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Anatomy of an Affordable Residential Bioswale Project

Anatomy of an Affordable Residential Bioswale Project

Bioswales are garden-like features used to effectively handle storm water problems, including helping to prevent erosion.  Bioswales are common features in commercial and park settings, but can be successfully, and affordably, built for the homeowner.

The project depicted in this article started with a customer asking for new soil and grass seed to be placed under some red maples whose roots had become exposed due to continuous erosion from their front yard.  Placing new soil and planting new grass seed would have proven ineffective as the core problem, erosion, would have also washed away over time.

2014 Shannon Jefferson before - IMGP0298

2014 Shannon Jefferson before - IMGP0297

2014 Shannon Jefferson before - IMGP0296

Instead, ArcheWild proposed installing a bio swale, or rain garden, in their front yard to capture and hold storm water so as to prevent further erosion and protecting new soils under the maples.

Step 1: Lay out the size and configuration of the bio swale such that it will capture the bulk of the storm water problem.

ArcheWild - Bio Swale Concept

ArcheWild – Bio Swale Concept

Step 2: Decide the plant aesthetic and choose species.  For this project, the chosen aesthetic was maximum color throughout the season (a front yard planting) and screening from the road (to be able to use the front yard without people being on display).  The upper end of the bio swale will normally be quite dry while the bottom pool would remain moist to saturated so the species selection needed to change along the length of the planting.

Step 3: Excavate the existing soil and install planting media blends to support the chosen native plant species.  For this project, the upper end of the bio swale was augmented with sand and light aggregate to support species preferring dryish, well-drained soils.  The lower end of the bio swale was augmented with moisture-retaining organics to support those species.

2014 Bio Swale soil building

2014 Bio Swale soil building

Step 4: Plant with economical native plant plugs (one year seedlings from ArcheWild Native Nurseries) to cut the plant costs by almost 80%

ArcheWild Native Plant Plug

ArcheWild Native Plant Plug

Step 5: Water and weed as required, and then, enjoy the show!

2016 ArcheWild - Bio Swale butterfly

2016 ArcheWild – Bio Swale butterfly

Pictures taken about one month after planting:

2014 Shannon Jefferson - 20140621_153917

2014 Bio Swale soil building

2014 Bio Swale soil building

2014 Shannon Jefferson - 20140715_114723

Pictures taken two years after planting:

2016 ArcheWild - Residential bioswale

2016 ArcheWild – Residential bioswale

2016 ArcheWild - Shannon Jefferson -20160728_101335

2016 ArcheWild - Shannon Jefferson -20160728_101302

2016 ArcheWild - Shannon Jefferson -20160728_101015

2016 ArcheWild - Shannon Jefferson -20160728_100806

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