rain barrel, plant tree, rain garden); others must be done by a contractor (green roof).  The key is, you must sign an agreement with the County and fill in an application BEFORE YOU START.

For a rain barrel rebate, my understanding is that you just need to provide a receipt; for the rain garden, you will need to have the site inspected and approved, your plan and planting list approved, and the completed project approved. Even though complex, Deb Sheppard of Behnke’s perennial department and her husband Dave installed a rain garden, doing all work themselves, and the rebate essentially paid for the project except for their labor (which included rental of some pretty cool earth-moving equipment).  Deb has a video on Youtube about her experiences, and periodically gives a presentation on it here at the nursery.

rain-garden-3Behnke’s Rain Garden, July 2016

So: what can you see at Behnke’s?  All of the above projects, except for a real green roof.  Green roofs are heavy, and we didn’t have the structural integrity to install one on any of our buildings.  We have a cute little green roof on a dog house as a sub.  Everything else is the real deal.

Over the coming weeks, I’ll describe each of the projects in more detail, but what you should really do is come and see them in person.  Most are on the “south side” of the nursery, along with our pollinator garden, employee vegetable garden, our “teepee” covered with hops plants, our pollinator hotel, Christopher’s bee hive, our sunflower beds, Jotnar the great head, Ducky Hong’s Bonsai classroom, and other attractions.

by Larry Hurley, Behnke horticulturist


*Note that Behnke’s is not a contractor for any of these projects: we offer trees for sale and perennials and shrubs suitable for rain gardens, but we don’t install rain gardens, green roofs, cisterns, etc.  But if you want to see an installed cistern or installed permeable paving or a very nice commercially-installed rain garden, we are the place to visit.

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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