In a Nutshell Blog
Scenes from a rainstorm
The butterfly garden can be a place of extremes. One week the soil can be dry; the next week it can be under 5 cm of water.
As the rain falls, it can either seep into the soil or run off to a lower point. We often design human areas to drain quickly. Quick drainage leads water away from a building, parking lot, or yard by diverting it to a nearby lower area. This lower area is often a small stream that leads to a bigger stream before flowing into a river and onwards. Unfortunately, the downstream effects of quick drainage of large water volumes can lead to erosion along stream banks and flash floods. Trash and other pollutants can be carried away by rain water to downstream locations.
However, there are ways to make positive impacts. The butterfly garden is also a rain garden, which is an area designed to catch and absorb rainfall. Students worked through a selection process to match plant species with the site’s conditions. They picked plants that are native to Missouri and are known to survive and thrive in wet conditions. A benefit of these plants to us is that their roots can help water percolate deeper into the soil. For example, Common Ninebark, a plant in our garden, has root systems that can reach more than four meters below the base of the plant even in heavily clay soils. Turf grass, in comparison, has roots that only reach a few cm into the soil.
The garden fills when it rains, but we do not want the water to stay for too long. Mosquitos could lay eggs in standing water; adult mosquitoes could emerge in 10-14 days. Our rain garden dries out or drains, depending on the volume of rainfall, within approximately 24-72 hours based on observations of the last few weeks.
After the above photo and video was taken, rain pounded for the next hour, with several thunder roars; then it stopped raining. The garden held some water on May 29, even less on May 30, and was muddy but had no standing water by May 31.
If you want to learn more about the benefits of rain gardens, or how to make your own, visit this Mid-America Regional Council website on water in the Kansas City region: http://www.cleanwaRain Gardensterkcmetro.org/rain-gardens/.
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