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Planting for Stormwater Management

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A successful stormwater management planting begins with an assessment of the site’s hydrology, or moisture status. A seed mix should be selected that is adapted to that hydrology and your local climate. A native seed mix is an integral component of an effective, efficient water containment and infiltration system that reduces soil erosion and supports biodiversity.

Using Native Seeds in Land Development Projects

Native plants used in residential and municipal developments protect the local watershed and manage precipitation runoff and flooding. Runoff absorbs pollutants as it flows over impervious surfaces to a lake, stream, or river, allowing polluted stormwater to seep into the ground.

Plants growing on stormwater runoff
Native grasses and herbaceous species managing stormwater runoff from a large parking lot

Proper stormwater management can reduce the need for costly infrastructure adjustments. Native plants provide nutrients to the microorganisms surrounding plant roots that degrade hydrocarbons in the soils of stormwater basins.

Native plants assist with percolation and stormwater management because they are compatible with the local ecosystem. Native plants support natural hydrologic processes like percolation, plant uptake, and transpiration. These processes imitate floodplains whose natural vegetation contains, filters, and stores polluted runoff.

A good example of how planting native seeds in a swale garden can have a significant environmental impact may be found in Seattle, WA. After replacing an open ditch stormwater drain with a roadside swale garden, Seattle achieved a 97% reduction in runoff.

Stormwater plantings support the natural water cycle by slowing or infiltrating precipitation rather than sending it directly into storm sewers or nearby streams. A healthy watershed protects local water quality. By reducing sedimentation and pollution, we protect our local watershed which, in turn, provides for healthier communities.

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Environmental Benefits of Using Native Seeds for Stormwater Management

Native plants offer many benefits for stormwater management. The plants create conditions that mimic the natural state of runoff and groundwater recharge, and act as a filtration system. Native plants reduce soil erosion and limit water movement which reduces runoff. The right seed mix promotes water storage, infiltration, and evaporation in ways that simulate the natural rate of runoff or groundwater recharge.

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A wildflower meadow using ERNMX-168 Northeast Annual & Perennial Wildflower Mix. Credit: Joseph Garmon

An appropriate seed mix will be adapted to the soil, hydrology, and climate of your site. A seed mix with wildflowers will be attractive to the public while supporting birds, bees, and butterflies. They also have deeper root systems essential for preventing soil erosion.

Typically, stormwater sites are not fertilized. Pesticides are avoided with the exception of approved herbicides used to control invasive species. Less chemicals means less contamination of the watershed.

Preparing Your Site for Stormwater Management With Native Plants

For best results, choose a native seed mix that is appropriate for the site’s hydrology, or moisture status. Next, prepare the site according to your state’s best management practice manuals. Once these steps are completed, immediately begin seeding and planting since this is the time when the soil is most friable and invasive weeds haven’t had time to grow. Carefully preparing seed beds will also minimize siltation.

Your site will need to be maintained according to the best practices in your state-supplied manuals. For additional insights on successfully establishing and maintaining stormwater management sites, read this guide.

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An urban rain garden catch basin utilizing ERNMX-180 Rain Garden Mix

Natural Vegetation Means Successful Local Conservation

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Selecting an appropriate native seed mix will ensure your stormwater management project is successful. Get started on planning your project with our Seed Finder Tool. Visit our online resource center where you will find our establishment guides and seedling gallery. Our establishment guides contain tips on site preparation, planting, and maintenance. To help confirm that your meadow is growing, see our seedling gallery.

Contact us with your questions about using seed for stormwater management projects, and don’t forget to check out our Seed Finder Tool. Please complete the form at the bottom of the page or call us at 800-873-3321.

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