If rainstorms create miniature rivers or shallow pools on your property, you might have a perfect spot for a rain garden. A rain garden is a patch of ground that catches storm runoff and prevents flooding.
Log in below for instructions on how to create a rain garden.
If you’re thinking about building a rain garden, do a “perc test” at the site first to make sure the water will drain properly. The test is simple — just dig a hole about 6 inches deep and 6 inches wide and fill it with water. If the water is all gone in two days, you’re good. If it takes longer for the water to soak in, you could have problems with mosquitoes breeding. If you have an area that is always wet, it might be classified as a wetland, which does not drain and therefore is not suitable for a rain garden.
Rain gardens have three zones: Wet zone – the deepest part that holds water most often and drains slowly. Middle zone – holds water sometimes but drains more quickly than the wet zone. Transition zone – outside edge of garden that only fills during very heavy rains and dries out the fastest.
Allow your rain garden to go through a rainstorm or two before planting so you can assess the drainage and choose the proper plants for each zone.
Step 1:SIZE. Although the pros calculate rain garden size using roof area, rainfall amount and soil drainage, here's an easy rule of thumb: For every 10 square feet of roof, you need 1 square foot of rain garden. If your roof is 1,000 square feet, you need a rain garden that is at least 100 square feet (10 feet by 10 feet).
Step 2: DESIGN. Based on the area you need, create a shape for your garden. Mark it with stakes and string or use a garden hose to make a curved outline. To prevent moisture in your basement, the closest edge of the garden should be no closer than 10 feet from your home’s foundation.
Step 3: DIG. Dig a shallow depression about 3 to 6 inches deep, turning the soil over and breaking it up. Depth depends on your soil type, with slower-draining soil needing a full 6 inches. Take soil from the center to build up the edges, creating a berm. If your area is flat, spread the dirt evenly around the edges. If you’re on a hillside, make a higher berm on the downslope side.
Step 4: PLANT. Decide if you want flowers, perennials or shrubs or a combination. Choose wet-loving plants for deeper, moister areas. Since most rain gardens are actually pretty dry between rainfalls, plants that like dry conditions but will tolerate temporary wetness are suitable, too.
Step 5: MULCH. Apply about 3 inches of mulch, enough to keep weeds from germinating. You might actually have to water your rain garden if it’s a dry summer, especially during the first season until the plants are established.