Bev Hall first attended a VLAWMO raingarden workshop with her husband Chuck in 2010. Her original motivation was to explore options for a difficult clay soil area in the yard, which would remain wet and soggy for weeks at a time after a rain event. Working closely with a neighbor who had the same tricky soil, they learned how storing the water in a designated raingarden basin could actually help keep the rest of the yard dry and usable for kids and pets. Yet some vegetation for texture and a privacy screen was also of interest, in addition to supporting pollinators and the watershed. With help from VLAWMO's cost-share grant program, the result was a large raingarden surrounded by a border of various trees, shrubs, native flowering plants, and sedges. The turf surrounding the project area remains drier, and is reportedly much easier to maintain than the previous lingering wet conditions.
VLAWMO staff are inspired by the spirit of collaboration that not only made this project possible, but has continued to maintain it for a decade. Spanning hundreds of rain events over the years, Bev's raingardens have intercepted and filtered thousands of gallons of runoff that would otherwise drain into Lambert Creek, then into East Vadnais Lake, through the street and stormdrain. Thanks to Bev's project and others like it, East Vadnais Lake is less taxed by incoming nutrients, sediment, and stormwater surges. It's a terrific example meeting a practical need for yard use while also supporting the neighbors and waters downstream.
Project size: 385 ft2
Drainage area into project: 876 ft2
Basin volume capacity: 585 ft3
Stormwater volume reduction: 14,826 gallons/year
Total phosphorus (TP) reduction: .04 lbs/year
Total suspended solids (TSS) reduction: 7 lbs/year
Native plants used:
Cup plant, St. John’s wort, tamarack, butterfly milkweed, black-eyed Susan, Joe-Pye weed, prairie onion, purple coneflower, prairie smoke, blue flag iris, cardinal flower, monarda, New Jersey Tea, Solomon’s Seal, swamp milkweed, pink turtlehead, bottle gentian, blazing star, Great Blue lobelia, Jacob’s ladder.
We actually have 3 gardens that VLAWMO assisted us with financing. The first was installed as a joint project with our neighbors, Jan and Walker Angell, in the fall of 2011. All of our soil is clay so in this particular corner of the yard the soil seemed to never dry out. I had heard about raingardens and proposed to the Angells (neighbors) that we combine these areas of our yards into one raingarden. They suggested using Dan Peterson from Habadapt to design and install the garden. We worked with Dan closely to decide what plants we preferred. The neighbor (Jan) and I shared a preference for flowering plants over grasses, although there are still grasses in the garden to provide structure and easy-to-maintain groundcover.
Dan and his crew removed the clay soil and installed a compost soil amendment. It functioned as it was intended to, with standing water from rain eventually draining down within 24-48 hours.
The second raingarden and a pollinator garden were installed in the spring of 2016. We asked Dan from Habadapt to design and install these as well. The gardens were installed on both sides of our driveway, the pollinator garden on the right and the raingarden on the left. Both gardens were installed to replace shrub roses that were planted in 1996. The roses would look great initially, but would often get black spot or be infested with Japanese beetles. We were ready for something that could be more resilient yet still be benefitial for pollinators.
We chose a raingarden for the left side of the driveway because we have a downspout from the garage roof that empties there. We also have a sump pump that we routed into this garden. While the yard that runs next to this raingarden can still get wet, it doesn’t take as long as it used to to dry out.
We have a curly willow shrub, winter berries (which the cedar waxwings love to eat in the fall when the berries ripen), blue flag iris, cardinal flower, monarda, New Jersey Tea, Solomon’s Seal, swamp milkweed, pink turtlehead, bottle gentian, dwarf iris, black-eyed Susan, liatris, Great Blue lobelia, rhubarb, Jacob’s ladder, Joe Pye weed, purple cornflower, some sedges, cranberries and wild strawberries for ground cover.
The third garden, the pollinator garden, was planted primarily to attract bees and butterflies. I would say we were successful in this, as we have had visits from monarchs and other butterflies as well as honey bees and bumble bees. One of our more unusual visitors last year was a katydid. We also added a bird bath top as a water feature for butterflies and birds. We have seen some frogs and toads enjoying it, too.
The first year this garden was installed we had a heavy downpour. This created a gully in the soil that wasn’t intended. What I did to help mitigate that was I purchased more river rock and created a little dry creek in that gully, which does look natural. The rock keeps the soil from wearing down or eroding.
We originally planted three tamarack trees in the main front yard raingarden. We struggled with deer rubbing against the bases but now all of them seem to have survived.
Visit the landscape grants page to learn more about our cost-share program and start planning a project of your own.