Yard and Garden

Plant a Rain Garden

Rain gardens
Rain gardens capture and use water that would otherwise be wasted.


A rain garden is a depression in the ground, planted with appropriate plants (usually natives), that allows rainwater runoff from surfaces like roofs and driveways to soak into the ground rather than flowing into storm drains or rivers and streams. This technique not only looks beautiful, it can cut down on erosion, water pollution and flooding, and help replenish groundwater.

Next time it rains, take a look at where the water from your downspouts goes. If it flows out onto your lawn, you might be surprised that it runs right off the lawn – turf grass can be as impervious as a sidewalk! This is a good place to plant a rain garden.

The Rain Garden Network is a great reference.

And another from www.raingardens.org.


Understanding Nutrient Pollution in Illinois:

One of Illinois’ top water quality problems is nutrient pollution. Learn more about the problem, the solution and how to keep your lawn green and water clean. Download this two page fact sheet from the Sierra Club.


Icy Roads: Salt & Vegetation Don’t Mix!

It’s not so good for our groundwater either!

Spreading too much salt on roads in winter not only damages roadside vegetation but also pollutes water supplies and causes corrosion of cars and bridges. Municipalities are looking for greener solutions, and homeowners should be, too. Keeping your walks and driveways clear helps reduce the need for de-icing. Can you get by using sand, sawdust or ashes? If you must use a de-icer, look for the most eco-friendly solution. Avoid sodium chloride! Pet-friendly de-icers are usually also eco-friendly.

From Biodiversity Project:

“When snow melts faster than the ground can absorb it, it runs into storm drains and brings along any contaminants in its path, including de-icing salts. This polluted stormwater flows into our communities’ rivers, streams and groundwater. The Environmental Protection Agency reports that this kind of urban runoff is one of the largest sources of water contamination nationwide.

Small amounts of pollutants from our cars, sidewalks and driveways can add up to big problems for local waters. Road salt and deicers not only damage shoes, roads, infrastructure and gardens, but they also seep into groundwater and degrade water quality. As you prepare for the ice and snow this winter, remember that we can maintain safe roads and sidewalks and protect rivers with these water-friendly tips:

  • If you use rock salt or other common de-icers, be sure to follow the instructions and don’t use too much. Adding more than the recommended amount does not make the snow melt any faster.
  • The greenest way to deal with ice is to physically remove as much snow as possible. De-icers are not formulated to melt through ice build-up or compacted snow. The less ice there is, the less salt you will need to use.
  • Apply any ice-melting products at the beginning of a snow or ice storm. This prevents ice from bonding to the pavement and will ensure that less salt is needed.
  • Once the temperature dips below 15° F, salt is unable to penetrate the ice to start the dissolving process. When the air is bitter cold, regular playground sand can be used to increase traction Be sure to clean sand up properly during thaws, however, since it can easily clog drains and sewers.
  • There are many eco-friendlier alternatives to salt available at hardware stores, but some are greener than others. Most include a combination of salt combined with other common materials. A de-icer that includes salt mixed with calcium magnesium acetate (CMA) or potassium acetate (KA) is better than salt by itself.”

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