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.
- They provide a natural filter which helps to reduce the amount of pollutants that leach into our streams, rivers, lakes, etc.
- 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.
- They increase the amount of water that is absorbed into the ground. This is essential to refilling water supplies ( local and regional aquifers).
- Reduces the pollutants that come from streets, highways, paved roof tops, non-organically groomed lawns, pesticides, etc.
- Improve the community’s appearance.
- 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?
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Your finished rain garden should appear to be saucer shaped, not like a bowl.
Tips for designing an attractive rain garden
- As with any new garden, scope out the area that you wish to plant your rain garden.
- Add your hardscape first. (statues, benches, decorative rocks, etc.)
- 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.
- When trying to figure out which plants will look the best, consider the texture, color, scent and height of the plants you choose.
- 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.