BOOM: It’s Thunderstorm Season in Chicago! Create a More Storm-Proof Landscape with These 5 Tips

As most Midwesterners know all too well, a sudden, intense downpour can have very damaging consequences to homes, lawns and gardens. Luckily, there are ways you can help storm-proof your landscape to better protect your property and the environment.

Even though lightning strikes like the one in the video above are very dramatic, storm-water runoff and flooding causes the most damage to properties and the environment during the summer thunderstorm season in Chicago

With a few simple landscaping additions, you can better storm-proof your property. Storm-proofing will mitigate damaging soil erosion and manage storm-water runoff, saving thousands on property damage when the next deluge hits.

Rain gardens will add beauty and help storm-proof your property

Rain gardens will add beauty and help storm-proof your property

The Key to Being Storm-Proof: Control Storm-water Runoff

When a hard rain hits hard surfaces, such as dry, clay soil or pavement, it quickly runs off to where it may cause harm. To make matters worse, without significant vegetation or porous surfaces to sink into rain sweeps across yards and streets and carries pesticides and sediment into the water system. lightningUrban storm-water runoff is the leading contributor of water resource pollution. And runoff is also a primary cause of residential flooding.  Storm-proofing your property will save money in other ways. For example, when you divert drainage and reduce impervious surface areas, you will significantly lower your utilities bill.

A swale directs excess water flow to channel it somewhere it can be released safely.

A swale directs excess water flow to channel it somewhere it can be released safely.

Here are 5 Tips to Better Storm-Proof Your Landscape:

  1. Channel with swales

A swale is a depression in a landscape that redirects water drainage. You can maximize swale use by lining the lowest point with rocks and adding deep-rooting plants to the slopes, slowing water’s path to the drain. A swale directs water flow, rather than stopping it. Therefore, you must make sure that it’s channeling to somewhere excess water will be released safely. Direct swales in frequently flooded areas to a dry well, or a garden bed with very good drainage and high water tolerance. To avoid utility charges, never have a swale draining straight off a property.

Even a small, inexpensive rain garden can significantly reduce flooding and runoff

Even a small, inexpensive rain garden can significantly reduce flooding and runoff

  1. Install a rain garden

Rain gardens add beauty and storm-proof functionality to any property. Although similar to swales, rain gardens don’t redirect water. Instead, they provide a place for water to pool during a downpour. This allows excess water to slowly percolate back into the soil. Most range from 50-100 square feet, and even a small, inexpensive rain garden can significantly reduce flooding and runoff.

Keep these tips in mind when planting a rain garden:

  • Put plants with the highest wet-soil tolerance in the center,
  • Plants at the edge will drain fairly quickly while the middle remains submerged,
  • Use native plants whenever possible, as they require little to no watering in between rainfall,
  • Native plants make a more low-maintenance yard and cut down on the need for harmful pesticides.
A downspout diverter is essential to prevent flooding next to the walls

A downspout diverter is essential to prevent flooding next to the walls

  1. Divert rain spouts

Don’t forget the smallest changes. A downspout diverter prevents flooding next to the walls, and gets water out to lower ground.

The City of Chicago recognized the positive environmental impact of a green roof-- and installed one on City Hall!

The City of Chicago recognized the positive environmental impact of a green roof– and installed one on City Hall!

  1. Install a green roof

Green roofs are being installed more and more, and have become increasingly affordable. If you have a flat or gently sloping-roof, modular units are becoming popular for their ease of installation. People often worry the added load will cause extra-strain, but a study by the city of Portland, Ore, found that green cover actually increases the longevity of the roof. Also, the study found that ecoroofs provided better insulation, reducing heating and cooling costs.

Using pavers, Greenwise created a beautiful and functional driveway for a Northshore client

Using pavers, Greenwise created a beautiful and functional driveway for a Northshore client

  1. Switch to permeable driveways

Driveways made of impermeable surfaces, such as asphalt and concrete, are the biggest contributors to storm-water runoff. To mitigate flooding, add drainage on the sides of the pavement. Or ditch the asphalt or concrete pad altogether.

Gravel, spaced paving, permeable paving stone and other attractive hardscape materials that have spacing in between them will make a driveway an asset in the rain. Watch this video to see how quickly rainwater can drain into a permeable driveway where is will be safely returned to the water table: Permeable driveways

Storm-proof landscape design– with storm-water in mind– will keep your wallet, yard, and environment a little greener in the long run. And take some worries out of rainy days.

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5 Responses to BOOM: It’s Thunderstorm Season in Chicago! Create a More Storm-Proof Landscape with These 5 Tips

  1. Kairi Gainsborough October 4, 2016 at 7:40 pm #

    These are all great idea for dealing with excess water during a storm. I’ve noticed that big puddles in my yard don’t just ruin the grass, but they also attract bugs. I plan on doing some landscaping to help control the flow of water. I like the idea of using a swale to direct the water, but I think a hidden, underground channel would fit better with my current landscaping.

    • Michael Kormanik October 5, 2016 at 9:40 am #

      Excellent point, Kairi!

      Your observation about bugs is very timely too as we’re looking for ways to control the mosquito population. Why spray toxic pesticides to kill mosquitoes when you can safely prevent them by relandscaping to get rid of their breeding ground?

      There are many creative ways to manage storm water on a property that are not only practical and useful, but also add to the aesthetics of the landscape. The key is to work with a landscape company with expert designers who can take a look at your individual property and recommend the best solution for you. A company like Greenwise, for instance… 🙂

  2. Zachary Tomlinson February 3, 2017 at 7:33 pm #

    I like that you talked about making a rain garden as part of your landscape. I think that you should plan the kind of landscape you want. If you don’t think you can do it all yourself, you can always hire a landscape service.

  3. Sutton Turner August 14, 2018 at 10:38 am #

    I like how you said that storm-proofing your property will save money. I just got a stormwater system installed on my property. Thank you for the tips on storm-proofing your home.

    • Robyn Hurtig November 7, 2018 at 4:01 pm #

      Sutton, I realize I’m seeing this way after the fact, but I’m glad the article was helpful to you and I hope your system has been serving you well! Thanks for taking the time to write!

      Robyn

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