Ceci and Ed Shapland's yard had a variety of needs, with areas of sun, deep shade, and steep slopes. While the task was daunting at first, they've transformed their property into a resilient yard through several years of planning and phases of construction.
A dry creek was selected for an area with fast, high-volume runoff. This helps to reduce erosion and sedimentation into the adjacent wetland behind their home.
Native groundcovers were also used where there's slower moving runoff and flat areas. The soil was graded with a slope and a swale to keep water safely away from the home's foundation, and a native sedge groundcovers was planted to move water slowly through the swale, into the soil, and off the property into a nearby wetland. Because ground covers retain moisture better than conventional turfgrass, they need less watering and can withstand periods of drought such as late summer months. They're also valuable for soil and climate health, helping to restore microclimates, healthy soil bacteria, and support protected and cooler soil. Lastly, groundcovers help reduce the flashiness of surface runoff.
All of these features build the conditions for a resilient yard that resists weeds and potential invasive species. On the maintenance side, the native planting and ground covers also offer a different lawn care routine that uses less water and worries less about mowing and fertilization.
The raingarden portion of the project manages runoff in a way that's safer, predictable, and beneficial for the watershed. Before the construction, a certain downspout at the front of the home was causing issues with pooling near the garage and made for a messy runoff of water, soil, and mulch spilling out onto the sidewalk and driveway after rain events. A raingarden right beneath the downspout wasn't possible, due to the compact space between the garage, home, and sidewalk (see photos below).
Instead, the downspout was extended with an attachment, installed beneath the sidewalk, and directed out into a raingarden basin safely away from the home. A pop-up feature is used at the end of the pipe, bringing water directly into the bottom of the raingarden basin. Water pressure naturally lifts the pop-up device, but at all other times the feature remains closed.
This is a plus for the watershed because the stormwater runoff is held and treated on-site instead of contributing to stormwater draining over the street and into East Vadnais Lake. Winter maintenance is also much improved because the sidewalk doesn't see the thaw and re-freeze cycles common in late fall and early spring. This reduces the need for de-icer and makes a safe sidewalk the year-round default.
Ceci and Ed first approached VLAWMO through a volunteer effort focused on helping clean-up East Vadnais Lake. As active residents in their community and neighborhood association, Ceci has organized several trash clean-up and stormdrain cleaning and adoption efforts. Volunteering independently, with VLAWMO's volunteer group, and later becoming Minnesota Water Stewards, Ceci and Ed's service will indeed be a long-lasting impact on the VLAWMO watershed.
Raingarden size: 390 ft2
Drainage area into raingarden: 1,085 ft2
Basin depth: 6" depth until overflow outlet
Annual stormwater volume reduction: 1,904 gallons/yr
Total phosphorus (TP) reduction: .036 lbs/yr
Total suspended solids (TSS) reduction: 6.5 lbs/yr
Native plants: Coneflowers, Black Eyed Susan, Aster, Yarrow, Bee Balm, Butterfly Weed, Coreopsis, Showy Goldenrod, Wild Columbine, Marsh Blazingstar, June grass, Palm Sedge
North side: Re-graded swale and dry creek – 1,408 ft2
South side: Re-graded drainage slope and native sedge ground cover – 258 ft2
Front yard: Sod removal for native shade planting - 390 ft2
Native plants: Pennsylvania sedge, Jack-in-the-Pulpit, Solomon's Seal, Virginia Bluebells, Wild Geranium, Wild Columbine, March Marigolds, Black-eyed Susan, Goat's Beard, Trillium, and Spiderwort.
What motives did you have as the project was designed and built?
We had a downspout that came off our front roof that deposited 145 gallons of water in an one inch rainfall into the street and storm drains running to the nearby wetlands and lake.
What do you enjoy most about the raingarden/native planting?
We love that we found a way to better handle a large amount of runoff and use it for better purposed such as our lawn and flowers. We love the benefits of having native flowers such as more bees and butterflies and just knowing that it is healthier for the garden and environment.
How has it changed your interaction with your yard?
We have many more pollinators and we enjoy the look of the native plants. We love learning about the different plants and exploring them for perspective new additions to the garden.
Is it working as you intended it to? What’s the most challenging part of the raingarden/native planting?
The drain, garden and pop-up work very well. We have had some very heavy rains, many more than one inch accumulations and the drainage works perfectly. The biggest challenge is just maintaining the growth of the garden so the plants have room to grow and stay healthy.
What has surprised you as you’ve maintained the project?
We have a great deal of shade on our property and it has been wonderful to learn about native shade plants. As a result of our experience we are now planning to remove more grass and put in a shade garden which will use less water than the grass and provide a continuous path for pollinators. We are very enthusiastic about native plants and love talking with people about them and the benefits of planting them.
What would you do differently if you created another garden/native planting?
We might consider enlarging the garden. A larger garden would be a better use of the space for us, because unlike turf it doesn’t use water, and adds to the environment while attracting pollinators.