Landscaping for water-runoff management
Not quite two months ago, my wife and I became homeowners. We love it. But in addition to the pride of ownership, there are also the worries: Can we really afford this house? Should we get earthquake insurance? Why does a small lake appear in the backyard when it rains?
That last one has been on our minds a lot lately. After 26 consecutive days of rain (and counting) here in Seattle, there’s a frighteningly large pool of water that has swamped the roses and turned the lawn into something resembling the Everglades. My dad jokingly suggested that we stock it with trout. But I have a better idea: I’m going to landscape my way out of the problem.
There’s a growing movement in sustainable landscaping that emphasizes not only native plants and summer drought tolerance, but also managing water runoff during our many wet months. Lisa Stiffler over at Dateline Earth (the Seattle Post-Intelligencer’s environmental blog) puts it thusly:
The gist of it is this: By creating some very shallow depressions in your landscaping and planting them with hardy grasses, shrubs and trees in well-draining soil and covering the ground with a thin layer of mulch, you can catch and slow the flow of rainwater. This "rain garden" gives the stormwater a chance to soak into the dirt, helping trap pollutants and preventing the water from harming streams where salmon and other cool creatures chill out.
Lisa also includes a bevy of links to handy resources. Check them out.
In particular, I’m fascinated by some advice from the Puget Sound Action Team. They describe how one home owner in Shoreline, Washington — who was similarly cursed with saturated soils — created a bog garden. He built a retention pond and used a variety of plants to create a yard that can process an estimated 10,800 gallons of water a year on his quarter-acre lot. Total cost? Just $600.
Landscaping for water management helps ameliorate some of the environmental effects of impervious surfaces — less pollution runs off roofs and city streets. And during storms, less water deluges the city drain system, which discharges untreated sewage into the Sound when it gets overloaded. Plus, there’s another benefit: I won’t be freaked out about my basement flooding.
Sounds like a no-brainer to me. I’m going to start digging just as soon as this rain stops.