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Wheeler: Rain gardens recycle storm water

POSTED: April 26, 2013 1:30 a.m.

Storm water is something we don’t think too much about on a day-to-day basis.

We usually only think about it during a huge thunderstorm as we’re traveling down Green Street and want it to be carried off the road, making it easier to get in or out of town.

Or we are reminded of the drainage problem at our homes, which are all too forgotten when the weather is good.

But something can be done with all this excess water after a spring storm. Put it to good use by building a rain garden in your landscape.

Rain gardens are shallow and help slow water flow before it gets to creeks and, ultimately, to Lake Lanier. Rain gardens also absorb some of the water to help reduce runoff and flood risk.

One thing to keep in mind is rain gardens are not water gardens. They are designed to hold a small amount of water for a couple of days. That way, mosquitoes do not become a problem.

When trying to find the right place for a rain garden in your landscape, think like water. Find the naturally occurring drainage areas.

"Rain gardens must be downstream of where the runoff begins, so place your rain garden in lower areas where water will naturally move," said Sheryl Wells, a stormwater specialist with the University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.

Rain gardens also should be away from septic tanks and septic field lines. Excess water infiltrating your septic system will shorten its life and cost you lots of money to repair.

The soil in your rain garden should be loose and allow water to infiltrate easily. If your soil is typical of North Georgia, being it is Georgia red clay, you may need to add some compost to improve the texture.

Also, adjust the size of the garden; larger size for soils that do not drain too fast and a smaller size if soil allows the water to drain quickly.

Trees and perennial plants can be used in your garden. Use a mix of wet- and drought-tolerant trees, shrubs, perennials and ornamental grasses.

For a listing of suggested rain garden plants, see the UGA rain garden publication at www.caes.uga.edu/publications.

Michael Wheeler is county extension coordinator for the UGA Cooperative Extension office in Hall County. You can contact him at 770-535-8293, www.hallcounty.org/extension. His column appears weekly and on gainesvilletimes.com/life.


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