August 3rd, 2023

Peterborough resident Cass Stabler in her front yard rain garden surrounded by wild bergamot, a native plant that flowers from mid to late summer and is adored by many native pollinators. Stabler applied for and received a rain garden subsidy from the City of Peterborough in 2020, the first year the program was offered. (Photo: Hayley Goodchild / GreenUP)

By: Hayley Goodchild, GreenUP

In this week’s GreenUP article, two Peterborough residents share their experience growing rain gardens at home. Both residents received subsidies through the City of Peterborough’s Rain Garden Subsidy Program, which provides funding to eligible property owners, including homeowners, businesses and organizations.

A rain garden is a bowl-shaped garden located downslope of a building. It captures rain from a roof, driveway, or other impermeable surface. A rain garden is designed so that you can use less water once the plants are established. Unlike a pond, rain gardens fill temporarily and drain in-between rain events.

Sue McGregor-Hunter was keen to install a rain garden because of the positive impact it would have on the Jackson Creek subwatershed.

“It is very empowering to know that as individuals we can take an active role in improving our environment,” says McGregor-Hunter.

“Not only does the rain garden stop water from our roof and sump pump from running onto the street, where it collects contaminants before entering the storm sewer system, it has also become a haven for pollinators. The bees love it and so do we!”

Sue McGregor-Hunter’s home in the west end of Peterborough features a front yard rain garden with many native plants, including dense blazing star and prairie smoke, among others. McGregor-Hunter received a subsidy through the City of Peterborough’s Rain Garden Subsidy Program, which provides funding to eligible property owners, including homeowners, businesses, and organizations. (Photo: Hayley Goodchild / GreenUP)

There are many secondary benefits to rain gardens, such as more habitat for pollinators and other wildlife, carbon sequestration, and beautiful landscaping. When many rain gardens are installed in an urban environment like a city, together these gardens can even reduce the risk of flooding.

“It is very empowering to know that as individuals we can take an active role in improving our environment,” says McGregor-Hunter.

Cass Stabler applied for a rain garden subsidy in 2020, the first year the program was offered. Stabler installed two rain gardens. The front yard garden captures rainwater runoff that falls from the porch roof. There is a larger garden in the backyard that manages runoff from the rest of the house’s roof.

Both front and backyard rain gardens are eligible for funding through the program.

“When I first began designing my garden, I wanted to put it on the same side of the house as my downspout,” Stabler explains, “but there were underground utilities in the way. I had to find a way to deliver the runoff to the other side of the path.”

“When it rains, water collects from the roof in my rain barrel, and then into an overflow hose, which runs beneath the porch and out on the other side. The porch disguises it. I dug an angled trench to carry water, by gravity, from the overflow hose into the garden.”

Rain barrels are an excellent way to capture and direct water that can be used in your rain garden and yard. The GreenUP Store & Resource Centre sells rain barrels made from re-purposed, recycled, food-grade olive barrels, complete with brass spigot and overflow valve, and a 5-foot drainage hose. Peterborough Utilities customers can receive a $50 subsidy for a rain barrel purchased from GreenUP.

An aerial shot of a rain garden being installed at a Peterborough property. Both front yard and backyard rain gardens are eligible for the City of Peterborough’s Rain Garden Subsidy Program, which provides funding to eligible property owners, including homeowners, businesses, and organizations. (Photo: GreenUP)

Both gardens have filled in beautifully over the past three years with plants that Stabler purchased from Ecology Park’s Native Plant & Tree Nursery.

“I really, really love the wild strawberry,” says Stabler. “It makes a great groundcover. The wild bergamot is blooming right now, and is full of pollinating insects.”

“I also love how little I need to water. Last year I maybe watered once or twice during drought in August, but I really don’t water this garden much. When I do, I use rain from the barrel.”

Designing and installing a rain garden is rewarding for you, and for the watershed.

Eligible property owners in the City of Peterborough can receive up to $1,000 to offset the cost of installing a garden. The subsidy amount is based on the size of the roof or surface that generates runoff. GreenUP staff provide applicants with support through on-site visits and a host of resources available on the GreenUP rain garden resource page.

For more information about the Rain Garden Subsidy Program, visit www.peterborough.ca/raingarden  or contact GreenUP Program Coordinator Hayley Goodchild at hayley.goodchild@greenup.on.ca or by phone at (705) 745-3238 ext. 213