I went to a series of workshops done by Brightside St. Louis and was impressed by their staff and what they are accomplishing for the city of St. Louis. Here are a few notes from the seminars.
Brightside offers grants up to $1500.00 for city neighborhood groups who want to improve some public property or schools. Last year Brightside approved thirty-two grants. They have a list of approved plants. Roses have been taken off the list because of the Rose rosette disease. Applications are due by August 14th.
Here’s a picture I took of some roses which have either died or are doing poorly.
The program was led by Perry Eckhardt from the Missouri Dept. of Conservation. He said that most rain garden literature is wrong. To find the right plants to put in, he recommends the MoBot Plant Finder. I did a search and got a long list, but I notice they put Asclepias tuberosa on the list – something that likes dryish soils. They have a nice rain garden area at the Brightside home on Shenandoah and Kingshighway although they had to fill-in part of it with rock because of bridge safety requirements. He recommends not adding sand to the soil. Also don’t dig out an area if you are going to be disturbing tree roots. Trees take up a lot more water than any rain garden.
Note – here’s some more information from Perry – “Many rain gardens have had soil amendments or soil replacements that include a sand component. Additionally, most rain gardens are actually very dry, especially if they are engineered to drain quickly. In those instances, almost any prairie plant will work as they can withstand brief periods of inundation. I do think that butterfly milkweed is tolerant of relatively wet conditions too; I noticed them as a prominent part of the plant palette at Grasshopper Hollow Natural Area, which is a fen complex in the Ozarks. Personally, I wouldn’t stick in the boggy parts of a rain garden, but I would definitely consider it around the margins.
Home Depot Pesticide Plants
Ed Spevak mentioned that some plants at Home Depot have a a Neconid pesticide warning, but it is hard to find. It may be behind the main plant tag.
Urban Soils – Nathan Brandt
- The speaker recommends getting a Lead test for any city soils. It costs $45.00. The example he used had a score of 461 which is a bit high and limits what you can grow in your garden. He recommends a raised twelve inch bed with fabric below it keep out the soil below.
- A standard soil test, available from Brightside, costs $22.00.
- Don’t add sand to clay soil – use organic matter and plants to break up the clay.
- If you soil is really poor, he does recommend amending it with organic matter, tilling etc. After that, use plants and cover crops to improve the soil.
- Native plants don’t need added fertilizer.