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Imagine your downspout supplying all the water your garden needs spring-fall, drought or deluge. Voila, you have an easy-to-make rain garden. 

Learn how rain gardens function and how you can make a rain garden in a free one-hour live Zoom at 7 p.m. Wednesday, April 6.  

An example of a rainwater downspout garden using plants available at the Bird Buzz Native Plant Sale. (Submitted photo)

Pro tip: Remove grass from your new garden area – roots and all. This automatically creates a 4-inch depression that will hold the rainwater from your downspout. In clay or sand soils, plants from the Bird Buzz Native Plant Sale “Wet or Average” section (see below) can fill that new garden bed you’ve made. Your new plants become a natural sponge soaking up water. Add leaf mulch or compost to top off the garden for a multipurpose beautiful and life supporting home. 

To join the ran garden presentation, recorded for later viewing on the EEA site, register at the Evanston Environmental Association (EEA) website, www.evanstonenvironment.org.  Ask an expert your questions after the presentation.

EEA and Natural Habitat Evanston have partnered to share native plants through the Bird Buzz Native Plant Sale and through educational presentations like this one. Other presentations focus on the benefits of native plants, hummingbirds, and trees and shrubs.

A common question: “Why native plants?”

Native plants are best suited to local conditions, grow readily without chemicals and are often drought resistant and rain-garden ready. In addition, birds need to be able to eat from your garden year-round – finding seeds, nectar, berries and nuts, but also bugs. Baby birds in particular rely on insects, especially caterpillars. If you want birds, it is important to plant for insects. About 90% of insects depend on a native host plant to grow and develop into adults. Just as monarch caterpillars need milkweed, the same relationship applies to most other insects, e.g., the violet fritillary needs violets, and the spicebush swallowtail needs spicebush. So, to encourage birds, add native plants for native caterpillars that feed birds.

The Bird Buzz Native Plant Sale has been created to facilitate and expand pollinator gardens that grow well in our region. The sale highlights monarch gardens, ground covers, rain gardens and trees and shrubs to help direct you to the right plants for your needs.

Another question: “Should I worry about mosquitos?”  

The answer is an emphatic NO! The roots of the plants act like a sponge to infiltrate water into the soil. On heavy rain days, the water can easily flow into surrounding plants or where it would have normally drained.

Now through May 15, pre-order online at the Bird Buzz Native Plant Sale.  The Evanston Environmental Association and Natural Habitat Evanston have joined forces so that you can shop a very diverse variety of native plants, from native turf alternatives to prairie plants, to rain garden wildflowers to trees and shrubs. Pickup date is Saturday, May 21 at the City of Evanston’s Morton Civic Center Parking Lot, 2100 Ridge Ave. Come to the North end of the parking lot and you will be directed to the pickup area. Parking will be clearly marked the day of the sale. 

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