Green digest: Keeping your rain garden up to snuff

Tips for keeping your rain garden up to snuff

Minnehaha Creek Watershed District has developed a series of tips sheets to help area residents better control storm water run-off on their property.

The tip sheets offer best management practices for rain gardens, pervious pavement and storm water ponds that will help homeowners maintain those features’ ability to slow storm water runoff and filter pollutants.

Rain gardens, for instance, require regular inspection and upkeep to prevent erosion and keep plants healthy. Standing water that sticks around for 48 hours or more, bad odors and visible damage are all signs that the rain garden needs attention.

Pervious pavers, too, need to be inspected at least annually, and possibly after large rain events, as well. They are designed to allow water to flow through them and into the soil below, so standing water on top of the pavers or any indication that water is flowing across and not through the pavers is a bad sign.

In addition to the tip sheets, the watershed district also has prepared a best management practices worksheet to help homeowners monitor the performance of their storm water management projects. All are available for download at minnehahacreek.org.

The website also includes a link to the online home of the University of Minnesota College of Science and Engineering, which has prepared an in-depth guide to planning, inspecting and maintaining storm water control features. Find the guide at stormwaterbook.safl.umn.edu/.

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County offers environmental action grants

Hennepin County is offering grants of up to $12,000 for community-based projects to address waste, toxicity, recycling and other environmental issues.

Community POWER grants have been awarded since 2001, and are open to schools and nonprofits not specifically focused on the environment. The county has $208,000 total to award in 2011, but applications for this year’s round of grants must be submitted by May 24.

Grant winners receive training and technical assistance from the county in addition to funding for their environmental projects. The county also has developed environmental education toolkits specifically for use by community and neighborhood groups, congregations and early childhood family education (ECFE) programs with background information on environmental issues and suggestions for activities to get others involved in the project.

Projects that propose to reduce the amount of garbage generated, reduce the toxicity of that waste, increase the composting of food and yard waste or improve recycling rates will be given priority in the application review process. All projects must include action and education components and be sustainable beyond the term of the grant.

Learn more about the Community POWER grant program or read about past projects at rethinkrecycling.com/grants

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Native plant grants available

Attend a Metro Blooms rain garden workshop this spring and you may be eligible for a $75 native plant grant from Hennepin County.

The grants are available on a first-come, first-served basis to workshop attendees who plant native Minnesota species in a rain garden. The grants will reimburse $75 or up to 75 percent of the costs of plants and rain garden installation materials.

Metro Blooms is a private, non-profit, volunteer-run organization that promotes rain gardens as a way to beautify communities and protect local watersheds. Rain gardens planted with native species help to slow and filter storm water run-off.

According to the grant guidelines, projects are eligible for reimbursement if native species are planted in a rain garden, used to control soil erosion or used to reduce storm water runoff elsewhere on the applicant’s property. Grant applications must be postmarked by Dec. 15 to be eligible for the limited funds.

To register for an upcoming Metro Blooms rain garden workshop or to download an application to the native plants grant program, visit metroblooms.org.

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Volunteer coordinators needed for fruit gleaning

Fruits of the City was still seeking neighborhood coordinators for its summer fruit gleaning program in early May.

The program, run by St. Paul-based nonprofit The Minnesota Project, organizes volunteers to collect excess fruit gleaned from area orchards and backyard fruit trees for donation to area food shelves. Fruits of the City donated about 39,000 pounds of fruit in 2009 and 2010 combined, but the program’s goal for summer 2011 is to donate 36,000 pounds of fruit, or about 6,500 family servings, to area food shelves.

Neighborhood coordinators monitor trees in their communities and organize volunteers for gleanings when the fruit is ripe.

To register as a volunteer gleaner or neighborhood coordinator, or to get your backyard fruit tree on Fruits of the City’s list, email [email protected] or contact Coe by phone at 651-789-3321.