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Seattle Pest Control Debate: Do Rain Gardens Promote Pests?

Rain garden

A rain garden is a depressed area of planted land that allows rainwater runoff to soak into the dirt instead of running into storm drains or other sources of water. The goal of a rain garden is to help reduce the amount of pollution in nearby creeks, streams, river or other bodies of water. Experts recommend using native plants in rain gardens because they’ll thrive the best without fertilizer.

One of the best-known rain garden projects in Seattle is SEA Street, which helped reduce the amount of storm water in the street by 98 percent. Hoping to achieve the same results, the Westwood and Sunshine Heights neighborhoods are starting their own rain garden projects. The main concern, however, is a repeat of the botched rain garden in nearby Ballard, which experienced an infestation of rodents, mosquitoes and other pests. In their best efforts to practice pest control, Seattle Public Utilities workers had to regularly vacuum freestanding water out of the failed garden.

There’s no doubt that rain gardens offer many environmental benefits, but it’s important to understand the potential challenges, as well, such as the increased need for pest control Seattle residents faced. To learn more about rain gardens, begin by considering the following benefits and disadvantages.

Rain Garden Pros

  • Reduce water pollution in nearby bodies of water.
  • Reduce rainwater runoff in the streets.
  • The garden filters water before it reaches the groundwater system.
  • More vegetation in urban areas.
  • They attract native wildlife (like birds).

Rain Garden Cons

  • They can attract pests (like rodents, raccoons, opossums and insects).
  • Rain gardens that don’t drain correctly can create stagnant pools of water that many pests like.
  • Enough pooled water in such a garden can pose a drowning hazard.
  • Failed rain gardens can lower property values.

To make a viable and successful rain garden, you must have a good understanding of the area’s geography and groundwater. Then, it’s important to perform extensive tests to make sure the water drains as expected. As an extra measure to prevent the appearance of critters, it’s vital to keep the rain garden free of any type of trash, including food.

For concerns about pest control, Seattle residents should contact their local pest management pros.

[ Photo by: ibm4381, on Flickr, via CC License ]

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