Residential Demonstration

Residential rain gardens take shape throughout City

A City resident transforms her front yard from grass to a rain garden full of native plants that now capture all of the runoff from her front roof, porch roof, and sidewalk. The installation was completed by Susquehanna EcoDesign who described the plant selection as “wildscaping,” a native wildlife garden that is pollinator-friendly.

Many residents in the City have small postage stamp front planting or grass area, and this application is ideal for those who want more color and less mowing. In this case the yard had a slight slope to the sidewalk, so a small retaining wall was installed to hold the soil and level the garden. (click images to enlarge)

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Grass was removed to create the rain garden area and stones were added to support the far end of the garden where the new soil was placed. The square footage of the area excavated was calculated to insure it will capture at least 1″ of run-off from the front of the house. Overflow water from the rain garden is piped back into the combined sewer pipe as shown below.

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Gort-Walton Garden Transformation

Stormwater Capture: Approx. 30,000 GAL / YEAR
The Gort-Walton project started nearly a year ago when the couple attended the community celebration for the Wolf Museum garden (see below for details on that project). The couples’ imagination was captured as they saw an opportunity to transform the front of their home from a snaggle of English Ivy to a beautiful native pollinator-friendly garden that would capture rain water run-off from their home.

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With assistance from Millersville University graduate students, an assessment was completed to calculate the amount of stormwater coming off the home and make recommendations for specific solutions (location, size, and scale).

With some quick re-routing of downspouts, the property owners were able to take nearly 100% of the roof run-off from the home to the front of the house where a dry well and rain garden were installed by Living Stone Landscapes, a City of Lancaster based contractor.

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The dry well is excavated and lined with geo textile and overflow pipe. Clean stone fills the well and is wrapped in the geo textile keeping soil and sediment out, but allowing water to flow in. The well is covered with 1′ of soil and planted. Each dry well is scaled in size based on the amount of water that flows in.

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The rain garden (pictured above and below), also known as bioretention, is a method of managing stormwater by pooling water within a planting area, using soil berms that allow the water to infiltrate into the garden.

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Wolf Museum

As part of the Green Infrastructure (GI) plan, the City of Lancaster encourages property owners to manage the “first flush,” or the first 1-inch of rainfall on their property and not allow it to discharge to the combined sewer. The use of GI to reduce pollution and erosive flows supports the attainment of the Watershed Implementation Plan for the Chesapeake Bay and improves water quality in the Conestoga River. The Wolf Museum demonstrates methods that support the GI plan and function as a model for future projects.

The Lancaster County Conservancy worked with the Wolf Museum, adjacent property owners, and neighborhood volunteers to develop multiple methods of addressing storm water runoff including the installation of rain barrels, rain garden, and dry creek to minimize the amount of runoff coming from and onto the Wolf Museum property.

Wolf Musem - site planWolf Museum Plant Layout - Color March 2014









Rain Barrels – 2 barrels at 55 gallon capacity for each barrel
Rain Garden – Proposed Size 12’ x 20’
Dry Creek

Rain Barrels – 2 barrels at 55 gallon capacity for each barrel: Rain barrels were installed onsite with overflow into a large rain garden.

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Rain Garden (Size 12’ x 20’): The location of the rain garden will address runoff from the garage roof (See Wolf Museum Rain Garden Proposal above). The rain garden was installed at least 10’ from neighbors’ garage foundation in line with the downspout and slope to intercept the rooftop water. From our onsite observation, increasing the depth (18-20″) and using a mixture of 40% topsoil from the site, 40% sand, and 20% compost will ensure there is more than sufficient infiltration in the rain garden.

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Dry Creek: The Conservancy recommended that the runoff coming from Downspout B, 131 gallons, be directed into a dry creek to slow the runoff through the garden area. The dry creek was dug to approximately 10″ deep, 12″ wide and 35′ long to allow for slow infiltration.

The dry creek design will minimize erosion from the discharge pipe and provide another method to slowly infiltrate rain water while adding an interesting feature in the landscape.

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The Final Product

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A special thank you to the Foundation for PA Watersheds, the Wolf Museum, Westlawn owner Guy Martin, Penn Stone, Mary Lou Houser, and all of the volunteers who made the installation possible.

This project was generously funded in part through a grant from the Foundation for PA Watersheds.

To learn more about how you can install green infrastructure on your property please contact Fritz Schroeder,

Interested in assessing your own property, consider downloading The Homeowner’s Guide to Stormwater.

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