After learning about the ways in which plants can provide cleaner water to the environment, a Prairie Crossing Charter School student decided to put his knowledge to good use.
Brian Mace, an eighth-grader from Grayslake, spent a total of 12 hours preparing and planting a rain garden at the Grayslake Public Library as part of his service project, and plans to continue to maintain it.
The garden, measuring 8 by 16 feet and located along a walking path at the rear of the library, was dedicated July 8. It features six varieties of plants, including culvers root, obedient plant, bergamot, blue flag iris, tussock sedge, and fox sedge.
"I had envisioned larger plants, but I know they will grow to be more like I pictured," Mace said.
Following a teacher's recommendation to locate the garden at the library, Mace contacted Library Director Roberta Thomas and presented the idea to the library board in May when it was approved.
"He wanted to do the garden someplace where it would be a good thing for the whole community and educate the community," Thomas said. "The garden takes a soggy area and uses that area so that it can purify the water and help keep that water from running off into the storm sewers."
Through much research, Mace learned what types of plants to use, how certain plants complement one another, and the right kind of soil needed.
"I did a plot layout with all that information in mind," Mace said. "Unfortunately, I found the web information was not completely reliable, particularly with respect to the types of plants which would be suitable to grow in our area."
Mace explained that the majority of plants he originally chose for the project could only grow in a warmer climate, such as southern Illinois or St. Louis.
"I did not take into account how hard the clay soil is in our area," he added.
With the help of a friend who runs a native plant supply business, Mace purchased the plants and gained the right information to begin the rain garden.
"He helped me make suitable substitutions for plants in my original layout. I used potting soil that contained special ingredients to support the growth of the new plants and covered the area with mulch to cut down on the weeds," he said.
To maintain the garden into the future, Mace plans to continue watering and weeding throughout the fall, winter, and next spring.
"My favorite thing about this is actually Brian, because he is so enthusiastic and so knowledgeable," Thomas said. "He's a really neat kid."