Spring Cleaning at RORG

By the RORG Team

While the RORG Team and volunteers always keep an eye on the garden’s needs for upkeep and design edits, spring is a critical time to perform inspection. Winter can be rough on a campus rain garden. While snow may cover up some issues, snow melt and spring rains reveal places that need attention and if found, we can fix issues before they become bigger problems.

What follows are examples of adaptive management in action, which is the basis of RORG’s management approach. With a rain garden, we look at items concerning site design and plants.


  1. Edging and Additional Inlets. Overall the garden captures rainwater effectively, but we noticed minor flooding at the existing inlet – the southern corner where water enters the garden. Inspection after rainfall revealed that water pooled behind the steel edging, then flowed north entering the garden in two additional places. We addressed these issues by cutting small slits into the steel edging allowing water to flow into the garden easier. Further, we decided to adopt the new inlets, forming them with stone rip rap to break up the point flow of water coming into the garden, as shown in the photos.
BEFORE: Stormwater flows caused issues along the southern sidewalk.
AFTER: Addition of the new inlet prevents washout during heavy storm events.
BEFORE: Additional flow issues were noticed near the garden’s Cell 2.
AFTER: Small slits in the steel edging will prevent water from ponding.

2. Crushed Granite Border: Stormwater flows over the past year also damaged the crushed granite border and steel edging along the south sidewalk. To fix this, we removed and replaced the collapsed section of the steel edging and worked with UIUC Facilities & Services to add and compact additional crushed granite in that area. New stones, added for the first maintenance task listed above, now help keep the edging in place along with breaking up the point flow of stormwater.

BEFORE: Stormwater flows damaged Cell 1’s crushed granite border.
AFTER: A new inlet was built to break up the flow of water and reinforce the edging.

3. Clogged Inlet Rocks: We noted that the existing inlet was clogged with debris. While it is far better to have the debris caught here than have it go further into the garden, problems which led to tasks 1 and 2 were exacerbated by the situation. Fortunately, the fix was simple but one often overlooked in rain gardens: we pulled up the inlet stones, cleaned them and the inlet itself, and then set them back in. Special thanks to the UIUC Beekeeping Club for their help on this task!

BEFORE: Debris deposited by the flow of stormwater clogs the inlet.
AFTER: The inlet was cleaned out, allowing water to flow into the garden easier.


4. Transplanting: As we begin the third growing season at RORG, certain plant species were ready to be divided and transplanted. Specifically, we moved excess Rosinweed and Emory’s Sedge to the nearby Dorner Drive Retention Pond prairie planting.

5. Weeding: Chicory seeds from years past are still plaguing certain areas of the garden, with the early germinating weeds popping up here and there. The nearby Dorner Drive Retention Pond area, where many Chicory and Thistle seeds originated from, was recently seeded with a high-quality prairie seed mix. We believe that this should help the problem diminish.

BEFORE: Weeds like Chicory needed to be removed from Cell 1.
AFTER: With the weeds pulled, RORG’s intentional plants can thrive.

6. Mulching: The last item on the to-do list was mulching. We applied mulch in areas where groundcovers hadn’t yet completely established. Since we last mulched a few areas had become bare, which is an ideal situation for weed seed germination. Thanks to Sustainability Design student Maddy Craft and the UIUC student chapter of the ASLA for help with this task!

Mulch helps suppress weeds in areas where groundcovers have not yet fully established.

The RORG team and volunteers continue to address weeds near the red oak and plan to add more mulch here soon. Mulching is a must do to make future garden care easier as we wait for our groundcovers to fill in.

We are grateful for help from our volunteers and Facilities & Services in accomplishing our annual spring cleaning!

Cover photo of UIUC student chapter of the ASLA by Layne Knoche.

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