Sunday, July 20, 2014

DIY Rain Garden

Benefits of a Rain Garden

• Filter runoff pollution
• Recharge local groundwater
• Improve water quality
• Protect streams and lakes from pollutants carried by urban stormwater – lawn fertilizers and pesticides, oil and other fluids that leak from cars, and numerous harmful substances that wash off roofs and paved areas
• Remove standing water in your yard
• Reduce mosquito breeding
• Protect communities from flooding and drainage problems
• Create habitat for birds, butterflies and beneficial insects
• Create drought tolerant green areas
• Enhance the beauty of yards, neighborhoods and parks

Short Flowers (1-3 feet tall) 
Allium cernuum Nodding Pink Onion White/Pink July-Aug
Amsonia tabernaemontana Common Bluestar Blue May-June
Camassia scilloides Wild Hyacinth White May-June
Chelone glabra White Turtlehead White Aug-Sept
Dodecatheon meadia Shootingstar White/Pink May-June
Gentiana andrewsii Bottle Gentian Blue Aug-Oct
Iris shrevei Wild Iris Blue June-July
Iris versicolor Blue Flag Iris Blue June-July
Lobelia siphilitica Great Blue Lobelia Blue July-Sept
Mimulus ringens Monkeyflower Blue June-Aug
Penstemon digitalis Smooth Penstemon White June-July
Phlox glaberrima Marsh Phlox Red/Purple June-July
Solidago ohioensis Ohio Goldenrod Yellow Aug-Sept
Solidago rigida Stiff Goldenrod Yellow Aug-Sept
Zizia aurea Golden Alexanders Yellow May-July

Medium Height Flowers (3-6 feet tall) 
Asclepias incarnata Red Milkweed Red/Pink June-July
Aster novae-angliae New England Aster Pink/Purple/Blue Aug-Oct
Baptisia lactea White False Indigo White June-July
Cassia hebecarpa Wild Senna Yellow July-Aug
Eupatorium maculatum Joe Pye Weed Pink Aug-Sept
Eupatorium perfoliatum Boneset White Aug-Sept
Filipendula rubra Queen of the Prairie Pink June-July
Helenium autumnale Dogtooth Daisy Yellow Aug-Sept
Hibiscus palustris Rose Mallow Pink July-Sept
Liatris pycnostachya Prairie Blazingstar Purple/Pink July-Aug
Liatris spicata Dense Blazingstar Purple/Pink Aug-Sept
Lobelia cardinalis Cardinal Flower Red July-Sept
Rudbeckia subtomentosa Sweet Black Eyed Susan Yellow Aug-Oct
Thalictrum dasycarpum Tall Meadowrue White June-July
Verbena hastata Blue Vervain Blue July-Sept
Vernonia fasciculata Ironweed Red/Pink July-Sept
Veronicastrum virginicum Culver’s Root White July-Aug

Tall Flowers (6-10 feet tall) 
Eupatorium fistulosum Tall Joe Pye Weed Purple/Pink Aug-Sept
Rudbeckia laciniata Green Headed Coneflower Yellow Aug-Sept
Silphium terebinthinaceum Prairie Dock Yellow July-Sept
Vernonia altissima Tall Ironweed Red/Pink Aug-Sept

Grasses and Sedges (1-5 feet tall) 
Elymus canadensis Canada Wild Rye Straw July-Aug
Elymus virginicus Virginia Wild Rye Straw July-Aug
Hierochloe odorata* Vanilla Sweet Grass Straw July-Aug
Carex comosa Bottlebrush Sedge Green May-June
Carex hystericina Porcupine Sedge Green May-June
Carex muskingumensis* Palm Sedge Golden-Brown May-June
Carex stipata Awl Fruited Sedge Golden-Brown May-June
Carex vulpinoidea Fox Sedge Golden-Brown May-June

spring/early summer bloomersred milkweed
shooting star
wild iris
summer bloomersnodding pink onion
prairie blazing star
late summer/fall bloomersNew England aster
Ohio goldenrod
sweet black-eyed Susan
grassesIndian grass
prairie drop seed

treesred maple (prefers acid soil)
river birch
swamp white oak
shrubsglossy black chokeberry
northern lights azalea (prefers acid soil)
red-osier dogwood
perennials and annualsasters
cardinal flower
orange coneflower
Siberian iris
ground covers and fernscreeping willow
dwarf arctic willow
(Most mosses do well in moist, acid soils. Ferns need moist yet relatively well-drained soils.)
plants in wetland standsWetland gardens may have three zones – one in which plants are in for some occasional wading, one in which they continually have wet feet, and one in which they are completely immersed. Select plants accordingly.
NOTE: Hardy cattail species can easily come to dominate an entire wetland. Keep pulling some of the cattails out of wet rain gardens once a year.
wet meadow/prairie (occasionally wet feet, dry tops)blue lobelia
fox sedge
Joe Pye weed
meadow rue
New England aster
porcupine sedge
red cardinal flower
red milkweed
emergent (feet in permanent pool, dry tops)blue flag iris
marsh marigold
softstem bulrush
sweet flag
wapato duck potato
water plantain
submergentnative lilypad

You may have other aims for the rain garden like attracting butterflies or creating backyard habitat and food for birds. Build those into your plan as well.

Rain gardens need to be weeded until plants become well established. Don't rely on pesticides and fertilizers which might soak downward or running off onto paved areas. As the plantings mature, dense roots will squeeze out weeds. When putting your garden to bed for the season, leave the seed heads and stalks in place to provide winter cover and then cut them back in the early spring when four inches or so of new growth appear. A string trimmer or gentle wiggling of the old stems usually is adequate to loosen up the dried, dead stalks from the previous year without disturbing the root or new growth.

A great resource for homewners published by the Wisconsin DNR can be downloaded at:

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