OCC and Rain Gardens featured in Summer 2013

Kevin Gustavson, OCC/WQ Blue Thumb technical outreach coordinator, is getting the word out about rain gardens this month with a feature in Oklahoma Gardener magazine and in the first two episodes of a three-part series on Oklahoma Gardening television program on OETA. He will also be featured in the third episode of the Oklahoma Gardening program series to be broadcast in the fall.

Kevin’s home landscape, comprised of mainly Oklahoma native plants and seven rain gardens is the Garden Profile feature in the July/August edition of Oklahoma Gardener magazine. The article focuses on the water conservation and water quality considerations Kevin utilized when making landscaping choices at home. Rain gardens are highlighted in the article, including a simple explanation of how to do it yourself at home.

image of Kevin Gustavson
Kevin Gustavson standing in his rain garden not long after it was planted.

For the three-part series on Oklahoma Gardening, Kevin is the rain garden expert who is overseeing and explaining the construction of a home rain garden in Stillwater as an example for homeowners across the state. The first segment airs the second weekend in June. The second segment airs over the fourth weekend in June. The third segment will air in the fall, when the rain garden will be planted. All three segments can eventually be viewed on the Oklahoma Gardening website:

Kevin has also designed or contributed to the construction of rain gardens in public spaces, including a rain garden in Bixby that was awarded the 2012 Environmental Project of the Year awarded by the Oklahoma Chapter of the American Public Works Association.

Below is an explanation about the benefits of rain gardens and the use of native plants. There are also links to the Blue Thumb Rain Garden Guide and Plant Lists for Oklahoma Rain Gardens that Kevin has developed to help homeowners do this at home.

What is the problem?

When it rains, water flowing over the urban landscape picks up pollutants and carries them to local streams.  Fertilizers (nutrients), insecticides, and herbicides may wash off of lawns. Oil, grease, and heavy metals may wash off of parking lots, driveways, roads, and roofs (from atmospheric deposition). 

What is a rain garden?

A rain garden is a planted depression in the landscape that catches and cleans water flowing over yards, business grounds, parking lots, and other urban areas before it reaches local streams.  A rain garden is located to capture rainwater from small storms, allowing the captured water to soak into the soil.

How do rain gardens clean rain water?

  • Water, and any pollutants it carries, enters the rain garden when it rains.
  • Water is ponded behind a berm (earthen dam) and allowed to infiltrate into the ground.
  • Plant roots and soil microbes take up nutrients and help break down other pollutants.
  • Cleaner water flows through the ground to streams or ground water aquifers.
  • Rain gardens are designed to drain within a day, shown to actually reduce mosquito populations.

What are the best plants for rain gardens?

Many Oklahoma native plants are ideal for rain gardens because they:

  • tolerate wet periods when it rains and dry periods between storms (supplemental watering rarely needed).
  • resistant to local pests (no pesticides needed).
  • low nutrient needs (no fertilizer needed).

Lower your watering bills!

By trapping rainwater and using it to water rain garden plants, you can maintain a garden with only rare supplemental watering during the worst droughts.

Reduced flooding

By trapping rainwater, multiple rain gardens throughout a community can reduce peak flows in local streams and rivers.  This hydrologic benefit also leads to reduced erosion of streambanks.  

Native plants attract local wildlife

Butterflies lay their eggs only on specific native plants.  Other native plants provide nectar for a variety of insects or provide seeds or berries for birds throughout the year.

Help conserve and clean water by building a rain garden at your home or business!!  

To learn more, see the following resources:

Blue Thumb Rain Garden Guide

Shade Plants for Oklahoma Rain Gardens

Sun Plants for Oklahoma Rain Gardens