Whether you’re looking to spruce up the appearance of your yard or just want to take steps toward creating a cleaner ecosystem, a rain garden is the perfect addition to your outdoor space. While creating both a well-balanced and successful rain garden requires planning, it can be done easily by considering the following:
Knowing the Purpose
At its core, a rain garden is designed to help rainwater drain from surfaces. Its added bonus? It simultaneously reduces the amount of pollutants that spill into storm drains. “This is of dire importance for maintaining not only the integrity of the storm sewer system itself, but also for improving water quality of the Mississippi River,” says Andrew Novak, the urban best management practices specialist for the Capitol Region Watershed District (CRWD) in Minnesota. While rain gardens serve an ecological purpose, they’re also a beautiful addition to any yard.
Look & Location of Your Garden
“The first thing we do when we’re providing technical assistance to people is figure out where water is coming from on the property,” Novak explains. Rain gardens are different from typical perennial gardens in that they’re bowl-shaped and designed to catch runoff; they use loose, deep soil (4-8 inches leveled off) to effectively absorb the water; and the size of the garden needs to coincide with the amount of water that would usually run off your property.
When it comes to looks, teardrop-, crescent-, and kidney-shaped gardens are all popular choices. The location of the garden is also an important point to consider, and must be strategic to effectively catch the water. Start at least 10 feet away from the foundation of your home, and from there, move it closer or farther depending on your rain garden’s purpose—Do you want to just catch water from the roof, or both the roof and lawn or driveway? But remember: “One thing that I really like to stress is that they can be designed in any way to fit any landscape aesthetic,” Novak says.
Flowers & Plants to Include
Beautify the rain garden with flowers and plants that propel your rain garden’s purpose. There are flowers that can add a mix of color to your garden, and plants, often native with long roots, that support the water absorption process. Some species can handle a pool of water at the center of the garden (like blue lobelia, turtlehead, and maidenhair fern), while others need a drier area (like coral bells, wild geranium, and calico aster), which can be situated on the outer rim of the garden. You can get any or all of these at a local farmers market, pop-up markets, or floral and garden shops. For more information on rain gardens and plants to include, please visit CRWD’s website.