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Every home is — or should be — equipped with downspouts that carry rainwater that falls on the roof away from the house and its foundation so that the water doesn't leak into the basement.

From the end of the downspout, the water continues out onto the lawn.

But there's another option: Direct the water into a rain garden, also called a storm garden.

One can excavate a small — say, 10-feet-square — depression in the ground, fill it with deep-rooted prairie plants (plugs are recommended), and direct the downspout into the depression where water collects, reducing run-off and infiltrating it into the ground where it is cleansed.

Rich Stewart, resource conservationist with the Rock Island Soil and Water Conservation District, will explain rain gardens as one of four speaker topics at the Flower and Garden Show.

The primary purpose of a rain garden is to improve water quality in nearby bodies of water and to ensure that rainwater becomes available for plants as groundwater rather than being sent through storm water drains straight into rivers and streams. This reduces erosion and can reduce the amount of pollution reaching creeks and streams by up to 30 percent, Stewart said. A rain garden is both a conservation practice and an attractive feature of one's yard.

Stewart also will explain state conservation money that is available to help pay for them. The cost of a rain garden, including excavating and the purchase of plants and mulch, can run around $10 per square foot, Stewart said. But money is available that will reimburse owners up to 75 percent of a $1,000 rain garden, or about $750, he said.

This program is available to residents of Rock Island, Henry, Mercer and Whiteside counties in Illinois. The city of Rock Island also has a reimbursement program, as does Scott County in Iowa.

Most rain gardens are planted with prairie plants that need sun to thrive, but there also are shade options.

Here are the other three topics and when they will be presented:

Special interest gardens, noon Friday, Saturday and Sunday, by David Arensdorf, a University of Illinois Extension Master Gardener/Master Naturalist.

This program will address four different special needs: therapeutic, physically accessible, family and small space/community gardening.

Bulb containers, 2 p.m. Friday and Sunday, by Martha Smith, University of Illinois Extension horticulture educator.

She will explain, step-by-step, how to layer a container with either spring- or summer-blooming bulbs.

Natural lawn care, 4 p.m. Friday, by Irenka Carney, University of Illinois Extension/Illinois Indiana Sea Grant Education and Outreach.

Traditional lawn care has a lot of hidden costs for homeowners and the environment. Natural lawn care is a way to save money, improve yards, and make sure lawn care isn't hurting the people, creatures, and environments downstream.

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