A working garden


Marshall Elementary students were invited to come help plant in the new rain garden. Photo by Valerie Streeter
Marshall Elementary students were invited to come help plant in the new rain garden. Photo by Valerie Streeter

By Monica Brown Tulalip News

Tulalip, WA -Spring is here and it’s a prime season to put in a rain garden. Imagine your yard with a rain garden that is full of native plants attracting butterflies, hummingbirds and bees. Now envision that same rain garden being low maintenance and capable of preventing flooding or ponding of water in your yard and having the ability to capture pollutants before they reach the Puget Sound.

Rain Garden (2)
Photo by Monica Brown

Recently, Tulalip Natural Resources hosted a three-part workshop, teaching about rain water management and finishing with an actual rain garden installation. Natural resources partnered with Tulalip tribal member Glendy and husband Grant Morrison to install a rain garden at their home creating a hands-on learning experience for the community and the Marshall Elementary Marysville Cooperative Education Partnership.

To begin, the Morrison’s had the utility lines in their yard located, estimated the rain garden size, and created a budget. Because the Morrison’s have a raised garden in their backyard they decided to harvest rain water from the back half of their roof into barrels for summer watering. Rain water from the front half will be routed to flow away from the home’s foundation and into the rain garden.

Photo by Monica Brown
Adding an overflow prevents the water from ponding after flask flooding.            Photo by Monica Brown

There are multiple ways to manage rain water run-off, but the more aesthetically pleasing and environmentally friendly option for homeowners is the addition of a rain garden. From now until 2016 the Puget Sound Rain Garden initiative wants to help install 12,000 rain gardens in the Puget Sound area. The website www.12000raingardens.org, is full of useful information, and local resources along with a place to register your rain garden as part of the initiative to keep the Puget Sound clean.

Tulalip Natural Resources staff is available to help anyone located on the Tulalip reservation with any questions about rain water management and has a free handbook available for pick up. Contact Valerie Streeter of Natural Resources with any questions or for a free Rain Garden Handbook, at 360-716-4629 or by email vstreeter@tulaliptribes-nsn.gov.

Pros of installing a rain garden

Rain Gardens are easy to maintain for years to come since they only require occasional weeding, watering and new mulch every year. If the garden contains native plants they will be easier to care for, cheaper to buy and some attract butterflies, hummingbirds and bees.

Cons of installing a rain garden

Planning and actual installation can take three or 4 weekends. The homeowner will need to create a budget, locate any utility lines on the property and perform a soil test for drainage before you begin. Afterwards, calculate the size and depth of garden for the surface runoff water.


Aerial view of the rain gardenPhoto by Monica Brown
Aerial view of the rain garden
Photo by Monica Brown

Monica Brown mbrown@tulaliptribes-nsn.gov

The rain advantage

By Monica Brown, Tulalip News

TULALIP, WA. Living in the Pacific Northwest, there is one thing that is certain, it may rain today. Spring is here and with it comes the rain. The Tulalip area averages about 3” of rain every month during the spring. With summer around the corner, rain water management is on the minds of home owners that are thinking about improving the look of their yard. During the spring, rainwater runoff is inevitable, causing soil erosion and flooding. But there are useful ways to handle the runoff that are beneficial for the environment and your yard during the drier summer months.

In your yard, prior to the construction of your house, rainwater was absorbed and filtered by the plants and trees eventually making its way back in the air through evaporation and transpiration or back down into the water table and eventually into the ocean. After construction, the surface of the house and driveway are impermeable and cause rainwater to runoff in concentrated places eroding the soil and washing pollutants into nearby streams, rivers, lakes and oceans.abpRB55_Labeled_400w

Two widely used methods for managing rainwater runoff, are to harvest it from the roof into barrels or to divert it into a rain garden. Harvesting rainwater is a more simple method that works by fixing a barrel to the gutter of the house to catch and store water to use on garden plants. Rain gardens require more work to install but are low maintenance in the long run.

A good example of a rain garden can be found at the Tulalip administration building near the backside of the parking lot. The building’s rain gardens have been used to prevent erosion by catching the parking lot runoff and filtering out the pollutants as the water passes through the soil and natural vegetation.


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Marysville rain garden registered with the Puget Sound rain garden initiative.

The Tulalip tribes have begun helping residents to find the most useful way they can to manage their stormwater runoff and are providing informational packets to all Tulalip residents. For more information about rainwater management in your yard and your options, contact Val Streeter in the Tulalip Tribes Natural and Cultural Resources department at 360-716-4629 or email vstreeter@tulaliptribes-nsn.gov

For those located off of the Tulalip reservation, the Puget Sound rain garden campaign is helping to install 12,000 rain gardens by 2016. The campaign offers in depth information about rain gardens, incentives in your area and local resources to help you get started. For more information about the Puget Sound rain garden campaign visit the website at http://www.12000raingardens.org/.


“What makes it a rain garden is in how it gets its water and what happens to that water once it arrives in the garden.” Vienna, WV website article What is a Rain garden?



Rainwater management options

Driveway Infiltration trench controls stormwater from running off your property by collecting and infiltrate stormwater from your driveway until it soaks into the ground.

Dry well reduces erosion and ponding water by collecting runoff in an underground well structure that allows the water to leach back into the soil slowly.

Pervious walkways, driveways and patios made from material that allows water to seep through cracks while still providing a flat and stable surface.

Rain barrel  will reduce stormwater runoff and allows you to use captured water for lawns, gardens and indoor plants.

Rain garden reduces the amount of stormwater coming from you property and recharges your groundwater by capturing stormwater in a bowl-shaped garden that uses soil, mulch, and plants to absorb and treat stormwater before seeping back into the water table.

Vegetated Swale receives drainage from roads, sidewalks and driveways though a shallow channel that slows stormwater runoff and directs it to an area where it can infiltrate through plants that trap sediment and remove pollutants and prevent erosion.


Rain gardens at Tulalip admin building are decreasing pollution runoff

Admin building rain gardens, expect to see hundreds of blooms next spring.Photo by Monica Brown
Admin building rain gardens, expect to see hundreds of blooms next spring.
Photo by Monica Brown

By Monica Brown, Tulalip News writer

TULALIP, Wash. – The rain gardens at the Tulalip administration building have had a year to flourish, and flourish they have.  When you drive through the parking lot you see trees in the garden strips along with some shrubs, but towards the back you can see a spray of green areas that are roped off.  Some people are not aware that these roped off garden areas are not weeds, but are native vegetation and they were chosen specifically for their ability to remove pollutants.

“It’s a menagerie, but that’s how it was designed, to be low growing and provide a green landscape that would help filter out the pollutants,” said Derek Marks of Tulalip Natural Resources.

Last year, the Natural Resources department was able to take a few garden areas within the admin building parking lot and turn them into rain gardens. Shortly after it was completed it had been sprayed with herbicides, a major no-no when it comes to rain gardens. “You don’t build a rain garden to manage it with herbicides,” said Derek. “The rain garden themselves filter the pollutants; we’re not supposed to add pollutants to them.”

The gardens contain mainly different species of sedge, rush, woodrush and grass along with western buttercup, great camas and chocolate Lily. This last spring there weren’t many blooming camas or chocolate lily because the time between when they were planted and when they bloom in spring was too short for them to become established.

Chocolate lilyPhoto By Derek Marks
Chocolate lily
Photo By Derek Marks

“We’re expecting a lot more to bloom next spring. You’ll probably see several hundred camas plants out here blooming,” commented Derek, about the shortage of blooms this last spring.

Derek explains that, “the rain gardens are filter strips.” And, “the plants and microbes work hand in hand to break down the pollutants.” They remove toxins, oils and heavy metals that are in water runoff from the parking lot. Without the rain garden the pollutants in the water runoff would make their way out and contaminate the Puget Sound. The possibility of turning other garden strips within the parking area into more rain gardens has come up, but nothing has been decided on as of yet.

This pilot rain garden project was developed by Tulalip’s Natural Resources’, Valerie Streeter and Derek Marks. They caution that although some of these plants are known for being harvestable, these particular plants, and any that may reside in other rain gardens, are not harvestable because they are full of toxins.

Camas bloom Photo by Derek Marks
Camas bloom
Photo by Derek Marks

For those that would like to start their own rain garden, Washington State University and Stewardship Partners have begun a campaign to install 12,000 rain gardens in the Puget Sound area by the year 2016. The website for the campaign has videos to explain the whole process of putting in a rain garden and lists the many resources available to someone interested in installing one. Please visit 12000raingardens.org for more information about rain garden installation.