Monday, September 14, 2009

Restoration Gardening

I have l lived and gardened on a small lot not far from Detroit. Our lot backs to the Bell Creek, tributary of the muddy Rouge River (as my father, who swam in the river, called it) My children and I only know the Rouge as a place to keep out of. A lot of my life has been learning how to make our place whole and right again; our river valley a place where children go to pick violets for their parents.

Our family stopped mowing by the river, thinking our bit of flood plain would revert to a healthy landscape right away. A few years later, I had to learn about buckthorn, honey suckle, and removal of same. Garlic mustard came along sometime later. The aforementioned are invasive plants that will take over in disturbed areas. Wayne Oakland and Macomb County residents participated in disturbing our watersheds with development in the 20th century. Forests and wetlands were replaced, rudely, by our houses-my lot is over 40 years old, I am still learning about the fill dirt used on it and how to grow things. Here in the 21 century, we are developing soft technology to make our neighborhoods healthy.

Residents are realizing that we in the watershed are all connected, that amounts of water (huge) swell the creek after rains. Water is coming from impervious surfaces upstream through antiquated drainage systems. Thanks to the Rouge Wet Weather Demonstration Project, and SOCWA (South Oakland County Water Authority), and others, many have learned about rain gardens and water tables and many water issues. I also became interested in native plants, found Wild Ones, toured our award winning CSO facility here in Redford, removed invasive plants from our landscape, am working toward keeping my own rain water onsight, in order to help with recharging the water table.

We need to spread the vision of everybody keeping water their water onsight, regenerating their property. In that vision, huge expensive water projects are no longer needed everyone works together to realize our potential as shapers of our watershed, stewards of our land, replenishers of our ground water. All land keepers maintain a rain garden, only incidentally a lawn mower, move toward looking after their own ecological landscape.

The direction of urban regeneration is necisarily messy, I don’t know anyone who knows everything about the subject, there are leaders, but no experts. Many came before, made progress in that direction. I think of our local flood plain/road, Hines Drive, for one example. Also of the countless fish ponds and gardens in the Dearborn neighborhood I lived in growing up. Building suburbs, involved paving over streams, moving fill dirt. Building living spaces today ought to involve making rain gardens.

Rain gardens duplicate many of the fine services wetlands do.

I am trying to remain positive here. It just wont do to have an army of people with cute flower hats going around with guns making people stop using fertilizer and make rain gardens.
Legislation mandating rain gardens in new subdivisions might work. Trouble with legislating about best practices is that when best practices change, the laws often are neglected, or people argue about what best practices are. Look how stuck we are in unhealthy lawn care protocols, have been for half a century.


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