Wednesday, December 22, 2010

My Rainwise Rain Garden Experience

Ballard is the pilot neighborhood for this unique incentive program that rebates homeowners who build a rain garden in their yard. I stumbled upon this on the SPU website and then went on the self-guided rain garden tour in Ballard in October. After speaking to enthusiastic homeowners who had positive experiences and seeing how straight forward it all seemed I decided to do it! Hopefully my blog will help guide other homeowners who decide to become more "rainwise"!

The first thing you have to do is see if your home is in the eligible area map. To see if you are in an eligible area to qualify for the rebate you can check here.

Even if you are in the eligible area there are some other constraints too:
1. If you have a basement, the rain garden has to be over 10 feet away from your foundation.
2. The rain garden has to be 3 feet from the sidewalk and 5 feet away from the property line.
3. It can't be on the parking strip.
4. It can really only be in your front yard unless you have a back alley, then you can also have it in your backyard.
5. You can't really build a rain garden if you have a retaining wall that separates your front yard from the sidewalk.
6. If you have a small yard, you can do a combo of a smaller rain garden and a cistern but I didn't do this so can't offer much insight into that option.

If you're eligible the next step is to sign into the "Rainwise Tools" website. This is such a great resource. You'll type your address in and get a starting point to see how big your rain garden can be. The size of your rain garden is figured out by how many square feet your roof is, this shows the contribution of water that you'd be diverting from your side sewer into the rain garden. If you decided to re-route all of your gutters into your garden, the bigger the garden you can build, if you want to just build a small garden, you can re-route 1 or 2 downspouts, etc...

On the Rainwise Tools website you can also view and contact an extensive list of landscapers and landscape designers and landscape architects who've all completed a workshop to get up to snuff with the program's ins and outs (if they've completed the program, there will be a blue raindrop by their name). You can hire anyone who's licensed, but after getting a couple of estimates, I chose to go with a designer who made a garden up the street that I loved, who had experience with the program, was super pro-active and gave me an amazingly in-depth proposal. She has a landscaper that she contracts out the implementation of the garden to, and his estimate was in her proposal. This seemed like a good way to me. It was important to me to hire a designer who could:
1. Transform my yard into something interesting, while incorporating an existing tree into the plan.
2. Design a garden that had year-round growth and interest. I didn't want it to look dead in the winter.
3. Since I like to cook, I wanted some edibles.
4. I like gardening, but didn't want it to be too high maintenance.

Put some care into who you choose. These people will be the ones who should represent you during the inspections and stand by their workmanship.

This is it for now. Next, I'll do a timeline of events that led to the completion of the rain garden. Stay tuned!