Rain gardens can be created in a variety of places, a variety of sizes and can be home to a variety of plants. The common denominator that differentiates a rain garden from other gardens is that they are designed to be environmentally friendly gardens that water themselves with run off rainwater. A rain garden is a garden planted in a depression and designed to absorb rainwater runoff from roofs, driveways, walkways and higher landscaped lawn areas. Rain gardens are eco-friendly on many levels. Rain gardens redirect the rain runoff by absorbing storm water into the ground and reducing the run off into storm drains and surface waters. By redirecting and absorbing the run off, rain gardens help to reduce erosion, water pollution, and flooding. Rain gardens are truly green gardens as they can cut down 30% of pollution that would eventually reach creeks, streams, and reservoirs, which are, in turn, drinking water sources.
Why are rain gardens important?
Continued suburban sprawl replaces forests and depletes agricultural land. As paved impervious surfaces like streets and parking lots increase, storm water run off becomes an increasing environmental problem. Every rain garden can make a difference, and collectively, rain gardens can make a large and positive impact on our environment. A rain garden increases the water that is filtered through the ground, which is the most ideal method of water filtration. Rain gardens also protect communities from flooding and drainage problems. They protect streams and lakes, and your families, by reducing the harmful fertilizers, pesticides, oil and other fluids, that end up in recreational waterways. Not to mention that eco-friendly rain gardens provide valuable habitats for birds, butterflies, and beneficial insects, and add beauty to our neighborhoods.
Green rain garden are easy to create.
Look around during and after rain. Where is the water going? Often, downspouts can be adjusted to flow into existing gardens with mature water tolerant plants. Rain gardens can be planted near the house, but at least 10 feet away, to catch and recycle water from roofs. Rain gardens can also be created in lawns to absorb lawn run off. A simple test can tell you if the soil in the area is compatible for a rain garden. Dig a hole about 6 inches deep and fill the hole with water. If the water takes more than 24 hours to soak in, the soil is not suitable for a rain garden. Ideally wet soil should be more gritty than smooth when kneaded into a ball in your hand. If your soil is not ideal, you’ll need to bring in topsoil or cut and fill.
What should be planted in a rain garden? Green rain gardens can include wildflowers, sedges, rushes, ferns, shrubs or small trees. It is important to research and locate plants that are native to your area. Native plants will be tolerant of your locate climate and won’t need fertilizers. Plants in a rain garden will need to be able to handle the varying amounts of rainfall as well as dry periods in-between, which again makes native plants ideal. Small trees that won’t over shade a rain garden can create ideal conditions for the plants in the garden to absorb and filter water.
Rain Garden Don’ts:
- Don’t create rain gardens directly over septic systems.
- Don’t plant a rain garden closer than 10 feet to the house. (This will prevent water filtering to the foundation.
- Don’t create rain gardens in areas where the water already pools into a pond, in a lawn. The idea is to create filtration and this pool has already shown itself to you to be an area where water filtering happens slowly.
- Don’t plant trees near power lines or side walks or other surfaces that may be up heaved by root growth.
Common Questions about Rain Gardens:
Will a rain garden create a pond? No. While some people intentionally design a rain garden with a permanent pond, a rain garden will not create a pond. The root systems of plants create an ideal drainage system.
Will a rain garden breed mosquitoes? No. Mosquitoes have a 7-10 cycle for laying and hatching eggs. They need long term standing water for success. Rain gardens will generally absorb water within hours or at most 24 hours. Eco-friendly rain gardens will also attract dragonflies. If you can attract dragonflies, that’s good news, because dragonflies eat mosquitoes.
Just imagine if your family, and your neighborhood, could help to reduce the pollution that ends up in local streams? Some communities that have gotten active about promoting rain gardens have reduced pollution by up to 30%! A rain garden is an easy way for families to go green, improve water quality and beautify their environments at the same time.