Deciding landscape design can be pretty frustrating. A lot of landscaping requires a lot of upkeep, and it can be difficult to maintain. While you can review landscaping design tips for maximizing your yard space, or how to prep your yard for a garden, or even how to make your yard private, you may feel like everything requires too much time, which most of us don’t have much of! If this is the case, then you may want to consider installing a rain garden!
Rain gardens are shallow, vegetated depressions that are designed to absorb and filter runoff from hard/impervious structures like roofs, sidewalks, and driveways. Typically filled with colorful native plants are grasses, rain gardens help conserve water and protect water quality! Rain gardens keep water on land instead of on impervious structures. They capture stormwater and provide for natural infiltration into the soil, which helps maintain a constant flow of water into streams through groundwater. Rain gardens also help to filter out pollutants that water collects, such as fertilizers, pesticides, oils, heavy metals, and other chemicals. Additionally, rain gardens help lower the risk of flooding and erosion!
Creating a rain garden isn’t too difficult to do. Most of the work happens before the creation of the rain garden! Read on to learn how to create a rain garden!
Creating a Rain Garden:
1) Find the Right location
- Observe the flow of water from rooftops, driveways, or other hard surfaces and place the rain garden where this water collects (so it can do the most good)!
- Try to pick a spot that is in full to partial sunlight. Shady locations can work but aren’t optimal for flowering plants.
- Make sure that any overflow won’t get into your neighbor’s property or other structure!
2) Test the Soil
- When the soil is saturated, dig a hole 6” in diameter and no more than 12” deep in the area you’d like to put the rain garden.
- Time how long it takes the water to be absorbed into the ground.
- The water should absorb in less than 24 hours. If there is still water in the hole after 24 hours then the site is not suitable for a rain garden!
3) Calculate the Size and Shape of Your Garden
- Use a tape measure to estimate the size of the area where the most runoff accumulates. Measure the footprint of the area you are interested in.
- Once you have estimated the length and width, multiply the two measurements together to get the area of the impervious surface in square feet and divide by 6. This well tell you how large the rain garden must be to hold 1” of runoff in a rain garden that is 6” deep.
4) Rain Garden Construction
- Once you’re satisfied with the location, lay out the shape of your garden using string or tape.
- Start digging!
- Maintain a depth of 6” throughout the bottom of the rain garden.
- Slope the sides using a shovel.
- Level the top border of the basin and loosen the soil in the bottom of the rain garden to a depth of 3”. Cover it with compost so the soil is ready for planting.
5) Plant Selection and Installation
- Select plants that have a well-established root system! Deep-rooted plants absorb the most pollutants and help the soil hold more water.
- Trees and shrubs are encouraged except when their roots may clog the drain pipes.
- Water regularly until plants are well established.
- Weed as needed!
- Don’t fertilize.