Rain gardening masterclasses help turn soggy soils into beautiful gardens

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CLEVELAND, Ohio – Residents of northeastern Ohio are all too familiar with soggy backyards, though not everyone realizes that excess water can be used to provide aesthetic appeal and enjoy to wildlife.

Several upcoming Master Rain Garden programs will teach participants how to turn frustrating puddles into flowery oases.

Public programs are offered by the Cuyahoga Soil & Water Conservation District, the Lake County Soil & Water Conservation District, and Chagrin River Watershed Partners.

Students from across Northeast Ohio will learn how to design, install and maintain rain gardens.

Although this rain garden is located in Ann Arbor, Michigan, the native plants pictured here are also calling Ohio home. (Photo courtesy of Susan Bryan, Washtenaw County Water Resources)

Registration for the spring and fall online courses is available through the Cuyahoga Soil and Water Conservation District website. Five-week courses cost $ 50.

Spring course online content will be available from Monday April 26, and five Zoom live recordings will take place each Friday at noon. Fall course content will go live on Monday 23 August and Zoom Live recordings will take place again every Friday at noon.

Registration for an in-person course is available through the Chagrin River Watershed Partners Website. This five-week course costs $ 75. A professional track option – largely aimed at landscapers who want to build rain gardens for residential customers – costs $ 100. Sessions are held at the Holden Arboretum from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. every Wednesday, starting July 21.

Those needing a more flexible schedule can enroll in a self-paced course, which is available year-round and costs $ 50. Registration can be found on the Cuyahoga Soil and Water Conservation District website.

Rain garden before photo

This is the rain garden shown in the top photo shortly after installation. The before and after images, taken just a year apart, illustrate how quickly native plants will flourish in a suitable setting. (Photo courtesy of Mark Brody, Master Rain Gardener from Parma)

Online and in-person courses will include optional, virtual or on-site field trips to rain gardens and native plant nurseries.

A pair of online master rain gardener courses are planned for later this year, as is another in-person course at Holden Arboretum. The in-person course will revert to the online format should the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention impose such a decision due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

For those in need of financial assistance, scholarships are available.

The Cuyahoga Soil & Water Conservation District has a long history of offering free one-hour “Rain Garden 101” programs, although few who have taken these basic courses have attempted to create true rain gardens.

Rain garden

Creative landscaping can make a rain garden both functional and charming. Just ask the frog statue in this photo. (Photo courtesy of Al Barnes, Master Gardener)

“We weren’t giving them all the tools to really feel confident, and the master rain gardener programs really give them the best of how to do it and how to avoid mistakes,” says Elizabeth Hiser, manager. of the watershed program.

Hiser was inspired to begin master’s programs after attending a presentation in 2019 by a prominent promoter of functional and often fantastic landscape additions.

Rain gardens reduce pond formation and provide colorful displays of native flora, while providing habitat for wildlife and helping to preserve the integrity of the area’s watersheds.

According to Hiser, residential areas in heavily developed Cuyahoga County typically send stormwater directly into streams and lakes, causing flooding and erosion.

To make matters worse, the compacted soils and impervious surfaces of city and suburban landscapes do little to filter out water-borne pollutants such as lawn chemicals and animal droppings.

Bowl-shaped rain gardens capture rainwater while promoting the development of microorganisms that feed on pollutants.

Still, Hiser is aware that beauty and practicality will likely motivate more homeowners than environmental concerns.

“Our goal is really to give people the tools to make these gardens beautiful,” Hiser reveals.

Gardens don’t have to be expensive, although construction expenses depend on many variables. Gardeners with excess tools, supplies, and plants can spend as little as $ 40, although residential rain gardens can cost as much as $ 1,500.

To control costs, many savvy residents collect specimens during plant exchanges. Friends and neighbors sometimes contribute to the cause of plants and materials.

Residents who are comfortable with a shovel can also avoid the expense of labor, although anyone familiar with the soils of northeast Ohio can attest to the challenges of excavation. even small areas.

“There is work and digging is work,” Hiser admits.

For those who prefer to keep their hands clean, the Cuyahoga Soil & Water Conservation District maintains a list of fully vetted landscapers with a proven track record of rain garden installations.

Rain gardens continue to gain in popularity, as the newly installed gardens encourage more and more people to put the spade in the ground. Hiser says the Cuyahoga Soil and Water Conservation District has experienced a threefold increase in the number of rain gardens since 2019.

“We have a lot of requests,” says Hiser.


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