Constructing A Rain Garden

A rain garden is a planted depression that allows rainwater runoff to slow down from hard surfaces, such as driveways, roofs, and sidewalks. They also hold the water for a short period of time and allows it to naturally be absorbed into the ground. The purpose of a rain garden is to improve water quality. A rain garden can be thought of as a personal water quality system because it filters the runoff from your roof and lawn and recharges the groundwater. Rain gardens can cut down on the amount of pollution reaching creeks and streams by up to 30%. A rain garden also conserves water resources by reducing the need for irrigation.

Find out where the lines for water, sewer, electricity, natural gas, telephone, cable, and storm sewers are buried. You will need to stay at least two feet from them. Define the perimeter of your garden. The shape is up to you, but a good rule of thumb is to make the length about twice the width, the most commonly used shape is that of a kidney. The wider side should face uphill so it can catch as much of the run off as possible. If necessary, you should replace, repair, or move your gutters and downspouts to make sure that water will reach your garden. Start digging at the uphill side until you have reached the depth you need. If working on a slope, soil removed from the uphill side of the garden may be added to the downhill side to create a berm. Give the berm sloping sides and compact the dirt so it will not get worn down. Once you have prepared the hole, make sure it is even. A level string across the entire garden site works well as a benchmark. The bottom (deepest portion) should be level in all directions. This will increase the total area in which water will drain into the soil. Once the garden is dug to the proper depth and leveled, begin to loosen the soil to prepare for planting. Adding sand and compost to the soil will increase how absorbent it is and improve drainage. Finally you are ready to start planting. Make sure to plant from the center out so that you do not compact the soil you just spent all that time loosening.

Native plants are recommended for rain gardens because they usually do not require fertilizer and are tolerant of the local climate, soil, and water conditions. The plants should be a selection of wetland edge vegetation, such as wildflowers, rushes, ferns, shrubs and take up any excess water that may flow into the garden. Water filters through the soil layers before entering the groundwater system. Roots enhance this process by maintaining or even increasing the soils ability to absorb the water, redistributing the water, and sustain microscopic organisms that play a role in bio filtration. Also, through the process of transpiration, rain garden plants help return water vapor into the atmosphere.

Your whole garden can become a rain garden, and each part of the whole can become a smaller rain garden in itself.

Related: Creating A Dragonfly Habitat


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05.08.13  12:00PM    KAREN B

Categories: backyard habitat,gardening

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