Calvin College has a native plant nursery and rainscaping initiative that serves as an implementation arm for Plaster Creek Stewards. We provide plants, consulting, site design, installation and maintenance for restoration and green landscaping projects in the Plaster Creek Watershed.
We are members of Native Plant Guild, an alliance of local businesses and organizations that offers West Michigan a variety of ecological landscaping services.
What is green infrastructure?
Green infrastructure (GI) uses plants, soils, and other elements to restore some of the natural processes required to manage storm water and create healthier urban environments. Examples of GI for watershed restoration include rain gardens and bioswales (basin shaped and strategically placed to capture runoff) filled with Michigan's native plants. These deep rooted plants filter pollutants and slow stormwater, allowing it to soak into the soil rather than drain directly into the creek through storm drains. Planting Michigan native trees and replacing lawn area with native plantings is another way to increase infiltration of storm water and support increased biodiversity.
Why Native Plants?
Native plants have grown in Michigan since before European settlement. They are adapted to our soils and climate, so they need no water after they're established and require no fertilizer. Above ground, they're essential as habitat and food for birds and insects. Below ground, their deep roots absorb stormwater and filter nutrients, pollutants and sediments while also creating areas for water to seap into the soil where it cools and might slowly make it's way to the creek through the ground. This slow, filtering system provides the creek with clean, cool, regular sources of water as compared to the warm, polluted storm surges that come from the storm sewers.
The seeds for the plants we use are collected from local areas, then germinated and grown in our greenhouses. The resulting deep rooted plants are then used in watershed restoration projects like rain gardens,bioswales, floodplain restoration projects, or other sustainable landscapes.
Native plants are essential for a healthy watershed.
Education and Research
Our projects provide educational and service-learning opportunities for students and community members. We work with students from different courses at Calvin, schools in the community, and volunteers from multiple community groups. With each of our educational events, we also provide an opportunity for people to take action to restore the watershed. Each group learns about native plants, works in the greenhouse, or installs a rain garden or other restoration project.
Many of our projects and installations are part of ongoing research on ecological restoration in urban areas. We are amassing a dataset of how various species fares over time, and which site conditions are important for determining species' survival.
Examples of watershed restoration projects with green infrastructure.