This post was submitted by Alan Wiebe, Watershed Assistant, at the Seine-Rat River Conservation District
Spring has sprung!
Spring arrives each year to warm our prairie hearts with the promise of longer days and pleasant weather. It can also be a worrisome time for some people when surface water runoff from melting snow and ice creates flooding problems in our area.
Surface water runoff refers to the overland flow of water from rain and melted snow. This runoff can be a problem in urban areas where water runs off roofs, streets, sidewalks, driveways, and parking lots. Water that is unable to infiltrate into the soil is directed towards the street, where it can overwhelm local drainage infrastructure. It can pick up harmful substances, such as road salt, heavy metals, oils, and other contaminants that end up in our rivers and lakes. These contaminants can harm the quality of our drinking water and the health of aquatic species. Heavy rain events and rapid snowmelt in the Southeast challenge the way we manage surface water in our area.
What is a rain garden?
A rain garden is a bowl-shaped perennial garden that captures surface water runoff from hard surfaces. They are planted near drain spouts and sump pump outlets to allow water runoff to absorb into the ground. Rain gardens provide important environmental benefits by improving water quality. Surface water is filtered as it absorbs into the ground and the nutrients are taken up by native plant species in the garden. Rain gardens also create habitat for birds, bees, butterflies, and other wildlife; they reduce downstream flooding; and beautify your home and neighbourhood.
Clearspring Middle School rain garden project
In 2013, the Seine-Rat River Conservation District (SRRCD) worked with community groups in Steinbach to plant a rain garden at Clearspring Middle School. The SRRCD coordinated with local area Master Gardeners from the Steinbach & Area Garden Club to provide support to the staff and students at the school.
The Master Gardeners prepared the plants on site and supported the students, who planted the rain garden with colourful perennials. The students learned about the environmental benefits of rain gardens by getting their hands dirty. It was an event that Karen Loewen, Master Gardener and President of the Steinbach & Area Garden Club, fondly recalls as having inspired a greater depth of learning about horticulture.
The Steinbach & Area Garden Club (www.sagardenclub.com) and local area Master Gardeners are pleased to participate in community events and activities that promote horticulture. “It’s great that rain gardens are becoming more popular,” says Karen, “Homeowners are seeing the benefits they provide, like preventing water runoff from entering into our waterways. They also make beautiful gardens that are easy to take care of!”
SRRCD rain garden program
Rain gardens are innovative urban design features that can improve the way you manage surface water on your property or in public spaces. The SRRCD can help you design and create your own rain garden project. We provide funding up to $500 for individual projects, or 50% up to $5,000 for projects located in public spaces. Give us a call in La Broquerie at (204) 424-5845, or in Vita at (204) 425-7877. You can also visit us online at www.srrwd.ca.