Homeowner Landscaping and Sustainability

The initiative Homeowner Landscaping and Sustainability relates to the Muncie Action Plan (MAP) Initiative 5, Managing Community Resources. According to the MAP, the responsible management of resources is key to achieving and maintaining a prosperous future. This includes the protection of valuable natural resources through the use of environmentally sustainable practices. Specifically, this initiative relates to the MAP Action 6, implement models of sustainable design around the city. This action involves educating community members about water quality, stormwater run-off, and native plant selection and how they relate to sustainable design methods. The Homeowner Landscaping and Sustainability initiative will explain the importance of sustainability and on-site stormwater management for Industry. The focus will be on green and sustainable practices for homeowners in Industry, including rain barrels, downspout planters, rain gardens, native wildflower gardens, and native trees.

Why this is important

This initiative was created during the first Industry Neighborhood Association meeting. Residents thought sustainable practices to be of importance to Industry, especially for the benefit of stormwater management. Through green and sustainable practices by homeowners, the impact of stormwater and the frequency of flooding can be greatly reduced.

This initiative was given a high priority level by the residents and students. Sustainable practices are important to Industry because it provides community members with the opportunity to learn more about sustainable design and what they can do as homeowners to improve their community’s water quality, stormwater management, and native plants and wildlife. Homeowners can use these green and sustainable practices such as rain barrels, downspout planters, rain gardens, native wildflower gardens, and native trees to improve water quality, reduce stormwater run-off, and diversify local plants and wildlife while beautifying the neighborhood.

A man has his car towed out of standing water under the Madison Street overpass after heavy rains flood the area in Muncie on Aug. 22, 2014. (Photo: Lathay Pegues/The Star Press)

A man has his car towed out of standing water under the Madison Street overpass after heavy rains flood the area in Muncie on Aug. 22, 2014. (Photo: Lathay Pegues/The Star Press) Image Source

What this will involve

The first step to carrying out this initiative would be to educate and inform interested community members about sustainable design and how it can improve water quality, stormwater run-off, and native plants and wildlife. For this, a small sustainability workshop or lecture should be held at a local gathering place, such as Price Hall. A valuable educator for this would be Jason Donati of the Muncie Sanitary District. Donati is the City’s Stormwater and Recycling Educator, and would be a great resource for assistance in starting this initiative.

The second step would be to show homeowners some green and sustainable practices that they can easily and affordably do around their home and property to contribute to the sustainable design of the neighborhood. These practices include installing rain barrels and downspout planters, making rain gardens, creating native wildflower gardens, and planting native trees. Once again, Donati would be the primary resource outside of this page for information and assistance in carrying out these practices in Muncie and the Industry neighborhood.

It is recommended that the Industry Neighborhood Association (INA) create a Sustainability Committee made up of interested and motivated community members. This committee would be responsible for promoting, organizing, carrying out, and tracking the sustainability efforts of the neighborhood. While the INA and the Sustainability Committee would be present to provide assistance with this initiative, ultimately it would be the responsibility of the individual homeowners and the community as a whole to make sure that these green and sustainable practices are being considered and properly implemented.

Below is some information about the green and sustainable practices highlighted in this initiative.

Rain Barrels

A rain barrel is a container that collects and stores rainwater from a home’s roof. The barrel is connected to the home’s gutters and downspouts, and during a rain, fills up with water from the roof. By collecting and storing this water, the barrel helps to lessen the amount of water that would otherwise be lost to runoff, storm drains, and streams. A hose is connected to the barrel, and the homeowner is able to use the collected water for outdoor tasks like watering lawns and plants, washing cars, and washing windows. In addition to reducing stormwater runoff and helping to protect the environment, this supply of free, clean, fresh water for outdoor use saves the homeowner money and energy. According to the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), lawn and garden watering make up about 40% of a household’s total water use during the summer, and a rain barrel will save most homeowners about 1,300 gallons of water during the peak summer months. Ready-made rain barrels can be purchased from a number of companies, including hardware stores and garden supply stores.

This is an illustration of how a rain barrel works. Source: Brock Goodwin

This is an illustration of how a rain barrel works. Source: Brock Goodwin

Downspout Planters

A downspout planter is a placement of plants along or at the end of a downspout to capture the water before it becomes runoff and enters the stormwater system. During a rain, water from the home’s downspout flows into the planter, allowing the planter to hold on to some of the water, filter out pollutants, and absorb the water into the plants. After flowing through the planter, any extra water is then discharged into the stormwater system. Downspout planters range from very simple planters on the ground to one or more planters along the downspout. The planters slow down the flow of the runoff water and act as a bio-filter, cleaning and filtering the water before it goes into the stormwater system and eventually the White River. This helps to protect the environment by reducing water pollution, relieving strain on the stormwater system, and reducing flooding.

This is an illustration of how a downspout planter works. Source: Brock Goodwin

This is an illustration of how a downspout planter works. Source: Brock Goodwin

Rain Gardens

A rain garden is a garden of native shrubs, flowers, and grasses that can withstand both drought and occasional flooding. The garden temporarily holds and soaks in rain water runoff from roofs, driveways, patios, and lawns. Standing water and insects such as mosquitoes are not an issue with the gardens, which are dry most of the time and typically only hold water for the day following a rainfall. The garden is planted in a small depression in the ground to collect and hold water, and gravel or well-drained soil is added to allow for the water to soak into the ground. The garden can be any size and shape, but a typical garden is between 100 and 400 feet. By holding and soaking in rain water, rain gardens help to protect the environment by recharging the ground water and reducing water pollution, stormwater runoff, and flooding.

A rain garden installed as part of a full reconstruction of a residential house along Gharkey Street in Muncie.

A rain garden installed as part of a full reconstruction of a residential house along Gharkey Street in Muncie. Image Source

Native Wildflower Gardens

Native wildflowers are flowers and plants that are native and originally from Indiana and the local area. These plants are already adapted to the local soils, temperatures, and weather, allowing them to survive longer and typically require less maintenance and care as a result. They also require less watering and are able to stay healthy without the use of chemical fertilizers and pesticides, which conserves water and reduces ground and water pollution. Using native wildflowers provides habitats for local wildlife and helps reestablish native plant communities in the neighborhood, creating economical, ecological, and beautiful gardens and landscaping.

Native Trees

Planting native trees can be very beneficial to a homeowner’s property and the surrounding community. Trees provide shade and relief from the heat, and serve as a great habitat for native wildlife such as birds. Trees also help to manage water runoff, prevent soil erosion, improve air quality, provide shade and relief from the heat, and increase nearby property values. For more information about native trees and tree planting, see the Street Trees Initiative.

Contact information for FUNDING/ASSISTANCE sources

Department of Stormwater Management
Muncie Sanitary District
300 North High Street
Muncie, Indiana  47305
Phone:      (765) 747-4896
Contact:   Jason Donati, Stormwater/Recycling Educator
Email:      j.debo.donati@gmail.com
Website:  http://www.munciesanitary.org/departments/dept-stormwater-management/

Department of Community Development
Muncie City Hall
300 North High Street
Muncie, Indiana  47305
Phone:     (765) 747-4825
Contact:   Terry Whitt Bailey, Director
Email:      tbailey@cityofmuncie.com
Website:  http://www.cityofmuncie.com/muncie-community-development.htm

Suitability analysis

This initiative applies to the entire neighborhood and includes all residential properties and especially areas that accumulate rain water and have poor drainage. For example, if a homeowner notices that they have a flooding problem in their front or back yard or in the street near their property, they might consider installing rain barrels.

Case studies

Case Study One

Toledo-Lucas County Rain Garden Initiative
Toledo, Ohio

In the summer of 2006, citizens in Toledo and Lucas County sustained heavy flooding from a series of rainstorms. The rainwater from these storms overloaded the ditches and storm sewers on which the area depended to collect and discharge storm water. Common in urban areas, impervious surfaces like parking lots, roads, and buildings cause water to run off instead of being absorbed into the ground. In response, citizens suggested that the community needed to find ways to encourage the infiltration of stormwater into the ground instead of trying to build bigger and better ditches and sewers. This was inspired by an effort to build 10,000 rain gardens in Kansas City, Missouri (see Case Study 2 below).

The Toledo-Lucas County (TLC) Rain Garden Initiative introduces the idea of rain gardens to homeowners, developers, nurseries and landscapers, business owners, and governmental agencies and assists them in constructing rain gardens as a way to manage stormwater by providing demonstration gardens, technical training, and public information and involvement.

Source: http://www.raingardeninitiative.org/

Volunteers plant a rain garden during a workshop at the Quintero Center in Toledo, Ohio.

Volunteers plant a rain garden during a workshop at the Quintero Center in Toledo, Ohio. Image Source

 

Case study 2

10,000 Rain Gardens Initiative
Kansas City, Missouri

In September 1977, Brush Creek, which flows through Kansas City’s famous Plaza area, overflowed its banks and caused severe flooding, resulting in twenty-five people losing their lives and nearly $50 million in damages (NOAA, 2006). Afterward, Brush Creek was channelized to contain higher flows, but there was still pressure to reduce safety risks and prevent property damage from flooding. The City also needed to address its aging infrastructure, not only to help prevent catastrophic flooding, but also to improve stormwater quality, reduce the incidence of combined sewer overflows, and meet environmental regulations. In May 2005, as part of a regional stormwater management planning process called KC-One, the 10,000 Rain Gardens Initiative was created as a green approach to stormwater management.

The 10,000 Rain Gardens Initiative is about more than just rain gardens. It includes other green approaches like rain barrels and green roofs. The initiative is not a government program where crews come in and install rain gardens for citizens. Rather, it is a marketing initiative that empowers the public with ideas, technical guidance, practical advice, and real world examples from which to build. The Initiative is based on a wealth of press coverage and educational opportunities that inform the public about the problems posed by urban stormwater runoff and the solutions in which each citizen can contribute.

Source: http://www.werf.org/liveablecommunities/studies_kc_mo.htm

Volunteers plant switchgrass and other plants during the construction of a rain garden in Kansas City, Missouri.

Volunteers plant switchgrass and other plants during the construction of a rain garden in Kansas City, Missouri. Image Source

 

Additional websites of interest

Department of Stormwater Management
Muncie Sanitary District

Muncie Green Infrastructure Tour
City of Muncie

EPA Green Infrastructure Resource
US Environmental Protection Agency

Green Infrastructure Toolkit
GrowNYC

Wildflower Panting Guide
American Meadows

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