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By Joe Larson
It’s almost spring, and at Field we’re hoping that our abnormally mild weather will continue into March and April. However in the back of my mind, the part I try to ignore, I think there is a chance that winter is waiting to release it’s pent up fury on us in March.
Spring is the one time of year that a lot of homeowners think about percent of impervious surfaces, surface water runoff, and soil infiltration rates. Well maybe they don’t know that’s what they are thinking about, but they are wondering why their basement is flooded as they check on the sump pump. Wet basements aren’t the only problem that water runoff causes though.
Infiltration Rates for Impervious vs. Pervious Surfaces
The “dead zone” in the Gulf of Mexico the size of New Jersey, and decreased aquatic life and increased algae in our lakes and rivers are all a result of surface water runoff. In a modern city when it rains, around 40%-70% of the water that falls makes its way into the storm sewer systems by means of surface water runoff. The water carries with it a good deal of sediment and pollutants that become nutrients for algae in lake and rivers. The same fertilizer that helps your grass grow enables algae to grow. The algae uses sunlight to process the nutrients and when they die they fall to the lake or river bottom. The decomposition of these “algae blooms” takes a lot of oxygen out of the water and can in extreme cases, such as in the Gulf of Mexico, create an area that is hypoxic, or void of oxygen and thus cannot support marine life.
Brown Water in the Gulf of Mexico
This is why there is a strong movement to filtrate and infiltrate storm water onsite. Filtrating the water removes sediments and can also remove contaminants from the water before it enters a lake or storm water drain. Infiltrating the water involves collecting the water into a depression and allowing it time to naturally seep into the ground. Rain gardens can accomplish both infiltration and filtration, and so too can permeable pavers which we will look at in the next blog.
Rain Garden at Highpoint Center for Printmaking in Minneapolis
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New in 2012, Field Outdoor Spaces will be partnering with Blue Thumb – Planting for Clean Water. Blue Thumb is a collaborative program originally developed by the Rice Creek Watershed District, bringing together a group of professionals from local governmental agencies (watershed and conservation districts, cities, counties); non-profit and community organizations; and nursery and landscape professionals, all with the goal of working towards clean water through landscaping and planting. The Blue Thumb program promotes the use native plant gardening, raingardens, and shoreline stabilization to reduce runoff from home and commercial landscapes in an effort improve water quality. Blue Thumb received national recognition in 2010 when they were featured as the first stop on the National Geographic Blue Legacy Tour. We at Field are excited to partner with Blue Thumb and to join in the initiative to improve our water quality through landscaping.
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Running a thin stream of water from the hose is a good way to water new trees
The calendar has turned to September and the air is getting cooler. It’s easy to think that your “work” in the garden is done but don’t put those hoses away yet!!! Providing adequate water into the fall is a critical piece in assisting plants to prepare for our tough, Minnesota winters. Continuing to water until the ground freezes increases plant survival as well as improving year round plant health. Although Mother Nature often helps us out with rain in the fall, sometimes you will need to do a little supplementing to ensuring that your plants get 1-1.5 inches of water every seven to ten days. With that said, it’s important not to over water. Over watering can cause plants to send out new growth resulting in tissue that won’t be hardened off for winter. It also can simply result in too much moisture in the ground, causing the roots to rot. This is especially true in heavy, clay soils.
All of the plants in your landscape will benefit from fall watering, but it is especially beneficial to evergreens as well as trees and shrubs planted with in the last five years. Because plant roots cannot extract water from the frozen soil, helping them to be retain moisture in the fall will help prepare them to survive whatever Old Man Winter throws their way! So keep an eye on the weather and make sure your landscape gets that 1-1.5 inches of water per week. Next season your plants will thank you for it.
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