Rehoboth volunteers learn rain garden maintenance

Careful pruning and winter maintenance will make for a successful growing season next year.
Volunteers and organizers gathered to get a lesson on rain garden maintenance for the dormant season at City Hall. Shown are (l-r) Tom Zellers, Commissioner Lorainne Zellers, Toni Sharp and Envirotech President Todd Frichman. BY MOLLY MACMILLAN
November 29, 2012

With the growing season wrapping up and cold weather moving in, volunteers gathered for a hands-on workshop at Rehoboth Beach City Hall recently to learn about year-round maintenance for the inaugural Rehoboth Beach rain garden.

In support of the initiative launched by the Center for the Inland Bays, the city of Rehoboth Beach created a rain garden on the front lawn of city hall last May.

"The purpose of a project like this is to collect and provide an immediate infiltration system for runoff from impervious sources, such as rooftops or roadways,” said Todd Fritchman, CEO of Envirotech, the company that was contracted to build the garden. “This is a filter.”

Rain gardens allow rainwater to naturally infiltrate the water table through the soil, Fritchman explained, thereby reducing the amount of pollutants like silt sediments, herbicides, herbicides and fecal matter that enters the inland bays through runoff.

Designed to flower and bear fruit throughout the growing season, the CEO said when his firm created the rain garden, they were sure to select native plants that would be especially capable of surviving the seasons.

“We are also using that water for a native plant stand to propagate the ground and deliver a natural beauty,” Fritchman said.

Those native plants include beach plums, black chokeberries, butterfly milkweed, common boneset and New York astor, and while he was instructing the volunteers who will be caring for the rain garden, Fritchman encouraged them to save seed pods to plant and create their own rain gardens at home.

“This is a garden with a mission,” Rehoboth Beach commissioner and rain garden Chairman Lorraine Zellers said. “Take these seed pods home!”

With the first growing season in the bag, Rehoboth Beach maintenance crew member Dave Hernandez said the garden has required only a small amount of his time.

“During the season I would be checking it two or three times a week but once the fall started, I check it maybe once a week,” Hernandez said.

Through the first year, the garden will require more careful attention than in subsequent seasons, Fritchman said. Occasional pruning, efforts to avoid compacted soil and rainwater storage system checkups will make up the majority of maintenance through the future.

“Think your way in and fluff your way out to reduce compaction,” Fritchman advised while he demonstrated proper rain garden pruning.