What Are “Rain Gardens” and How Can They Help Our Indian River Lagoon?

Farmer Fred, Mr Fred Burkey stands in front of the entrance of the new  rain garden at the Hoke Library in Jensen. (All photos by Jacqui Thurlow-Lippisch 9-27-14.)
“Farmer Fred,” Mr Fred Burkey, stands in front of the outlet of the new rain garden just installed by Martin County at the Hoke Library in Jensen. (All photos by Jacqui Thurlow-Lippisch 9-27-14.)

Recently, I kept hearing about “rain gardens,” and how they could be used in the Town of Sewall’s Point to help the Indian River Lagoon. I kept nodding my head, but I really had no idea what they were.  A “garden for rain” obviously, but nonetheless, no image would  crystallize in my mind.

After a field trip with UF IFAS extension office representative (http://martin.ifas.ufl.eduMr Fred Burkey to the Hoke Library, I now know. So today, I am going to share with you about a very cool, beautiful, and useful thing Martin County and others are promoting to help our ailing St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon and waterways across our nation.

The idea of a rain garden is to hold water and filter it before it enters our waterways and if everyone held just a “little bit” of water it could make a very big difference. In most circumstances today’s drainage is designed to “roll off the land” as fast as possible, and is directed to a  gutter or pipe which leads to a body of water. There is little filtration so all the pollutants go directly into the “river.”

Mr Burkey is an expert and professional on the subject of water,  but still it was amusing to be working with him on water ideas for the Town of Sewall’s Point, as in the early years of my life he was my neighbor….

He and his wife Jackie, live across the street from my parents in Indialucie, Sewall’s Point. I lived across from the Burkey family from 10 years old until I was 18. The Burkeys  have four kids and we all grew up together.   Mr Burkey was always “Mr Burkey.” But the day of the rain garden  it was “adult to adult.”

My morning went something like this:

“Ding dong” went the door bell and Mrs Burkey answered the door.

“Hello Mrs Burkey . Is Mr Burkey here please? We are supposed to look at a rain garden…”

“Call me Jackie please. Fred! Jacqui’s here!” she yelled into the kitchen.

He came to the door.

“Hello Mr Burkey.”

“By gosh, Call me Fred! You are making me feel old…”

So after a quick conversation and being  told to call Mr and Mrs Burkey by their first names, something I was trained never to do as a kid, “Fred” and I got in my car and made our way to the Hoke Library in Jensen. As I mentioned, Fred works for IFAS, the Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences and in coordination with the Dainne Hughes at Martin County, he is promoting rain gardens. He was my guide.

Once we arrived and I got out of the car, it all finally made sense because I “could see.”

Fred explained that a rain garden is meant to filter water coming from impervious surfaces.   In the case of the Hoke Library, they took an area that had very heavy gutter runoff, put rocks  right at the base of the gutter, dug out the earth for a distance of about 50 feet, to hold and filter the water, planted native and Florida Friendly plants  to help with filtering , and then put a berm  around the area.

Here are some pictures of the Hoke’s rain garden to help you envision what a rain garden  can look like.

The area
The area to the west side of the Hoke library shows surrounding berm.
gutter and rocks
Gutter and rocks where heavy rains caused erosion and water would just quickly run into parking lot.
Runoff area of gutter.
Runoff area of gutter.
Middle area of rain garden.
Middle area of shallow rain garden.
Western edge of rain garden.
Western sloping edge of rain garden.
Native plants inside rain garden. Firebush.
Native plants inside rain garden remove pollutants. This firebush attracts butterflies.
Native grasses.
Native grasses.
Black eyed Susan.
Black eyed Susan.
Fred Burkey and the librarian from the Hoke.
Fred Burkey and  head librarian Emma Castle from the Hoke who gave us the grand tour.
Rain Garden
Rain Garden: Bioretension and Infliltration site: (http://www.greeningthegray.org/gi-features/gi-features/bioretention-infiltration/)

A rain garden is a relatively easy and inexpensive thing to do.

When I got home and started looking at Sewall’ Point  I could now see there are many areas where the water just runs off houses and buildings onto driveways and dirty streets  into the river.  Could we create a shallow area with native plants to hold, clean and filter that water? I’m sure we could.

We can all help in little ways to improve our rivers. Together, it  is a big way.  Take a look at your yard please. Hopefully,  you see a rain garden in your future!


Story TC Palm Rain Garden Hoke Library, Jensen: (http://www.tcpalm.com/news/local-news/martin-county/news-briefs/rain-garden-installed-at-hoke-library_84402096)

13 thoughts on “What Are “Rain Gardens” and How Can They Help Our Indian River Lagoon?

  1. Love the photos! This is such a terrific and relatively easy idea that everyone can do. Thanks for getting the word out there! The other nice thing about the rain gardens is they don’t need as much watering as a regular lawn. The native plants are thrifty that way. Wonderful idea all the way around.

  2. Great information! Wish they would do this here in Cedar Point and the other condo villages, we use entirely too much chemicals, and there is so much run off here .

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