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Rain Garden with Steve

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Steve Oakes, retired National Parks Ranger, has joined our Sutherlands team. Steve has provided great education to our customers on many topics in our lawn and garden department at Sutherlands Kansas City location. Today he will show us how to turn a low spot in your landscape that collects water into a positive solution by creating a rain garden and using plants that don’t mind wet feet. Discover what a rain garden is and tips on successfully making one.

Many older homes in the Kansas City area have an issue with water penetration in the basement, especially those homes with rock foundations. There are several approaches to reducing or eliminating the nuisance and most experts suggest the first step is to grade the soil around the exterior to allow water to flow away from the house. Such efforts should be complemented with splash blocks or downspout extensions of the guttering system to direct the runoff from the roof away from the structure.

The use of rain barrels can help, but depending on the surface area draining into the barrel, the capacity could be met in short order with a small to moderate rain event. Although rain barrels typically have an overflow or relief outlet, it may not keep up with the influx of precipitation.

Steve used a more dramatic approach to decrease the occurrence of water in the basement of his stone foundation Waldo home. Steve installed a rain garden in his backyard.

A picture of Steve's rain garden shortly after completion. As with any project that includes digging more than a few inches below the soil line, you are not sure of the location of underground utilities. Call 8-1-1 several days before digging to have the services located. Edging and rock were used to help define the space.

The north side of the house is tied into the rain garden using 4 inch corrugated pipe connected to the 2 downspouts. He uses these component parts to complete the connection: corrugated pipes, downspout adapter, drain grate.

The collection basin does not have to be elaborate. It simply could be a low spot in the yard where water pools during or after a rain. If the collected runoff permeates into the soil within 24 hours then that area qualifies as a basis for a rain garden. The second part of the equation, as the name implies, is the flora or plants occupying the space. Not many plants tolerate “wet feet” therefore it is important that plant selection for the location is based on the plants being rain garden worthy.

Steve has 11 different plants native to the area that at times have been completely submerged after some rainfalls and suffering no ill effects. Two of his favorites are the Cardinal flower and Rose Mallow. Both bloom later in the summer with the Cardinal flower producing red tubular shaped flower heads that attract hummingbirds. The Rose mallow, a species of hibiscus with flowers very similar to the Rose of Sharon or Althea bush, will also be visited by the red throated bird.

As with any landscaping project “purposeful planting” should be the foundation of the feature. For Steve's rain garden, not only is it a retention basin, it also serves as a pollinator garden with flowering species from May through the first part of October.



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