Rain Gardens: Beneficial & Beautiful!

Rain Garden MapRain gardens are an excellent and proven way to limit run off from entering our storm sewers and streams. In addition to helping reduce nonpoint source pollution such as litter, fertilizer, and animal waste (from pets or livestock) from entering our waterways, rain gardens can be an attractive way to address these challenges, particularly where urban-related runoff is a problem.

For the past decade, Bluegrass Greensource has been educating Central Kentucky homeowners about the benefits of rain gardens, in addition to providing the technical and financial resources needed to install them. Our goal is to increase awareness of water pollution, how it happens, and how to clean it up, especially when it comes to sources of pollution that average person has some control over. Our approach is to educate residents on how to select an appropriate site for the garden, how to construct it, and what plants are suited for a rain garden. In the time that we have worked to increase the installation of rain gardens, we have learned that most people also need information on how to renovate, maintain, and care for a rain garden once it is has been established.

In the past few years, we have worked with the Kentucky Division of Water on a grant program designed to greatly increase the number of gardens throughout Central Kentucky. Our efforts have been very successful, with more than 50 rain gardens installed or renovated in the past two years. This particular project focused on homeowners in the six counties that border Fayette: Bourbon, Clark, Jessamine, Madison, Scott and Woodford, in addition to extending the program to Fayette County in the second year of the grant. In this program, we reached more than 350 people through 22 workshops, three rain garden tours, eight community festivals, and outreach to various schools and scout groups.

With spring finally here, it’s a great time to get started on installing your own rain garden. If you are interested, but aren’t sure where to start, we’ve got you covered. You can visit a dedicated page on our website. Once there, you can access a very popular Rain Garden Manual that we produced to help residents better understand the how’s and why’s of installing a garden. Additionally, if you’re looking for inspiration and want to see some cool examples of existing gardens, we have created an interactive map that provides a guide and brief profile of area rain gardens.

So get inspired, find the resources you need, and join us in creating sites that are beautiful and help reduce pollution!



Rain Garden Opportunities in Fayette County

10733974_10152829581399309_5885192946187560566_nBluegrass Greensource will be offering Rain Garden Workshops this fall to neighborhood associations and homeowner groups in Fayette County.  Attendees of the workshop will be eligible for a $250 grant to construct a rain garden at their own home.

A rain garden is a garden with a shallow depression that captures runoff from impervious surfaces, such as rooftops, patios, driveways, and parking lots, before it enters the storm water system. The soil and plant roots improve water quality by filtering pollutants and reducing the amount of stormwater runoff.  The water easily infiltrates into the soil because of the deep roots of the native plants and recharges the groundwater supply.

The workshops are designed to educate homeowners about the benefits of installing a rain garden, improving water quality, and the best management practices for stormwater. Participants will learn how to determine the right location for their rain garden, how to build and maintain a rain garden, and what types of native plants are most successful and environmentally beneficial.

Grant are on a first come, first serve basis, and groups must schedule and host a workshop with Bluegrass Greensource before September 25, 2015. To schedule a workshop for your group and learn more about the grant, please contact Kara Sayles at Kara@bgGreensource.org or at (859)266-1572.

Interested in viewing established rain gardens in Central Kentucky? View our interactive map!

This work was funded in part by a grant from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency under §319(h) of the Clean Water Act.


Rain gardens go with the flow, helping reduce runoff, improve water quality

As spring shapes up here in Central Kentucky, early flowers are in bloom and trees are starting to bud. For many of us, this sparks an interest in gardening.

One gardening option to consider this year is a rain garden. If you have water issues or just want to enhance your landscape, rerouting stormwater from impervious surfaces around your home into an eco-conscious rain garden.

A rain garden is a garden planted in a shallow depression in the path of stormwater. It allows the water to infiltrate the ground as close to its natural path as possible. One of the most important things to remember when considering a residential rain garden is that it is a garden—plain and simple.

Layout and plant selection are key features in a rain garden, just as in any other garden. Once your site, size and shape are determined, focusing on flowers and other plants is important in making the rain garden an attractive landscape feature for years to come.

There is not a specific model to follow in creating a rain garden. If you have done any gardening at all, you know that the basic recipe for success is preparing the soil and placing the plants in conditions where they will thrive.

Rain garden plants should tolerate standing water for brief intervals, as well a drought conditions. One way to keep a rain garden attractive all year is to make sure the different varieties of flowering plants bloom at different times. Also, adding a variety of heights and textures of plants to your garden will create a sense of depth and visual appeal.

Another consideration for your rain garden is adding garden accessories such as rock or garden benches. This can help incorporate the rain garden into your existing landscaping, as well as give you a nice place to sit and enjoy nature.

If you would like more information about constructing a rain garden, Bluegrass Greensource is offering residential rain garden presentations in Central Kentucky (see below). For more information, check out our rain garden webpage.

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Kara Sayles is an environmental educator, focusing on middle and high School grade levels. In addition, she serves the Bluegrass Rain Garden Alliance as rain garden project coordinator. Kara holds a bachelor’s degree with a focus on Ecological Design and Sustainable Agriculture from The Evergreen State College. She also received an associate’s degree in Environmental Technology at Bluegrass Community and Technical College.

This article appeared in KY Forward on April 9, 2015.