Rain, Rain, don’t go away! (How to Start a Rain Garden.)

Most people find the collection of rain water to be bothersome and inconvenient. Why not take advantage of this surplus water and do something constructive? No, you are not going to create a pond in your front lawn or get West Nile virus from making a rain garden.

Actually, this is the latest trend for many homeowners all over the USA. City slickers too! People are utilizing this excess water and making something that is beautiful. The impact on the environment is priceless!

If that isn’t a good enough reason to start one, perhaps this tidbit will. As cities and suburbs expand, natural forests and agricultural land will decrease. Thus, there will be an increase in the storm water runoff created by impervious surfaces resulting in a huge problem. Storm water runoff from developed areas increases flooding and carries a myriad of pollutants. These pollutants can come from highways, streets, parking lots and even other lawns and will flow right into the local water sources (ie: streams and lakes). Unfortunately, this will lead to costly municipal improvements in storm water treatment structures.

Positive impact of Rain Gardens.
Rain gardens help reduce storm water runoff and are key to creating a positive resolve. If you think that even a small garden isn’t a really big deal, think again. It does add up. When you look at the impact of multiple rain gardens in one small geographical area, the amount of pollution will significantly reduce.



In this image, the rain garden was placed next to the deck but away from the foundation giving an overall cottage house affect.

Benefits of creating a Rain Garden: Rain Gardens are beneficial in many ways.

  1. They provide a natural filter which helps to reduce the amount of pollutants that leach into our streams, rivers, lakes, etc.
  2. Reduces the amount of flooding and helps with drainage issues. This is critical in areas that are close to sea level. On Long Island, basement flooding is a major issue, especially since we are so close to the ocean. Anyone who has had to gut their basement can tell you how costly the renovation can be.
  3. They increase the amount of water that is absorbed into the ground. This is essential to refilling water supplies ( local and regional aquifers).
  4. Reduces the pollutants that come from streets, highways, paved roof tops, non-organically groomed lawns, pesticides, etc.
  5. Improve the community’s appearance.
  6. Provide a valuable habitat for birds, butterflies, beneficial insects and other small creatures that are indigenous to the area. Native flowers, grasses, sedges, bushes, trees and shrubs which make up the rain garden will surely attract the butterflies, frogs, turtles, toads, and birds. These creatures depend on these plants for food and shelter.

Test Your Soil
This should be standard before ANY gardening or landscape project. You can call your local Cooperative Extension to find out the cost and requirements for soil testing. Soil kits are also available at local hardware and garden shops. They cost about $20 a kit.

The only way you are going to know what kind of soil you have is by having it tested. Unless you are trained, novices can do more damage to soil by ”guestimating”’ what is best. Avoid costly mistakes by getting a simple soil test done.

What size should my Rain Garden be?

  1. With any project, make sure that you want to devote time to the care of this garden. However, even if you make a small garden, every bit helps! It will take approximately two years for your rain garden to become established. After that period, the maintenance should be minimal.
  2. Evaluate the area you wish to plant your rain garden. Consider where it the water will overflow during the heaviest rainfall. It should empty away from the house, not toward it. Do not plant the garden right next to your foundation! Make sure the area you select is atleast 10 feet downhill from the waterspout. If your rain garden is too close, it can actually exacerbate any existing flooding conditions or even create one where none existed prior.
  3. Estimate the size of your garden according to the size of your roof. It should be approximately one third of the square footage of your roof. In other words, if the roof where the water is coming from is 90 square feet, 30 square feet is what you will be working with. The general rule for rain garden size is 150 to 300 square feet.
  4. Your finished rain garden should appear to be saucer shaped, not like a bowl.

Tips for designing an attractive rain garden

This homeowner busy working on her new raingarden design!

This homeowner busy working on her new raingarden design!

  1. As with any new garden, scope out the area that you wish to plant your rain garden.
  2. Add your hardscape first. (statues, benches, decorative rocks, etc.)
  3. Select an assortment of perennials as well as annuals, to keep things fresh looking. It is always better to use plants that are indigenous to the area but it is up to you and how much you wish to spend.
  4. When trying to figure out which plants will look the best, consider the texture, color, scent and height of the plants you choose.
  5. Also consider how long and how often the plants will bloom. If you select flowers that will bloom simultaneously, you will have a colorful garden year round.

68 thoughts on “Rain, Rain, don’t go away! (How to Start a Rain Garden.)

  1. A great tip to help the environment and improve the aesthetics of your landscape. There are lots of natural ways to make the most out of excess. It’s always good and healthy to get outside and work with your hands. Thanks for sharing.

  2. What a great idea! I love the notion of utilizing what would ordinarily be considered waste, as in wasted water. I’ve read that water will someday become our most precious resource. Considering how vital it is to our lives, its certainly wise to begin finding ways to preserve and cherish the water we have. Great post!

  3. Though I don’t live in the city, I see the use of water gardens as a great idea for the cities that have so much pavement, cement and stone building!!!

    I have been working on one myself for an herb garden next to my back porch… I use the run off water from my house roof to water this garden, where two sections of my roof meet in what is called a “Roof Valley. The water runoff of the roof into the gutter, where I have it come down to the garden that is about 4’ x 5’ and I have it 2 feet deep of soil, using Pro soil from Agway, using a raised garden concept… I have Chives and Basil growing in this garden, which I use fresh clippings from in things I cook on my barbeque grill or in my kitchen…

    I also use this area to spread the used coffee grounds I have from daily mugs of espresso and java I drink, which makes for excellent organic compost that offers slow-release nitrogen to the plants…
    Great article!!!

  4. Most major cities are beginning to encourage rooftop gardens for this reason. It helps utilize rainwater that would otherwise flood the streets. Way to go, Charles!

  5. This is the kind of topics that i can test smell & touch ! water , soil , plants , that natural combination that our almighty god gave us as a gift to enjoy its beauty ! we should care of it & it does not request a lot of spending at all , but a little care & admiration .
    Rain water is the purest water on earth , we should try to ovoid as much as possible to lose this precious source , by creating little gardens as you mentioned JUNE not only around the houses but along streets to plant if i can say a strep of trees , each tree must have a space of at list one meter & half surrounding it , see how many meters can be an important water collector .
    the issue is vast to talk about & give some ideas , you did very well June to covert a big part of it , thanks a lot :)

  6. been following your blog for 3 days now and i should say i am starting to like your post. and now how do i subscribe to your blog?

  7. Great article! If the idea grows (scuse the pun), then in those heavily water-concentrated area, it could start to have a profound impact on the local environment. That’s pretty cool though, all it takes is beautifying your yard/lawn. Not to mention, it’s a great way to increase your property value!

  8. Water gardens … makes me think of the “hanging gardens of Babylon”

    They were considered the second oldest world wonder. It is still not sure how they were built but there have been some archeological theories that describe them and it’s quite advanced thinking

    Here is a youtube clip and I hope you enjoy the music, which I just really love (Lorena McKennitt)


    I think a concrete city would definitely become a nicer world if architects would integrate greener structures and it would offer a different living sphere and energy to the people that live in cities.

  9. Hello,I thought this was an interesting concept. Perhaps in the USA we can learn from other civilizations that have water shortages. I think there is so much to learn.

    Great way to recycle water! Thanks!

  10. I Just would like to say howdy and to let you know that I really like reading your blog, it is very well written and articulate. Keep up the good work!

  11. Hey, I searched for this blog on Bing and just wanted to say thanks for the excellent read. I would have to agree with it, thank you again!

  12. I live in the city. I am going to see if my landlord will help set up rooftop containers to collect the water. We have been trying to start a garden up there as well. Great info! thanks!

  13. I found your website via search engine a few moments ago, and what a great wealth of information! Looking forward to the show!

  14. What can I use in an aerogarden to replace the nutrient tablets?I’ve the master gardeners kit, but have now run out of nutrient tablets. Can anyone suggest what to use (baby bio, miracle gro and so on) which will enable the plants to thrive and not harm the pumps with the aerogarden.

    • I have never used tablets but I will find out. Normally, I use compost to replenish the nutrients. Do you have your own compost pile or a worm bin?

      I will get back to you about the tablets. It is not something I use but I will find out what other Master Gardeners use.

  15. I found your site via google. Thanks for the post. I will save it for future reference.

    I have been using old 5 gallon pails to collect water and what I use is old screen from screen windows to filter out the bugs.

  16. I use old pickle pails that I get from fast food restaurants. They only throw them away anyway. I add screen to it and collect my water. I use it to wash my car too!

  17. Good create up…ordinarily I certainly not response to these points but this time I am going to, Offers With thanks for the essential entropy.

  18. Well, really happy to read this article, I have bookmarked your website and will turn back to read your new articles.

  19. Thank you thank you thank you .. good information and yes it does work and YES it is a great idea and well worth it to take the time and recycle your rain water :) I’ve been doing it for years after the 1st year with a flooded basement and feel it is an excellent way to deal with flooding!

  20. I was just talking with my friend about this yesterday at lunch . Don’t know how in the world we landed on the subject actually , they brought it up. I have used old pantyhose to keep the insects out of my rain barrels. It works great and is a great way to recycle something that would be landfill otherwise!

  21. You made some beneficial points there. I have seen how they recycle water in warm climates. We need to adapt to some more of these primitive methods of recycling. They STILL work!

  22. An associate of mine told me to check out your blog. This is precisely the kind of details I was digging for. I wish I have come across your website earlier. I have been dealing with run off water from the highway. I live in a rural area. This is a GREAT idea! Thanks

  23. Since we are talking about recycling rain, you can grow beautiful plants and then easily opt for custom patio canopies and make the way you want. Even if the weather is not suitable you can still enjoy lunch, dinner or simple evening nibbles with your friends and family there. Make lemonade out of lemons!

  24. Hello! I see that many people commented already on this article and so many. Your show is really taking off. Just wanted to tell you that I enjoyed it too. Great post!

  25. I found that you can also use the water from runoff to be used for a fountain. You just have to dig an in-ground tube to lead to a reserve. Then you just add a pump. I did it at a house in the country that was on a big hill. Worked out well and recycled water!

  26. Great post! I started following your blog about a month ago and I like your honesty. Good examples in your articles. I especially found this one interesting because I have so many issues with rain water runoff! Thank you again!

  27. Incredible post! Recyle rain water! How to Start a Rain Garden. | The Organic View Radio Show honestly makes my life a little bit brighter 😀 Continue on with the amazing posts! Special regards, Simply

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