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Introducing Field Guide: Maintaining Rain Gardens, Swales and Stormwater Planters


Rain gardens, swales, and stormwater planters are important tools in the stormwater management toolkit, soaking up runoff from streets, parking lots, and buildings. Proper maintenance of these facilities is integral to keep them operating effectively. With so many of them now installed across the Portland metro area, a lot has been learned by municipalities and organizations involved with this work. 

The stormwater facility maintenance Field Guide provides much of the information landscape contractors and others will need in order to properly maintain rain gardens, swales, stormwater planters, and other facilities. Topics covered include erosion, sedimentation, vegetation and weeds, structures, trash and debris, safety. The field manual covers the most common maintenance activities that workers will need to remedy and provides lots of photos as a guide.  

The Field Guide was created by Clackamas County Water Environment Services, Clean Water Services, East Multnomah Soil and Water Conservation District, Green Girl LDS, Metro, City of Portland Environmental Services, Pacific Landscape Management, and Pacific Sports Turf.

See the document online at:


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Jake Jay

May 28, 2022 at 3:16 PM

Someone has filled the bioswale at 4273 Ne Hazelfern Pl with piles of compost and fertilizer. This blocks the storm/rain water from entering the system and causes the street in front of the house to backup/flood. What should I do and can you stop this as it has recurred four times this year?


Linda Fields

September 19, 2023 at 11:40 AM

I live in a condo with four large flow-through storm water planters (?) approximately 12 by 75 foot and 45 inches deep with cement side walls. They have received minimal maintenance since I have lived here, approximately eight years. None of the inlet or outlets are blocked as far as I can determine, but there has been some die- off of the original plants and the ground in some areas has been taken over by "weeds." There is also moss in other areas. ((I think some new plants were added some time before Covid but they did not survive The Douglas Spirea and currants are still doing well but sedges and rushes. There are some plants that display yellowing leaves that may indicate chlorosis. I have been given contradictory information about adding a layer of mulch to help with week control and plant nutrition. I did see literature from the city that recommends a 2 inch layer of mulch. My concern about much is the possibility it might block the output pipes. Could someone provide guidance on that issue. Also, if mulch is recommended, should it be put down this fall after we add sedges and rushes or should we wait until spring.

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