A rain garden resembles a regular garden, with one important difference: by specific design, rain gardens capture and soak up rain and storm water. This water can come not only from your roof, but from driveway and patio runoff as well.
Why Should I Bother?
Left to its own devices, storm water will run over parking lots, streets and lawns, picking up and carrying along all sorts of foreign material. When the storm water runoff reaches the streams and lakes, it will contain all the contaminants it has picked up along the way. Such things as pesticides, road salt, fertilizers, litter, grass clippings and pet waste then wind up in these bodies of water.
How Does a Rain Garden Fight Storm Water Pollution?
A rain garden, when properly designed, will capture as much as 30% of rain and storm water. Instead of running off and picking up pollutants as it goes, this water will slowly soak into the ground, where it can recharge the water table.
Where Should I Locate My Rain Garden?
Site your rain garden near a gutter downspout, or any place where you need to capture water that would normally run away. Try to choose a site that is level, or as close to it as possible, and ensure that it has good drainage. Locate your rain garden at least ten feet away from the house, in sun or partial shade, and don’t place it over a septic system!
How Should I Dig a Rain Garden?
Most importantly, dig the garden perfectly level. If the site slopes even a little, build a berm at the lower side to catch and hold the rain water. Make sure to include an overflow outlet to route any excess rainfall to a desired location, and an inlet device as well to direct the water from the downspout into the rain garden itself.
What Kind of Plants are Best Suited to a Rain Garden?
The plants best suited to a rain garden will tolerate dry as well as moist conditions, and the ones you choose must also do well in the amount of sunlight your garden area receives. Aside from that, no restrictions apply. Select whatever plants you like.
Why Rain Gardens Make Good Ecological Sense
Aside from its inherent beauty, a well-designed rain garden will benefit the planet ecologically. A rain garden, by redirecting rain water back into the ground, contributes to cleaner water in our lakes and streams, and aids in groundwater recharge. A rain garden will also beautify your house, property and neighborhood.
The Cornell Cooperative Extension recommends rain gardens as a stellar method of storm water management. Why not design one into your own landscaping plan?
Source: “An Introduction to Rain Gardens,” Cornell Cooperative Extension