As you travel on Victory Drive between Madison Avenue and Main Street, it’s easy to drive right past an important fixture of water purification.
That lush, dense thicket of plants and wildflowers might look like the spot the lawn mower missed — but in reality, it’s a natural water filter that is celebrating its 10th anniversary.
Known officially as the Victory Drive Rain Garden, this copse of native plants was carefully planned and planted 10 years ago as a demonstration of the positive effects of plant filtration of rainwater.
In 2003, the Minnesota River Valley Master Gardeners applied for and received a $2,000 grant from the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources to educate local communities and install rain gardens therein. The Master Gardeners hosted a seminar for nearby community leaders to encourage the establishment of rain gardens.
The City of Mankato became their first cooperator, and in conjunction with the DNR who provided funding and great advice, the three worked together to select a site and establish the planting.
The purpose of a rain garden is to catch water coming from an impervious surface and allow it to soak into the ground before running into storm drains. Storm drains are constructed to remove excess water and discharge it directly to rivers or lakes. Research has shown that a rain garden will absorb 30 percent more water than an unimproved lawn. The rain gardens proposed through the DNR stipulated that deep-rooted native plants and grasses should populate the site.
Once the plan was in place, Master Gardener volunteers and DNR personnel selected the site on Victory Drive at the entrance of a storm water culvert. A mixture of grasses, sedges and perennial flowers was planted by the volunteers. Because a rain garden takes two to three seasons to get established, the group members each adopted different species and spent time weeding, watering and caring for the new plants.