Wild Ones   Rain Garden Puts Run-Off to Work  
By Mandy Ploch

Our small vacation cabin in western Wisconsin is on a sloping site with sandy loam soil. The roof gutters are a 40-foot run to the uphill end of the cabin. In May, 2002, with a few hours work, using the local stone and some added compost, I constructed my garden which functions well through all seasons.

Before rain garden.
In the summer of 2002, Mandy Ploch created a small rain garden to catch run-off from the roof of her family's Wisconsin cabin. In June, (shown here), the garden was almost bare.

Because of site constrictions it has a 5-foot diameter and goes from ground level to 12 inches high on the downhill side. I scooped some soil out on the high side, mixed it with compost and added it to the low side, leaving a concave surface. There is no liner and I just firmly packed soil mix into the stone joints. The evening I finished we had a good rain and I could watch as the water level rose to the top of the stones where it held for about an hour until it seeped away. Ta da! Success even without plants!

After rain garden.
By the end of the summer, (shown here), the garden was a host to a variety of healthy plants and insects.

The next day I did plant swamp milkweed (Asclepias incarnata), boneset (Eupatorium perfoliatum), and purple coneflower (Echinacea purpurea), all transplants from home. These plants all grew well in the mostly shaded site without any more intervention on my part. During late winter there was a solid mass of ice across the garden. The next spring all the plants returned with vigor. I have since added great blue lobelia (Lobelia siphilitica), snakeroot (Cimicifuga racemosa), lavender hyssop (Agastache scrophulariaefolia), and gray’s sedge (Carex grayii). Wild strawberry has found its way in to scramble around its neighbors and the rabbits seem to be dining elsewhere.

This was a simple, quick project that gives me great pleasure. During rains I can look down from a nearby window and watch the garden doing its job of slowly dispersing the water. The bonus is the habitat for lovely plants in a shady site.

Mandy is belongs to the Milwaukee-North (WI) Chapter, and a member of the Journal team and a national board member.

Read about Lorrie Otto's Rain Barrels to Rain Gardens.

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Updated: Mar 23, 2006.