Rain gardens are designed to collect stormwater runoff from impervious surfaces such as roofs, streets, driveways, patios, parking lots, or wetlands. The runoff is then slowly seeped back into the ground, preventing it from reaching local waterways. Rain gardens are planted with hardy plants that thrive during short periods of flooding and drought, providing attractive habitats for pollinators and other wildlife.
Regardless of whether you are buying a house in a rainy city New Orleans, Louisianaor considering moving to West Palm Beach, Florida, with 63 inches of annual rainfall, this could be the perfect home improvement project. Installing a rain garden can be a daunting task—expect to sweat—but it’s all worth it because of the many environmental benefits that rain gardens provide. In this article, you’ll learn all about rain gardens, including their purpose and benefits, how they work, and expert advice on creating your own. Let’s get started.
Why is rainwater runoff a problem?
Rainwater runoff can carry pollutants from the ground into water bodies where they can cause water quality problems. Drainage can also cause flood and erosion.
How does a rain garden work?
A rain garden is a garden that is planted in such a way that rainwater flows through it and soaks into the ground. There are many ways to catch rain for a rain garden, but one of the easiest is to use a rain barrel. A rain barrel is a container placed under the downspout to collect rainwater from the roof and other runoff and direct it into the garden. A rain garden not only recycles and conserves water, but it can also help reduce water bills and protect the environment.
“A rain garden is a water-conserving and tangible landscape element that simplifies gardening and creates a unique aesthetic,” says Ecoscapes of Colorado. “Although they can be designed in many different ways, the basic concept is to collect or divert rainwater from the house to the food growing area. Many homeowners choose to extend their gutters with simple drainage pipes that empty free and fresh rain into the growing area, often a lightly dug and shaped garden area, allowing your vegetables and other plants to thrive without the need for heavy irrigation or hand watering.”
How is a rainwater garden different from a regular one?
A rain garden is designed to absorb and filter rainwater, whereas a regular garden is not. Rain gardens allow 30% more water to percolate into the ground than a traditional lawn, making them a great option for those looking to reduce runoff and improve water conservation. Although rain gardens usually appear dry most of the time, they retain water during and after rain.
What are the benefits of rain gardens?
Rain gardens are beneficial because they help reduce runoff and prevents flooding. Some other benefits of rain gardens include groundwater recharge, improved water quality, and providing habitat for wildlife. Let’s dive into some of these benefits along with information from rain garden experts.
Reduces water pollution and allows groundwater to recover
Meadowview Farm and Garden in Natural Habitat adds, “Rain gardens help slow the flow of water from the yard during and after storms, reducing water pollution and allowing groundwater to recharge.” Groundwater recharge is the infiltration of water from the surface into underground aquifers. It occurs in nature and as a result of anthropogenic processes and is important for the water cycle.
“With the increasing unpredictability of extreme weather events, rain gardens can mitigate urban flooding by keeping water in place,” Prairie Garden Designers say. Monarch Gardens. “Rain gardens can also serve as important habitat for pollinators and birds, especially if they feature plants native to the local zip code. At each level of the rain garden, the lower part is designed for moisture-loving plants, and the upper part is for drought resistant plants. A variety of ecosystem services are performed, which include soil healing, carbon sequestration, air purification and runoff absorption, while providing wildlife habitat; this is especially true when the rain garden is planted densely, with plants spaced 12 inches apart.”
Rain gardens return the natural flow of water to the landscape
“The point of a rain garden is to try to bring natural life-sustaining processes back into the home landscape,” says EcoLandscapes Design. “Instead of pushing water down a pipe where it flows into a combined sewer that discharges dirty water and sometimes sewage into our local streams and rivers, a rain garden is an attempt to return to the natural way water flows through the landscape – filtration through the soil, where it can help plants thrive as well as sequester pollutants. Like rain gardens, rainwater harvesting is another way to use rainwater naturally, and both when combined with native plantings can bring life and beauty to the home.”
This landscaping method creates an oasis for wildlife
Green Stormwater Landscape Infrastructure Company and Native Plant Nursery Ecosystem Regeneration Artists says that “rain garden landscaping techniques focus on slowing down water, spreading it out and sinking it into the soil, creating an ideal oasis for native plants and wildlife to grow.”
How to install your rain garden
Once you’ve decided that a rain garden is right for your home, you’ll need to know how to install it. Here are some expert tips to consider before installing a rain garden.
First, it is very important to know what kind of soil you are working with
A leader in strategic water planning and green infrastructure design The mouth is ecological recommends a water absorption test to help you determine if a rain garden works for your area. They say, “Test the infiltration rate of your soil by digging a hole (minimum 12”), filling it with water, and timing how long it takes for it to drain. If it takes more than 60 minutes for a 1 inch drop, a rain garden will not work for your property as it indicates poor soil drainage – opt for a rainwater catchment tank instead.”
Roth Ecological continues, “If the soil sinks between 30-60 minutes/inch, mix sand into the soil to increase water storage capacity. If it’s less, adding compost and biochar can help with conservation. Use native plants adapted to the local climate that can withstand both wet and dry periods to reduce maintenance. For help choosing the size and location of your rain garden and tracking your stormwater collection, check to see if your city uses the Follow the Drop app.”
Location, formation and size of your rain garden
The area of a rain garden should be approximately 20% of the size of the roof, patio or sidewalk that drains into it. The average rain garden for a residential home or small building is between 100 and 400 square feet. However, regardless of size, every rain garden can have a significant impact on the environment.
Rain gardens can have different shapes, but are usually designed long, narrow and perpendicular to the slope of the land. They should be located at least 10 feet from the foundation of the building and should not be located where water has been present for a long time.
Award-winning author and distinguished gardener Gardening Charlotte shares placement tips: “Place your rain garden at the lowest point on your property and away from the house—the idea is to direct water away from the foundation. You’re not building a tiny pond – you’re building a basin to hold rainwater so it can soak into the soil rather than run off. Rain garden plants have very long roots which help to hold onto the soil so the rain water does not move it.’
Permaculture garden designer and consultant EWSP consultation shares, “Rain gardens are often created in a kidney shape or in a wavy, circular, organic shape – but that’s just one option. Provided you correctly locate and size a rain garden for your particular lot, you can get creative with its shape and appearance. A natural look with soft curves is often attractive. But you can also have an angular design for a modern look – or a long, slender rain garden. Therefore, rain gardens are suitable for any aesthetic of your garden. But regardless of size and shape, choosing the right plants and choosing native plants is key.”
Collecting rainwater for your garden
“A rain garden may seem unnecessary, but incorporating storm management into your landscape can help utilize this valuable resource by providing beauty and contrast in a low-water landscape,” shares the garden design team. Avant Garden Design.
They continue: “The first step should always be a rain barrel collection system that allows this water to be used in the garden, but an overflow system is necessary and should be diverted away from the house with features such as stone-lined stream beds and catch basins that hold rainwater and allow it to penetrate into the ground. Consider planting deep-rooted native species to soften these features and make good use of this accidental richness.”
The best plants for a rain garden and how to care for them
It is best to use native plants in your rain garden. Local plants do not need pesticides and fertilizers. You may need to water them occasionally during the first and second year or during periods of low rainfall. Likewise, you will need to remove weeds and dead plants and replace them as needed. But once the plants in the rain garden take root and grow, they will outcompete the weeds.
When placing plants in a rain garden, plants along the edge should be able to tolerate dry conditions. There should be plants along the slope that can grow in both dry and wet conditions. In the deepest part of the rain garden, known as the base, place plants that can tolerate wet soil for a long time.
Final Thoughts: Why You Should Add a Rain Garden to Your Yard
Having a rain garden in your landscape has many benefits. Rain gardens can not only be attractive and contribute to your relaxation the appeal of the house, but they can also help reduce storm runoff, minimize flooding, and improve water quality. Rain gardens also play a large role in protecting our waterways from non-point pollutants in wastewater. As more and more green spaces become overdeveloped, rain gardens will be vital in the future.
FAQ about rain gardens
How much does a rain garden cost?
The cost of a rain garden will vary depending on the size and location of the garden, the type of plants used, and the amount of labor required to build it. However, the approximate cost of a small rain garden can be around $200-$500.
Is a rain garden a pond?
No, a rain garden is not the same as a pond. A rain garden is a shallow depression in the ground planted with native vegetation designed to collect and absorb rainwater.
A pond, on the other hand, is a larger body of water that is often man-made and can be used for a variety of purposes, such as irrigation, recreation, and wildlife habitat.
Does a rain garden attract mosquitoes?
No, a rain garden will not attract mosquitoes. Rain gardens can help reduce mosquito populations in an area by providing habitat for predators such as dragonflies and frogs.