There are many ways you can reduce water pollution, but Rain Gardens are one of the most beautiful. A Rain Garden is a bowl-shaped depression in your yard that can capture rainwater from your roof, sidewalks, and driveways. These gardens allow rainwater to soak into the soil instead of polluting local watersheds as stormwater runoff. Plus, Rain Gardens are planted with native plants, which makes them attractive and low-maintenance.
Rain Gardens are relatively easy for the home gardener, if you follow a few rules:
- First you need to find a suitable location for your Rain Garden. The best place to start is an area of your yard that water already flows to. This can be a depression in the ground or a spot at the bottom of a slope or near a rain gutter. You can usually identify a suitable area by examining your yard during a rain storm to see how water flows off it.
- Make sure to locate your Rain Garden at least 10 feet away from your house foundation to prevent basement flooding and structural problems. DO NOT locate directly over a septic system or underground utility lines!
- Plot out your Rain Garden plan on paper before you start digging. The best Rain Gardens are typically curved and slightly irregularly shaped. The longest side should be perpendicular to the slope.
- Decide how deep to dig your garden – the ideal depth depends on the slope of the garden area. A flat area or one with a very gentle slope can be as little as 3-5″ deep, while 6-7″ works best for a 5-7% slope, and 8-10″ works best for an 8-12% slope. Add another inch or two if you plan to incorporate compost into the rain garden soil.
- Dig out the garden area, keeping the bottom as level as possible so that runoff water will spread evenly in the garden. Add some compost to make it easier for new plants to develop strong roots.
- Mound up soil around the garden to build a berm to hold the water in. A Rain Garden won’t work if water just flows out of it. An effective berm should be high enough so that it is level around the entire perimeter of the rain garden.
- Plant an assortment of native perennials in the garden – native plants generally require the least care to thrive and also tend to develop strong root systems. The plants in the Rain Garden itself should thrive in moist soil and be tolerant of influxes of large quantities of water. A wide variety of plants, native grasses and sedges will require less maintenance. Shrubs generally have excellent root systems that will soak up water and prevent erosion, and in larger rain gardens, you can even plant some varieties of water-loving trees – willows love water.
- Add a 2 inch layer of compost or mulch to help keep weeds under control. Adding a ground cover like sedum will also help control weeds.
- It is very important to keep the Rain Garden watered, especially in times of drought. After 3 to 4 years, when the plants become well established, you will have to provide less water.
There are several great websites with ideas for Rain Gardens:
- The Learning Store
- Gardener’s Supply
- Bluegrass Rain Garden Alliance
- Create A Rain Garden