SYRACUSE — Native plants and creating a rain garden were topics of the annual Wawasee Area Conservancy Foundation Lake Talk and Eats Saturday, June 4. This annual event, held the first Saturday of each month June through August, provides educational information relating to water quality protection.
Martha Ferguson, Riverview Nursery, Spencerville, spoke on native plants — definition, types and benefits. Matt Linn, an ecologist with Cardno Native Plant Nursery, Walkerton, presented rain garden details: definition, benefits, location, design and maintenance.
Benefits of native plants “heals the earth one yard at a time,” Ferguson said, adding “a little patch of wildlife is where homeowners come into play.”
Defining native plants, Ferguson stated are those plants present before European settlement. However, what may be native to one area is not native to another. The local genotype or genetic origin of the seed is important. Those seeds have adapted over time to geology, climate and bloom time coordination with local pollinators, according to Ferguson.
Ferguson stated “native plant” is a broad term. “Native means within the ecoregion,” she said, pointing out what is native to southern Indiana is not native to the northern portion.
Benefits she noted to the ecosystem include: food for all terrestrial on the planet, providing habitat, and soil health with its deep roots and erosion control. Water quality is also a benefit, filtering run off. Benefits to homeowners include: low maintenance, minimal weeding with proper spacing, no use of nutrients and pesticides.
“Beautiful gardens can be made with native plants,” stated Ferguson. Slides were shown of various gardens types: butterfly, rain, meadow or prairie gardens, even cutting gardens, all adding curb appeal.
Planning A Rain Garden
Linn concluded the morning talks, explaining rain gardens, which are designed to drain within 24 to 48 hours, protect streams and lakes from pollution, recharge aquifers, protect flooding and drainage problems and are a valuable habitat for birds and butterflies.
Presenting a graph, Linn stated 90 percent of total suspended solids are removed from bio-retention facilities (rain gardens), 80 percent phosphorous, 60 percent to 80 percent ammonium, and 90 percent bacteria.
Suggestions for locations were given, noting it should not be close to a building or foundation. There also should be awareness of right of ways and service lines. “Gardens are normally placed where water runs off regularly,” Linn said. He showed various photographs of the different rain gardens.
Linn provided information on determination of size by calculating the drainage area and soil type.
Basic design information was addressed, stating the garden contains three layers — vegetation, mulch and soil. “You don’t want standing water for a long period of time,” Linn stated, adding sand has the highest infiltration of water.
Linn touched on plant selection, stating “You want plants that withstand water for short periods of time.” Light condition, soil and saturation need to be considered along with environmental conditions. He suggested using plants that bloom at different times of the year.
He concluded his presentation with the three “W’s” of maintenance: watering, weeding and work. “Eventually it will be self sustaining.”
The next Lake Talk and Eats will be the popular Bug Catch from 9-11 a.m. Saturday, July 2. Parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins are encouraged to bring youngsters for this popular event of the year.
The programs are held at the WACF Levinson-LaBrosse Education Center, 11586 N. SR 13S, Syracuse, meeting at the Ruddell Pavilion.