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Rain Garden with Katie Teague

Now, what's great about this is our water is actually coming from our rain water harvesting system, which is a very green idea. But this is happening all over the country in various ways. Storm water expert Katie Teague tells us about the rain garden at the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville and the importance of using native plants.

Katie Teague:  So often we are blessed with rains, but we hate to see that wasted when it runs off our roof or off our landscape. Oftentimes, it goes down the street and we lose it to our neighbors or down to the creek. A rain garden is a great idea that can capture that water, use it as a resource, and you end up with a beautiful landscape.

This is an example of a native plant. It's a purple coneflower. It's an echinacea and the beauty of it is that it has very deep roots, so it can withstand very dry conditions. It goes down deep and can tap into those water supplies, but at the same time it can also handle really wet feet for weeks at a time. We're going to go ahead and put this in our rain garden and you'll notice that this is a landscape bed. It is a depression. There is a little bit of a lip. There is a berm to it around the edge.

Usually the garden itself is maybe about six inches deep, about three inches down from the ground surface, and three inches up from the top of the berm. Again that allows that water to collect and be stored and drained within about 48 hours. That's kind of a key. These are not water gardens. You want that water to soak in, because within about 48 hours, you can get a breeding ground for mosquitoes.

It's a great idea to amend rain gardens with some compost and maybe some sand. Again, anything that's going to encourage water holding capacity and water infiltration, while it is critical to water and irrigate that first year or two, until the plant roots get established, beyond that the goal is to have these plants thrive just on the rain water that they receive naturally.

There's a lot of different examples of natives and you really need to check with your local extension service to figure out what might grow best in your area. Here again we have the coneflowers. Black-eyed Susans, or rudbeckia, obviously do very well. We have the liatris. The penstemons just finished blooming. We also have some lobelia here.

Rain gardens are incredible low maintenance. You are utilizing free water resources. There's no added irrigation. The plants are natives, so they are very tolerant. They are pest resistant and they won't require added fertilization. So, it's a great thing to try in your home.