If you've ever been to wetland areas then you are familiar with the plants that grow there and the wildlife that frequents them, such as butterflies, dragonflies, frogs, hummingbirds, turtles and a whole host of song and marsh birds. Your garden may be too small to lure in Great Blue Herons, but butterflies, hummingbirds, dragonflies, frogs and turtles are a delight to people of all ages.
Rain gardens are comprised of a variety of vegetation found growing wild in the area, rather than exotic species, like roses, marigolds, pansies and others. Rain gardens are usually wildflowers, but some may choose to add grasses, sedges, ferns, bushes or trees. The plants in a rain garden are chosen for their ability to uptake and store water and to withstand drought. They are also extremely good at cleaning water of the nutrients and poisons that fill our lawns and gardens.
A rain garden captures the run-off from major storms and stops it from flooding our already strained storm drains and sewage systems.
So, why not add a rain garden to your area today, the beauty it will bring and the purpose it obtains will amaze you! So much of our diverse marine and fresh water species as well as those on land depend on clean waters to thrive. Our native soils from mountains, forest and other areas store, filter and release cool, clean water to streams, wetlands and more. As cities grow, they encroach upon and change much of our natural settings; wild areas are replaced by urban growth, building and hard surfaces. During periods of rain or snow, more water flows from these man-made surfaces than our natural areas and with that, it carries oil, fertilizers, pesticides, unwanted sediments and other types of pollutants downstream. As a matter of fact, much of the pollution we find today in wetlands, streams and rivers comes from storm water run-off from developed areas. This increased volume of water containing contaminants is extremely detrimental to water resources and is harming all types of wildlife, including aquatic. So while there are many practices and solutions on the table one great solution is a certain type of landscaping called a Rain Garden.
A rain garden acts like a native forest area collecting, absorbing and filtering storm-water runoff from your roof top, driveway, patio and other areas that don't let the water soak in. Rain Gardens are a shallow depression that can be shaped and sized to fit your landscape. It is constructed with soil mixes that allow water to soak up rapidly and support healthy plant life. There are a variety of plants you can use. It is an extremely versatile and effective tool in your yard. Rain Gardens are also low maintenance.
For the first two to three years, they need lots of water during the drier part of your season so that they establish healthy root systems. After that providing you selected the appropriate natives or plants, they need little to no watering unless you are having a severe drought. A great watering tip is to water deeply but infrequently meaning the top 1/2ft to 1ft is moist. If you need to know if you are applying enough water, just dig alongside one of the plants 12-18 inches an hour to 2 hours after watering to see if the soil is moist.
Mulching your rain garden should be done after germination of seed. If using plants, you can mulch away. Just a 2-3 inch layer of mulch is great. If using our Rain Garden Mix, be sure to wait for them to germinate and establish themselves. Most are perennials so you won't need to mulch the first year, but the second when they are 6-8 inches high. Mulch will keep the garden moist and sponge-like, ready to absorb the rain. You can also mulch along the sides and bottom of the rain garden. It also aids in making weeding your rain garden easier.
Don't worry if you don't get to the weeds right away, your rain garden will still function, weeds or not. Weeds are just unsightly and the sooner you get them out the better so that you keep your nice rain garden intact. You also don't want any weeds to go to seed, so get them out ensuring you get all the roots of them too!
Your rain garden should be dense with plants. Exposed soil and other erosion sediment flowing into the rain garden can clog the soil mix and slow the drainage. If too much water is flowing into your rain garden you will know by the erosion that occurs. Then you might need to reduce the slope angles that are carrying the runoff. Remember, rain gardens can be an integral part of your storm-water management and environmental approach. They don't require a lot of planning or much space and can be done in odd shapes. They also look nice! Anyone can build one!
Here's how: Building a rain garden is a very simple process; you might just get a little dirty and do some digging. First, choose your location. You'll need a space slightly inclined from your water run off (i.e. roof, spout, and drainage points of origin). Make sure it is at least ten feet from your home. Estimating the size of your rain garden is usually done by the type of soil. If you have standard, black dirt, then estimate 1/3 of the sq. ft. of your roof, but if you have sandy soil your garden may be smaller and if you have clay soil it'll need to be a bit larger, however, if you've chosen a low spot in your yard where water collects, size won't matter, just fill the depression.
Dig down 6-8 inches in the center of your garden and slope the sides to run water down into the center. Make sure to create a berm on the downhill side to capture the runoff before it gushes into the drains.
Simply fill the floor of the garden with the rain garden mix and any other grasses, shrubs etc. that you have chosen.
This is one garden that mulching will help stop weeds, hold moisture and spruce up your rain garden.
You may also consider digging a shallow channel from your downspout to your rain garden and lining it with river rock to help guide rain where you want it to go.
Voila, you're done!