Our first rain garden was put in on the corner of Oneida and Locust streets in downtown Toledo, where rain water collects from a 1.5 acre area, often flooding the corner. It is also across the street from the Oneida Greenhouse, one of Toledo GROWs' main work sites that is daily buzzing with human, chicken, turkey, bee, worm, microorganism, plant, and soon tilapia activity.
The above plans were drawn up by Lucas County Soil and Water's exceptional Urban Conservationist and GreenCorps partner Jeff Grabarkiewicz. The first step was to dig out the entire area of the garden, following the plans so that the final elevations would be lower than the street and water would flow into the garden.
The back-dug area was then filled with 8 square yards each of compost and sand and 4 of topsoil, which the GreenCorps team mixed and spread, forming a layer of quality growing medium at 8-12 inches deep (we were shooting for at least 6 inches, and the "soil" originally in the area was some of the worst fill dirt I've seen, so it worked out pretty well).
We made sure to mound the edges to create berms in order to keep the water in the garden. These will be planted with grasses to prevent erosion.
Jeff G used a level to check the final elevations, making sure the garden was below street level.
The inlet was filled with rocks (dug from the area during the initial step) to collect debris flowing into the garden. It sits at the high end of the Locust St. side of the garden, where water often forms a small stream along the curb. The next step was to lay out the plants (donated by Broadbeck Greenhouse and purchased from the wonderful Naturally Native Nursery), paying attention to both aesthetic design and quantity of water the different species prefer.
Then was the most satisfying part: planting! Next to Shabboz is a bucket of water, which we used to "mud the hole," a process, taught by Allison and Olga, of digging a hole, scratching the sides, filling it with water to create a mud, and then planting. This ensures as little stress as possible as the transplant moves into its new home.
We then flagged all of the new plants to ensure their safety and mulched the area for moisture retention and to cut back on weeds. We'll water the garden daily until the plants are established, and keep an eye on how water flows into the garden after the first few rains (which seem to be few and far between these days).
If you're interested in installing a rain garden on your property (every garden, no matter how small, helps prevent the city's storm sewers from backing up and thus keeps clean our precious Maumee and Erie), or to learn more about he advantages of rain gardens, check out