Saturday, October 29, 2016

PWD Rain Check Program - Stormwater Management Tools for Residents

By Stephanie Rukowicz

The Philadelphia Water Department (PWD) continues to run its Rain Check Program, which was created to help residents manage stormwater runoff at their homes. Residents are encouraged to attend a free workshop and upon completion can sign up to have a free rain barrel installed at their property, or a receive a discount on the installation of a downspout planter, rain garden or porous pavers. PWD funds the program, and the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society (PHS) manages it.

Rain Check downspout planter in front of a
row home. 
There is a flex pipe attached to the downspout,
draining into the planter. To the right are
overflows to the sewer system. 

We had installed one rain barrel at a downspout from our main roof, but were interested in a second to capture the runoff from our garage roof. In September 2015, my husband and I attended a free, one-hour Rain Check workshop located at PHS (20th & Arch) and signed up to have a free rain barrel installed the following month. The installation occurred as scheduled and was completed very quickly. We have used the water captured to water our young street trees during this past hot and dry summer. One year later, I highly recommend participation in this program. It requires minimal time investment yet benefits both individual residents (free water collection) and the entire city (diverting stormwater from combined sewers during rain events).

Free rain barrel provided, delivered, and
installed through the PWD Rain Check program.
Installer cut a hole through downspout and
attached a flex pipe that includes a special
diverter which allows rainwater to flow through
downspout to sewer system when rain barrel is full.

PHS also sends out reminder emails for seasonal maintenance, as well as a reminder email to drain and disconnect your rain barrel before winter. Considering our first rain barrel was purchased for $100, this deal to get a free rain barrel delivered and installed can’t be beat.

Upcoming workshops are currently scheduled through the end of November, but if those don’t work for your schedule, you can request to be notified when new dates are added.

Thursday, October 6, 2016

Mantids in the Fall

by Stephanie Kearney

I was recently approached by a neighbor about praying mantids (the plural of ‘mantis’).  She wanted to know if there was some reason why she was seeing them in her Philadelphia garden now when she never remembered seeing them in the past.  

We are now officially in autumn, and it is actually quite common to see mature mantids this time of year.  Though eggs hatch in spring, we don’t usually see the tiny babies until they’re about 2 inches in length or longer, which doesn’t happen until late summer.  These larger mantids are easier to spot, and can often be seen hunting for prey – which for them is an extensive list.  Praying mantids are generalists, which means they will eat practically any insect in your garden.  This might sound like a good thing, but they eat beneficial insects too, and an overabundance could disrupt your ecosystem.  It’s also important to note that there are a few different species of mantids in our area, and only the Carolina mantis is native.  They are distinct from the rest as they are brown and smaller than their larger green cousins. 

As the weather turns colder, a female praying mantis will choose a branch on which to lay her eggs.  The foam-like, hard case, called an ootheca, may contain 50-200 eggs set to hatch in the spring.  I’ll be on the lookout for oothecae (another fun plural) on my shrubs as this season progresses, and I’ll be paying close attention to population changes next year.