RAIN GARDENING

RAIN GARDENING: THE COMPLETE GUIDE

❇️ INTRODUCTION

As rainwater advances to storm drains, lakes, rivers, and all-around watersheds, it gives a free ride to pollutants and sediments on its way. Contaminants such as pesticides and fertilizers destroy waterways and cause water to lose quality. Over the years, numerous legislations and municipals have been issued on how to manage stormwater to diminish these issues, including green infrastructure solutions such as setting up a rain garden. Rain gardens have gained a significant boost in popularity for the excellent benefits they provide a community with, such as filtration of runoff water, enhanced sedimentation control, and improving erosion. 

In this article, we will walk you through everything you need to know about a rain garden. 

❇️ WHAT IS A RAIN GARDEN?

Manually designed to collect and contain water from rain and melted snow, a Rain Garden is a landscaped feature of a kempt lawn. The water from your property’s roof or driveway infiltrates the ground. It allows you to detach your roof’s spout from the city stormwater system and take advantage of it for your lawn’s aesthetic. However, rain gardens cannot contain standing water as the water should be drained within the next 24-48 hours post heavy rainfall. Your rain garden may even stay dry for a longer time, making it crucial to select the right plants to ensure they survive various conditions in your garden. Rain gardens complement all styles of landscapes and can be molded according to one’s predilections. Whether large or small, extravagant or pocket-friendly, you can customize your rain garden according to your preferences. There are two practical approaches to rain gardening. Take a look at what defines and separates them from each other:

rain-garden

Under-drained: It is carefully designed to clean all stormwater biologically. It takes up only two hours to drain after a storm. It is attained by utilizing porous planting media and underdrains, which transfer the cleaned rainwater away from the lawn. It is best used when you have a high water table. It consists of a downspout system that allows water to drain itself from the garden after heavy rainfall.

Self-Contained: It infiltrates all stormwater and hence holds water for more extended periods in lower areas of a garden. It consists of selecting plants that can withstand wet conditions. As no drainage system is used in self-contained rain gardening, the planting medium needs to be porous in order to make drainage easier.

❇️ WHY DO YOU NEED A RAIN GARDEN?

There is an inverse relationship between rapid development and our environment’s ability to perform its natural processes. With the increased developmental activities, the environment’s ability to carry out its procedures decreases. Why? Because impervious surfaces now cover the natural landscape, which used to be able to absorb and cleanse stormwater. Impervious surfaces, such as driveways, rooftops, and roads, refer to all those that do not allow water to seep through them. More impervious surfaces lead to a significant increase in pollution entering waterways via storm sewer systems. Planting a rain garden will enable you to help maintain the natural water cycles and protect local lakes, fish, and drinking water sources. Moreover, rain gardening enhances the aesthetic appeal of one’s garden. They are as creative as they are functional.

WHY DO YOU NEED A RAIN GARDEN

Here are the top six reasons why you should invest in a rain garden:

To restrict the amount of water that seeps into the storm drain system,
To minimize the chances of potential drainage issues, flooding, and stream bank erosion,
To cut down the pollutants from yards and roads that travel into the waterways,
To restore groundwater mechanism,
To attract beneficial insects such as dragonflies, butterflies, and birds
To enhance the outlook of your garden and neighborhood

❇️ TIPS FOR INSTALLATION FROM THE PROFESSIONALS

Rain gardens are desirable for those who wish to manage stormwater effectively. It is purposefully designed to infiltrate and cleanse stormwater and can be a challenging process if you have zero prior experience in carrying out the task. We recommend you look for professional service providers to help you with the job as they have more competencies. However, if you wish to get it done yourself, we have a few tips that you may want to keep in mind. Let us show you the typical 5-step process of installing a rain garden.

rain garden place

💠 Find a Suitable Location for a Rain Garden

You need to figure out the area where you want your rain garden to be. Typically, you would need a place where the stormwater can enter quickly or be released into the space through pipes or swales. Remember to keep a 10 feet distance between your property and your rain garden in order to prevent water infiltration. Moreover, it is crucial to ensure that there are no underground utilities in that area as it will later cause trouble for the rain garden to be installed without hassle. You can start building a rain garden anytime during the year on a flat part of your lawn; however, spring would be ideal as it becomes simpler to dig, and plants will be happier. Ensure that your rain garden receives either partial or full sun and not under trees that offer shade from sunlight. Next, you need to dig a hole in the ground 2 feet deep. Fill it up with water and observe how long it takes for the water to disappear. You can also use a percolation rate calculator to determine the rate. If the rate is less than 0.1 inches per hour, you should look for a new location for your rain garden. 

💠 Design your Rain Garden

Designing your rain garden is an exciting task that requires attention to detail. Once you have determined the right size for your rain garden, observe the rate at which the water gets drained an inch. Ideally, a rain garden is between 4-8 inches deep. However, it varies from site to site, and the ‘ideal size’ depends upon the slope. Moreover, it is critical to prevent water from pooling at one end; therefore, a flat surface for your ideal site is recommended. It allows the water to seep into the ground instead of spilling over. Next, you need to select the appropriate plants that can survive and thrive during flooding and desiccation. Keep reading this article to get to the plant recommendations section further ahead.

💠 Start to Prepare your Chosen Location

Here are the ideal steps that you can follow to prepare for your chosen location:

Add a string to the area to mark an outline. It will allow you to see the site selected for your rain garden easily.
Take a sharp blade and start slicing off the grass from its roots. 
Dig and take out the existing soil to the ideal depth you need. This depth will contain your planting soil. 
Ensure a flat surface in the native soil to make water seeping easier.
If your rain garden is on a sloppy site, add the excavated soil into a berm on the low side to help retain water. Make it 6 inches higher than the water level.
Add the proper soil amendments on the peak of the garden berm. Gently add slopes on the slides.

💠 Position Mulch and Plants

It is crucial to position plants and mulch accurately and water them till the plants are firmly established. Place the plants that can easily survive a wet garden in the middle of the rain garden. In comparison, plants that thrive in relatively drier areas can go on the edges. Remember to add a 3-inch layer of mulch inside the rain garden to prevent weeds. It will also help in soil-moisture retention. You can water your garden as needed once the plants have been established. 

Remember to water your plants around the roots and ensure you water deeply. However, you do not need to do it invariably. To know whether you have applied enough water, you can dig up some soil a few hours after watering without disturbing the roots. If you see that the area is wet, your watering was the right amount. If not, add more water next time. In such cases, it is helpful to track how much water you added each time to prevent similar mistakes.

Moreover, do not overwater your plants. Overwatering can make the roots of the plants rot and the soil soggy. It also decreases the amount of oxygen plants can take to stay healthy for a longer time. The best time to water your plants is early during the day and in the evening. It allows your plants to endure the heat of the day without all water being evaporated.

💠 Get Annual Maintenance

Here’s what you need to do at least once a year. Check for mulch depth and fill it up as required. Remember that rain gardens do not need additional fertilizersthan those used in the soil mixture. Prevent weeds to allow your rain garden to keep looking its best. Moreover, if all these pointers seem like a lot of work, you can always hire a professional gardening service to ease your troubles. They will have the tools, experience, and skills required to build and maintain your rain garden in its most aesthetic form. 

❇️ THE BEST PLANTS FOR YOUR RAIN GARDEN

As we have discussed already, a good rain garden requires plants that can tolerate both wet and dry conditions. Rain gardens experience flooding and drought in abundant and low rainfall seasons respectively, making it crucial for a rain garden to have plants that can withstand and thrive in both extremes. We recommend the following plants for a rain garden as they will survive and thrive in the fluctuating conditions of a rain garden:

plants

Black-Eyed Susan
Wild Bergamot
Swamp Milkweed
Wild Columbine
Oxeye Sunflower
Ironweed
Prairie Smoke
Spotted Joe-Pye weed
Blue Vervain
Butterfly Milkweed

Moreover, certain types of trees will do well in a rain garden. From improving the aesthetic outlook of a property to providing environmental benefits, these trees will make your garden stand out. Have a look at the top kinds of trees that you should plant in your rain garden today:

Red Maple: What better idea to plant a red maple tree in Canada? Red Maples survive the challenging conditions of a rain garden and thrive in soils with fluctuating moisture levels. The best part is that these can be installed in any part of your garden and adapt well. They are a beautiful hint of red to your property; however, they have invasive roots which require you to pay attention to where it is planted. Plant it anywhere that does not have hardscapes around for best results.

Goodding’s Willow: Willows come in a variety suitable to be planted in rain gardens; however, Goodding’s Willow secures the topmost position. Its height can reach up to 30 feet and would enhance the outlook of any medium to a large-sized rain garden. Goodding’s Willow can quickly adapt to the more significant chunk of a rain garden, including the lowest levels of depression. It adds a lively touch to your rain garden and will be home to numerous birds and beneficial insects.

Bald Cypress: These trees are a natural choice for rain gardens. Sufficient watering allows the trees to grow well even in the lowest and typically most challenging positions of your rain garden. Keep in mind that these trees can be gigantic, with their height measuring up to 70-80 feet. Ensure that you plant it in a suitable garden that will complement the overall outlook instead of towering and hiding the beauty of the rain garden.

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