By Andrea Stetson
Grass just doesn’t cut it when it comes to holding water and letting it slowly percolate into the aquifers. That’s why officials in Naples are hoping more people will plant rain gardens at their homes.
Recently, a dozen Boy Scouts built a demonstration rain garden, near the community development building for the city of Naples, to show just how beautiful and useful it can be.
“I just wanted to make the bay a little clearer and I thought this would be a good way to do it,” said Brandon Foley, 15, who led the venture as part of his Eagle Scout project. “Rain gardens aren’t just helpful, they are beautiful.”
Rain gardens are landscaping features that are designed to capture stormwater that runs off roofs, sidewalks and driveways. This water carries fertilizers, pesticides, oil, pet waste and more and sends it flowing into natural waters. The rain garden uses native plants and trees to hold the water so it can percolate into the ground. Rock or shell also help to slow the water, giving it time to rid the minerals and other debris.
“The idea is to get residents all over the county to build rain gardens to capture water before it gets in the system,” said Mike Bauer, natural resources manager for the city. “It is very simple. People can do it in their backyard or front yard and capture water coming off roofs and sidewalks and driveways.”
Bauer said a rain garden can be built for about $200. The main cost is for native plants. The rest is just the work of digging up the grass, planting the greenery and laying down shell or rock.
Brandon’s father, Blair Foley, said his family started building a rain garden at home.
“It’s awesome,” Foley said. “We started a garden in our yard based on his experience here.”
The Boy Scout project will capture water heading into the Gordon River and then the Gulf of Mexico. Bauer said there is a lot of runoff from roads and this will make the rain getting into the waterways cleaner.
What makes a rain garden different from the regular garden is how the native plants hold the water. The shell or rock in the center of the garden helps the water percolate down into the aquifers. The plants take up the nutrients.
Bauer has added an informational sign by the garden with pamphlets on how to build a rain garden.
“It will capture the runoff so very little goes into the river and the water that does get in is cleaner,” Bauer said. “This is a start. This is a demonstration. What we want is for everybody to put in a rain garden.”