Ecology + Design

What is Green Infrastructure and How to Design & Implement in a Residential Landscape | Westchester & Fairfield County

Storms and rainfall accumulation have gotten more extreme in our region; in fact, this is the fourth wettest year on record (so far). The Northeast is now approaching temperate rainforest levels of annual precipitation. That means our landscapes need to be designed to manage an increased quantity and frequency of extreme stormwater events. Green Infrastructure is our pejorative toolbox for dealing with stormwater as ecological landscape designers. Green Infrastructure refers to stormwater management strategies that mimic natural systems to direct and absorb stormwater; it is a form of bio-engineering or biomimicry. Below we outline some Green Infrastructure tools and strategies, with examples from our landscape design and construction projects. Contact us to discuss your green infrastructure stormwater management project!

Finished terraces create both planting beds and walkways

Green Infrastructure on a Slope

Hillsides and steep slopes are common in our region and can often complicate and/or exacerbate drainage issues. Clients often tell us the slope on their property has been “unusable” for years, prone to erosion, fast flowing stormwater, and migrating landscape materials. We worked on several steep slope projects like this in Lake Peekskill, NY and Holmes, NY (click through to read full blogs on the projects!).

Terraces – to make steep slopes more functional as garden space, we often opt to construct stone terraces. Terraces allow for garden space and / or walkways, and also create the foundation for slowing down stormwater. We always use natural stone boulders and as many materials harvested on-site as possible.

Installing biodegradable Filtrexx Siltsoxx in the stone terraces

Filtrexx SiltSoxx – We install Filtrexx Siltsoxx and the base of our terraces to capture silt and sediment in the stormwater and act as another barrier to slow down the flow. The Filtrexx SiltSoxx are biodegradable and filled with compost, so they gradually add nutrients to the garden terraces as they degrade.

Structural Soil – On steep slopes, we use a custom blend of engineered soil that is roughly 80% mineral and 20% organic matter. Most topsoil you buy is actually about 50% organic matter, mostly derived from leaf litter. This much organic matter will degrade quickly, and risks compromising the integrity of the slope. We opt for a more mineral blend to ensure the soil density is maintained for a longer period of time, protecting the grade of the slope.

Jutte netting enables planting of steep slopes.

Jutte Netting – Finally, on steep hillsides, we opt to plant into Jutte netting. Jutte netting is natural-source (coir fiber) and biodegradable. The netting holds plants in place as their root system gets established.

Green Infrastructure for Residential Properties

If you don’t have a steep slope, there are still plenty of ways you can improve stormwater management on your property through green infrastructure. The aim is to conserve, direct and absorb as much stormwater as possible before it becomes polluted from developed areas and joins other valuable freshwater ways.

A vegetated bioswale under construction.

Swales – Swales are a form of land contouring that subtly directs stormwater by manipulating grades / topography. Swales are often designed to guide water away from buildings are flat surfaces like tennis courts or swimming pools.

A residential rain garden.

Rain Gardens – Rain gardens are types of gardens that are designed to be inundated with storm water, contain the water within the bounds of the garden, and slowly allow it to percolate into the aquifer or evapotranspirate through the plants. Essentially, they slow down the water and allow it to recirculate in the water cycle. Rain gardens typically use native plants – that are adapted to our precipitation climate – and therefore have the added benefit of creating habitat for local wildlife and pollinators. When designing rain gardens, we opt for facultative plants – those that are found equally as much in wetlands and non-wetlands – because they will be able to handle both extreme flooding and drought. Learn more about rain gardens on our previous blog post and case study.

Passive Irrigation – Passive irrigation is a great way to repurpose stormwater into irrigation for your gardens! We typically design passive irrigation systems off of existing gutters. We connect the gutters to perforated pipes directed toward garden areas. The perforation allows the water to slowly leak out but still reach the desired area.

Rain chain leading to a rainwater harvesting barrel.

Rainwater Harvesting – Many of our clients keep rain barrels on-site to capture excess stormwater. Passive irrigation pipes can also be connected to rain barrels and ‘turned on’ during droughts. We love any application for recycling stormwater in the garden!

Need help with your stormwater management and landscape drainage? Contact us to schedule a consultation!

Green Jay Landscape Design

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