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Last updated: Fri. Apr. 25, 2014 - 08:43 am EDT


Gardening column: How to take care of rain garden

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“A rain garden is a landscaped area that holds rain water runoff for a few hours to a few days. Rain gardens are planted with native plants that help the soil soak up more water. These plants may improve the quality of the water that does runoff.” (Catching Rain Fort Wayne)

Rain gardens have proved to be an excellent way of diverting (and filtering) rainwater away from areas around the home and business. City Utilities sponsor this initiative and tell us that “As part of the city's effort to improve the quality of our three rivers and the streams that feed them, (they) encourage home owners, businesses and institutions to build rain gardens.” (Follow this link to the “Catching Rain” website to read all about it: You'll find the dates for refresher classes at this site plus a native plant sale May 24 at Salomon Farm.

As with any garden, if it is not cared for, a rain garden can become a tangled nest of leaves, weeds and dead vegetation. The once-beautiful native plants can easily be crowded out by weeds and plant debris if this site is neglected. — When dry, a rain garden can become a nesting place for unwanted critters.

Routine maintenance is essential to keep any garden healthy and thriving.

Right now is a good time to do the cleanup since spring plant growth has been delayed by cooler than normal weather.

Here are a few tips that will keep your rain garden looking good and functioning all year:

•Now is the time to remove any dead vegetation so you can see the new growth clearly.

•Once you've eliminated all the old wintered over material, look for weeds and pull or remove them. Do not use Roundup unless you are very careful to apply it directly to the weed — if you do, dip a sponge brush in the weed killer and paint directly on the weed. Spraying could cause overspray that could damage or kill important plants.

•Once cleanup has been accomplished, mulch will help keep the weed population down, and when a weed makes a comeback, it is easier to see and pull. (The use of landscape stone makes very attractive mulch in a rain garden.)

•If you notice that some plants have become overpopulated and are crowding, thin them. This will probably need to be done every year, especially to plants in the center of the garden or in lower areas where the water pools for longer periods before draining away.

•You may need to replant natives on the slopes. These will receive less moisture overall, and if you do not water them between rainy spells, plants may die out more quickly. In fact, when we have dry periods throughout the growing season, don't forget to water the whole rain garden along with your lawn and other landscape areas.

•Watch for invasive plants that seem to find their way into our gardens no matter how vigilant we are. The seed is often carried on the wind or as a gift from bird droppings.

•Here is a link to a PDF, “Rain Garden Manual for Homeowners”: I found it to be very useful and informative.

Jane Ford is an Advanced Master Gardener. Email questions to bloominthing@ This column is the opinion of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the views of The News-Sentinel.

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