The inevitability of the rainy season is something that most regions are used to. In Alexandria and the rest of the DC-Metro area that rainy season comes in Spring. Early spring showers prepare your landscape to thrive throughout the summer months as water percolates deep into the soil. But it’s not all roses and butterflies. The wet season can also mean it’s time to prepare your home and property for stormwater. Through your own proactive and ecologically-friendly stormwater management, you as a homeowner can protect your home from flooding, reduce harmful runoff, and make mother nature happy!
So what exactly is Stormwater management? Stormwater management refers to the host of processes, techniques, and management protocols for dealing with stormwater, AKA rainwater that is running along the ground. To the public sector, this generally means big underground infrastructure designed to manage the flow of water to be least disruptive in what has become an increasingly impermeable urban environment. But on the residential side and as a homeowner, your stormwater management generally refers to various processes that keep rainwater out of your home through a sequence of systems. Starting with your roof, stormwater runs off into gutters, before traveling through downspouts and dispersing into your yard or out to the street. This is where it enters either a body of water or public stormwater pipes. Once on the surface, grading and proper waterproofing along your home’s foundation are important to keep water moving and not pooling against your home where it could eventually cause flooding, mildew, and mold.
But the relationship with water does not have to be adversarial. After all, water is a most valuable resource, and in the context of your landscape, your soil’s ability to absorb water is the key factor in whether or not your lawn, trees, flowers, and shrubs survive and thrive. By introducing ecologically-friendly stormwater solutions into your landscape, you can maximize the ability of rainwater to beautify your home, enhance local populations of pollinators and birds, and enhance water quality.
While there are many solutions and variations of solutions to improve the general permeability of your soil, the most cost-effective, budget-friendly technique is conservation landscaping–often referred to as bayscaping in the Chesapeake Bay Watershed. This technique involves the deliberate planting of native plants with high ecological value in areas of your property that experience water and are sensitive to erosion, such as a sloped area. The specialty native plants used in conservation landscaping help restore soil health through extensive root structures that help restore soil microbiology and in turn, help your soil become full of nutrients and sequester carbon from the air. The improved, more fertile soil is a welcome respite from the excavated backfill that makes up the principal soil medium for many new homeowners of recently improved homes.
Rain Gardens take Bayscaping a step further and are an ideal enhancement when the soil conditions are such that water can sufficiently percolate into the soil. Rain Gardens are a more labor-intensive enhancement that includes excavation and the introduction of high flow rate soil amendments, such as compost, sand, topsoil, and mulch. These amendments are mixed into a new soil medley that is well suited for developing extensive root structures and absorbing runoff water.
Graphic Credit: https://www.neponset.org/rain-garden/
In order to absorb as much rain as possible, rain gardens are ideally located in a depressed area of your yard where you can direct a downspout and where the natural slope of the surrounding areas flows. It is also important that rain gardens be at least 10 feet from your foundation, and are in locations that do not otherwise have standing water, which would indicate either a high water table or low percolation rate. Rain gardens are generally designed to hold water for no more than 2 days after a rain event before drying out, which also helps to reduce mosquitoes. On one of the sides of the rain garden, we generally also create a berm and spillway to help retain water and direct its flow if the rainfall is significant. Some of our favorite installations include rain gardens that overflow into beautiful bayscapes.
As root systems and soil microbiology become established, rain gardens can become proficient in naturally treating contaminated runoff from impervious surfaces. As water flows through these areas, nutrients are absorbed and otherwise harmful chemicals are broken down. Simultaneously, butterflies, songbirds, and other beautiful pollinators are attracted to the rain garden, as a small ecological refuge. What’s not to love?!
Graphic Credit: https://www.riversmarthomes.org/bayscaping
There are many different types of native flowers and plant options to choose from when starting your rain garden or bayscape. Once your plants are in the ground, maintenance of your rain garden and bayscape is extremely important to ensure proper function. If you have a new rain garden, plants and flowers should be soaked every few days to help them establish deep root systems and create a dense bed of foliage. To ensure ideal growth, the area may also require pruning, seasonally mulching, and de-weeding of any invasive or competitive ground covers that can take over or out-compete the new native plants. Trash and other debris should also be removed. Monitoring the garden for any signs of erosion or compaction is very important to ensuring the soil medium is able to absorb water as intended. Though this may sound like a lot, it’s not. It’s just a matter of restoring and maintaining balance. Mother nature will do the rest!
If you find that you need help getting started with your Rain Garden or Bayscape, please reach out to us. At TLC, we offer packages for Rain Gardens and Bayscapes installations where we can complete an installation in a day. We also specialize in other residential stormwater enhancements such as dry-wells, rain barrels, permeable patios and driveways, and more. Please reach out to us with any questions or to learn more about what TLC can do for your landscape, and home! Visit us online at https://tlcdesign.co to learn more and fill out a consultation form so we can chat or visit.
We wish you a beautiful spring!
Check out our blog post featured on the McEnearney website! https://www.mcenearney.com/blog/spring-showers-bring-stormwater-bayscapes-and-rain-gardens/
Patrick utilizes his passion for the outdoors along with his professional skills as a licensed Landscape and Home Improvement contractor in Virginia and Maryland, as well as a Project Management Professional (PMP) and LEED Green Associate. Patrick has a BA from Yale University, where he studied climate change and its impact on society.