If you saw a group of teenagers wearing green shirts and working in the hot sun last week, that may have been the “Rogue River Green Team.”
On Thursday they weeded and mulched the Rockford bioswales near the farmers’ market, in addition to planting a buffer of native plants at Rick and Shelley Froysland’s home at 209 N. Main.
This Green Team is sponsored by Trout Unlimited and works as a non-profit through Calvin University, partnering with their Plaster Creek team. Both groups hire high school students for 3 weeks, to teach them how to capture and filter stormwater run-off with the use of native plants and rain gardens, thus making an actual difference in water quality. The students become familiar with their watersheds, and in the process learn a lot about plants.
Since typical lawn grass has shallow roots, requires frequent watering, and offers no habitat, the Froyslands wanted to try something more ecological. They had a hot sunny area in the front of their house planted with natives this spring, and the Green Team added plants to their shadier buffer-zone near a creek in back.
Once established, neither area should require watering, since native Michigan plants are accustomed to our conditions.
Many prairie plants, for example, have extremely deep roots, which can soak up a lot of water, as well as creating channels for water to enter the soil. Cleaner water and less flooding are goals of TU’s Home Rivers Initiative. Rather than piping all rain-water from the streets directly to the river via storm drains, run-off can be allowed to soak into rain gardens.
There are a couple new plantings in the Rockford Village area that are close to the “curb-cut” model, although no curbs were there to cut.
The bonus of having these gardens is that they provide food and habitat for butterflies, bees, and birds, require less water, and no mowing. You may see some of these newly started plantings if you drive along Surf or N. Main St.
The Green Team is not out for hire, but every year a partnership is formed with several area homeowners. Jamie Vaughn is in charge of planning (Jamie.Vaughan@tu.org) and Georgia Donovan mentors the student workers. A great place to connect for sources of native plants would be Wild Ones River City on Facebook.
Next, the Green Team will be collecting seeds from local sources, and transplanting seedlings in Calvin’s greenhouses. Then, they’ll take their learning and experience into the world.