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Our rain garden

The garden behind the Co-op is an example of how we are reducing rainwater runoff while establishing a beautiful natural area. It was created through the efforts of Applied Ecological Services and planted with native plants by members of our community and Progressive Dane. The rain garden demonstrates how the Co-op is committed to reducing pollution in Madison lakes and providing an example of how landscaping can be used to reduce storm water runoff.

This rain garden was designed with a
depression in its center to collect rain and snow melt. Hardy native species were planted to help hold water, increase filtration and recharge the underground water table. The plants used in this garden include brown-eyed Susans, blue asters, wild onions, lady ferns, wild columbine, wild ginger, tall bellflowers, Pennsylvania sedge, bottlebrush grass, wild geranium, blue phlox, Jacob's ladder and elm-leaved goldenrod.

Guidelines for designing rain gardens

1. Design with the end in mind. Consider how your rain garden can be integrated into existing and future landscaping.

2. When choosing native plants for your garden, it is important to consider the height of each plant, bloom time and color, as well as its overall texture. Use plants that bloom at different times to create a long-flowering season. Mix heights, shapes and textures to give the garden depth and dimension. This will keep your garden looking interesting even when few wildflowers are in bloom. Try incorporating a diverse mixture of sedges, rushes and grasses with your flowering species (forbs). In natural areas, these plants not only add beauty, but they also create a thick underground root matrix that keeps the entire plant community in balance. In fact, 80% of the plant mass in native prairie communities is underground. Once your garden has matured and your sedges, rushes and grasses have established a deep, thick root system, you'll find there will be less change in species location from year to year.

3. When laying plants out, randomly clump individual species in groups of 3 to 7 plants to provide a bolder statement of color. Make sure to repeat these individual groupings to create repetition and cohesion in a planting.

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Gardening with Water Quality in Mind

A rain garden is a beautiful natural area that you can create to improve the water of your community. Rain gardens allow rain and snow melt to seep naturally into the ground and recharge our groundwater supply. They are an important way to make our cities and neighborhoods more attractive places to live while decreasing polluted runoff.

This polluted runoff is a big problem in urban areas where much of the ground is covered with hard surfaces such as roofs, streets and sidewalks. Water flows quickly across had surfaces, picking up pollutants such as pesticides, fertilizers and oil residues before dumping into storm drains that feed our lakes. Rain gardens are designed to collect rain and snow melt and decrease runoff.

A rain garden can be a home project. Simply removing the sod, digging a shallow depression and planting with native plants is an example of how a home gardener can catch water before it reaches the storm sewer. Strategic placement next to hard surfaces and gutters helps to make your rain garden effective. Native plants, which do not require chemical fertilizers, also absorb water more efficiently than turf-style lawns, and are much easier to maintain. It is something that you can do that will help improve the ecology of your community by reducing flooding and decreasing the amount of sediment-laden runoff that reaches our lakes.

The rain garden was designed and overseen by Applied Ecological Services, Inc. The planting of the perennials in the garden was done through the efforts and energy of your community and the Evironmental Task Force of Progressive Dane.

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