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A rain garden is a plant-filled low level area of land to which rain waters flow and are absorbed by the ground within 48 hours.
A rain garden is:
Rain gardens divert rainwater from directly entering a municipal stormwater system or from directly flowing across surfaces into streams and rivers and temporarily holds it and cleans it.
You may ask: so what? Is rain going into sewers and rivers bad?
Answer: Sometimes yes. Hard to believe, but it can be bad.
In urban, suburban, and built-up communities, developers and citizens never imagined how much land would be covered with concrete.
They also never imagined how many people would crowd into these living spaces.
Furthermore, our forebears could not imagine a number of things, such as:
But, now we are where we are.
Rain falling on these areas washes across dirty rooftops, driveways, patios, parking lots, roads, and other impervious surfaces picking up asphalt bits, motor oil and all sorts of filth. It rushes into storm drains and, from there, directly into streams and rivers, carrying pollutants picked up along the route. Another "baddy" is torrential rain rushing across fertilized farm fields directly into rivers, carrying fertilizer (bad for the waterway, as the Chesapeake Bay has found) or carrying good topsoil and sediment away from the fields (bad for the farm.)
Two things happen:
Again, two wonderful things happen:
Absolute first step is ....
In the United States, the phone number 811 connects you to a center which alerts all your local utilities to visit your property and spray paint (it washes away) the ground wherever their underground lines are.
You absolutely, positively do not want to interfere with underground electricity, communications cables, or natural gas lines. Otherwise, you will have (past tense) worked on your Eternal Rest Garden, instead of a rain garden.
In other countries, please do what is appropriate to learn where the safe, soil only spots are on your property.
Generally agreed guidelines:
18 to 30 inches.
Dig to a depth of 18 to 30 inches but don't have the perimeter drop off like the deep end of a swimming pool. The edges should gently slope up to the natural ground level.
Either way works if the location requirements are met. There are a few people with a strong preference for having pipes bringing roof drainage from a downspout to the garden. However, this is a matter for each homeowner to decide. The layout of the land, walkways, and structures will weigh on what is practical and aesthetically pleasing.
See the diagrams below for both designs.
You are encouraged to use native plants that can handle wetness and drought. This certainly reduces the amount of care and maintenance you'll have later. In addition, native plants give food and habitat to your native bugs, butterflies, birds, and critters.
Also, you should use potted plants or bare-root plants, not seeds. Seeds could wash away before getting established as plants.
Follow garden design principles. Putting taller plants and grasses in the center of the garden and encircle with smaller and shorter plants so that you can see and enjoy every plant.
Some designers feel that you should not put a tree or bush in a rain garden. This is so flexible, depending on your region, the overall area of the garden, and more. Please consult local experts when you are seriously selecting your rain garden plants.
It is amazing what differences exist around the world in expectations for water absorption and what plants will succeed. As you explore creating your own rain garden, you will find many resources online and perhaps in your government.
In the United States, you can consult land grant colleges, agricultural extension services, and county, state, and federal conservation departments, to name a few. In other areas, finding government entities and charities which support water conservation may be your best bet.
By putting a rain garden on your land, you have:
(All these benefits are from a publication of the USDA, Natural Resources Conservation Service, Caribbean Area.)
© 2019 Maren Elizabeth Morgan