How we greened our church. Part III: Care & feeding

Image of St. James rain garden
July 15, 2013
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From beginning to end, making the St. James’ rain garden a reality took about 18 months. But once the contracts were finally signed, checks handed over, and shovels sunk into the ground, the landscape of our parish literally changed in three days.

One of the larger (and most understandable) concerns expressed by our leaders was maintenance. We already paid a groundskeeping crew, and our volunteer workforce seemed to be dwindling by the week. In building this rain garden, were we putting ourselves on the hook for more maintenance costs and man-hours?

Three images of the St. James rain garden before, during and after construction.

The St. James rain garden before, during and after construction.


It turns out that the answer was no. That’s one of the hidden beauties of a rain garden, or any landscaping project populated with native plants. They are naturally adapted to thrive in your environment. Once you get out of the way of biology, it’s amazing how much of the work nature does on its own.


Set It and Forget It

When the garden was still new and establishing itself, we did need to water a few times a week. That lasted about three months. Now, there is no watering needed at all, unless in the case of an extreme drought (we haven’t needed to yet). Regular pruning is not required. Weeding is minimal. We trim back some of the plants each winter, and we add a new layer of mulch in the spring. That’s it! You really can “set it and forget it”.

It is immensely satisfying to go out and take a seat on one of the benches in our rain garden area. It’s a lovely common space and a constant reminder that we are doing our small part to lead by example when it comes to caring for our creation. Though it takes an investment of time, the results, for us, were more than worth it.

By Scott Harris

This post is the third of three guest blogs by Scott Harris. Scott is a vestry member and the chair of the Earth Stewardship Commission at St. James’ Episcopal Church in Potomac.

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