Prevent flooding with a guide on how to build a rain garden.
Contrary to popular belief, rain gardens do not only thrive in the presence of rain. Rain gardens thrive in a wide variety of moisture conditions, from flooded land to barren soil.
A rain garden is a feature “used to slow, collect, infiltrate, and filter stormwater,” according to the Soil Science Society of America.
Rain gardens can improve your environment, both functionally and aesthetically. Learn how to create your rain garden with our complete guide.
What Is a Rain Garden?
Simply put, a rain garden is a planting that you install in a low spot in your yard. This area may either be a natural depression on your lot or an area that you dug out yourself.
You may choose to direct your downspouts into a rain garden, where plants will absorb and filter the water.
You may think that water-hungry plants are ideal for rain gardens. In truth, you’ll want native plants rather than water-hungry plants. Native plants thrive in a wide range of moisture conditions.
Benefits of Rain Gardens
1. Rain gardens prevent pollution.
Runoff water isn’t pure rainwater. As runoff water flows, it collects pollutants such as excess phosphorous and nitrogen from lawn fertilizers. These pollutants are harmful to ponds and rivers and marine life in these bodies of water. The native plants’ deep roots absorb nutrients, thus protecting groundwater quality.
2. Rain gardens protect your house from floods.
Rain garden plants can absorb excess water that might have accumulated in the form of a puddle in your yard. These puddles may cause water intrusion issues on your property. When you get rid of stagnant water, you also reduce mosquito-related problems in your home.
3. Rain gardens create habitats for wildlife.
Lawns typically do not do much to nurture wildlife. Simply adding in a mixture of native flowers in your rain garden will attract bees, butterflies, and birds.
4. Rain gardens help conserve water.
The native plants you’ll be using in your rain garden don’t need supplemental irrigation. These plants are deep-rooted and can survive periods of drought between rains.
The Right Size, Site, and Shape for Your Rain Garden
You’ll want to install your rain garden relatively close to your home if you’re planning to lead your roof gutters into your rain garden. However, you should place the rain garden no closer than ten feet away from your house.
You’ll also want to consider any underground utilities and tree roots when deciding where to place your rain garden.
If your property doesn’t have a natural depression, you’ll need to make one. Now, you won’t need to dig a bottomless pit. A shallow basin of no more than five inches deep should suffice. Ideally, the basin should have a flat bottom and gently sloping sides.
Ideally, your rain garden should be at least 150 square feet large. A more extensive rain garden will allow you to plant a variety of plants that can aid in processing runoff water.
Be sure to choose a natural, rounded shape for your rain garden. Consider outlining the area with a hose or rope. Once you’ve confirmed the size, you can get to work.
Amend Your Soil as Needed
If you’re not sure what kind of soil you have in your yard, consider completing a soil test. If your analysis indicates that you have sandy soil, you’ll most likely have to add water-absorbing compost and topsoil to your rain garden site.
Confirm Before You Dig
It is imperative to locate underground utility lines if you’ll be doing any digging for your rain garden. It’s best to confirm and notify the relevant authorities that you’ll be doing some excavating.
If you dig and end up hitting a line or a pipe, you could wind up paying costs associated with utility repairs, first responder expenses, and fines for disrupting utility services.
If you find that utility lines conflict with your ideal rain garden location, simply shift the site. Moving your rain garden site can be challenging in smaller yards, but you can always adjust the size of your rain garden to accommodate this.
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