Singin' in the Rain with the TF Publishing Bio-Swale

The bio-swale at TF Publishing is one of our few non-residential projects. Ordinarily you wouldn't think of commercial landscaping as something to get excited about, but this site is special. The building is in an industrial/commercial complex on the Northwest side of Indianapolis. We started with an existing drainage swale along the entire front of the building, some outdated and overgrown landscaping, and a tiny concrete landing in front of the building entrance, and we transformed it into a environmentally-friendly, native-plant-filled, bound-to-be-gorgeous bio-swale and paved entry patio.

TF Publishing Indianapolis bio swale

 “Green Infrastructure” projects - such bio-swales and rain gardens - are important for many reasons. First, the storm water is slowed and allowed to pool, keeping a volume out of the actual storm sewers. When the storm sewers in Indianapolis become overloaded in heavy rains, the system combines with the sanitary sewers because it has nowhere else to go, and then this contaminated water is released into the White River and our other natural waterways. This happens every time we get a rain heavy enough to overload the storm sewer system. Sometimes as little as a quarter inch of rain is enough to overload the system. By giving the storm water a place to pool up before it goes into the sewer, projects like this bio-swale help to keep the storm sewers from being overloaded and polluting our river.

The native grasses and wildflowers planted in the bio-swale are also doing a very important job for the health of our environment. Once established, these plants will have very long root systems (6-10’ into the ground), that create tiny channels for the storm water to infiltrate into the ground and eventually recharge the groundwater aquifers. As the water filters through the soil, pollutants from the road and roof. The native plant species also provide host plants for bugs and butterflies, and provide other benefits you can read about in our post last year on the value of native plants.

This native grass plug may look small, but with proper care in the first few years it will fill the bio swale quickly.

This native grass plug may look small, but with proper care in the first few years it will fill the bio swale quickly.

The staff of TF Publishing came out to help plant. It was great to work with them!

One of our volunteers needed a little nap!

GOG excavated the existing swale down as much as the permit would allow, and built a boulder wall to hold up the ornamental landscape beds. We also replaced their tiny concrete landing with a beautiful paver patio with a limestone wall. We are still working on fabrication of a custom handrail made with steel cables for the patio. The staff at TF Publishing wanted to plant the entire bio-swale themselves in order to give them a connection to the project and take pride in their new environmentally friendly landscape. On planting day, 12 people (and one dog) from TF and two of us from GOG planted 1,200 plugs.

TF Publishing Indianapolis bio swale installation

Want to make your office or home more sustainable? We can do it with style! Contact us for information about how we can design, build, and maintain "green" landscapes, and see our portfolio for more ideas.


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