Janice and John Long are some of the first drops in a shower of Fort Wayne homeowners building rain gardens in their yards.
In an effort to deal with excess rainwater draining into the city's storm sewers and rivers, Fort Wayne City Utilities offered workshops last spring to homeowners who would like to build rain gardens.
According to Mary Jane Slaton, City Utilities program manager, 425 homeowners took part in the workshops; of those, 51-55 have registered as having a rain garden.
Janice Long said the couple got interested after a landscaper looked at their backyard and suggested they build a rain garden. Long said at first she didn't want to give up the space, but the couple had a water problem. Excess water running from the gutters of their house, down the slope of the yard and into the garage was rotting the bottom of the structure.
The couple attended one of City Utilities' free workshops, where they received personal instruction, a rain garden manual and a worksheet. With these materials they were able to calculate how much runoff came from their roof, plan the size and shape of the garden, and figure out where to place the garden for optimum results.
John Long says since they put in the rain garden their water problems have stopped. It took him about two days to dig the hole for the garden. He dug down 12-14 inches, sloping the soil down into the garden while building up the lower edge of the area into a berm. His wife designed the zones of the garden where she would place the plants. She planned the garden so at least one type of plant will always be blooming throughout the season.
People planning a rain garden should choose and place plants by how well they can absorb water and how tall they will grow. Plants that absorb the most water should be at the bottom; as they move up the slope they should gradually absorb less water until reaching the top zone, where plants absorb the least amount.
The couple is happy with the results.
“We live in a 100-year-old home, which is not energy efficient. This is another way to give back to the environment,” John Long said.
Janice Long added, “It is another way to care for the Earth.”
For homeowner Paul Lootens, it made sense to put one in.
“It just sounded like a good idea. I liked the reasoning, so I went to the seminar,” he said. Lootens enlisted the help of local gardener Ellen Ley, who helped him plan the garden and showed him how to make it more efficient. After Lootens got his drain in place, it took him about a day of hard work to dig out the garden.
Both Lootens and the Longs took advantage of the city's offer to match money on plants or get cash incentives up to $175, depending on the size of the garden.
Lootens' 150-square-foot garden collects 626 square feet of runoff, he said. Walking the perimeter of his garden, he pointed out the drain that lets the water into the garden.
He also showed off the plants he chose: black-eyed Susan, queen of the valley, milk thistle and Echinacea, to name a few. He picked his plants to help with the process but also to encourage wildlife, like monarch butterflies, to visit his yard.
Slaton is already working on a schedule for next spring's workshops. “I am hoping we will get more enrollments as people see the results.”