Home Precision Agriculture How to Build a Rain Garden

How to Build a Rain Garden


The operate of gardens is often rising meals and flowers, however your patch of inexperienced also can serve an environmental operate—serving to cut back flooding and curb water runoff. 

Rising areas that carry out this operate are generally often called rain gardens. These gardens are shallow, sunken plots of land that act as a reservoir for storm water that isn’t absorbed by surfaces akin to sidewalks, driveways or decks. 

Pure land areas akin to forests and wetlands can seize and filter out toxins or different undesirable materials earlier than they attain a stream or river. However these pure landscapes have been more and more much less frequent through the years due to urbanization. Storm water has been recognized in recent times as a main supply of air pollution in 13 p.c of rivers, 18 p.c of lakes and 32 p.c of estuaries nationwide within the US. Rain gardens, nevertheless, have been touted as a potential answer and might take in 30 to 40 p.c extra water than a commonplace garden.

There are a number of elements to guaranteeing your rain backyard is ready to absorb as a lot runoff as attainable. Right here’s a detailed information to constructing your individual. 

Location, location, location 

You must construct your rain backyard in a strategic location that has full or partial solar, close to a runoff supply akin to a downspout or driveway. It must also be no less than 10 toes away from any home or constructing basis and no less than 25 toes from a septic system or wellhead. 

If attainable, select a low spot in your yard with a slight, reasonable slope. When you don’t have a downspout or a plot of land that’s in a location the place water can move naturally, dig a trench about three to 4 inches deep out of your runoff supply to the place your backyard can be.  

You’re additionally going to need to do a soil check to be sure the realm you’ve chosen has good drainage. To do that, dig a gap six to eight inches deep and fill it with water. If the water has disappeared inside 24 hours, this implies the drainage circumstances are good for constructing a rain backyard. 

It’s vital that you’ve positioned and marked any close by underground utilities prior to settling in your backyard’s location and digging. Utility traces are typically positioned in shallow underground locations and you’ll be held liable when you hit them. Be sure to contact your native utility service to map out any traces. 

Dimension and depth

Your rain backyard ought to have the ability to maintain runoff out of your roof, driveway or different onerous floor based mostly on how a lot water you’ll have from a one-inch rainstorm

The College of Connecticut Cooperative Extension and the Rain Garden Alliance have each designed complete rain backyard calculators to let you know what the size of your backyard needs to be based mostly in your location and environmental circumstances if a one-inch rainstorm had been to happen.  

Vegetation and soil

For soil, we recommend utilizing a combination of 50-percent coarse sand, 25-percent compost and 25-percent topsoil to guarantee optimum drainage. You may add this after digging out your backyard area. 

When selecting your vegetation, choose ones which might be native to your area. They are going to be higher tailored to native climates and rising circumstances. They may even require little fertilizer and sometimes have far-reaching root methods that assist ship water deep into the soil. 

You’re additionally going to need to select a number of vegetation that may deal with short-term flooding and intervals of drought. While you design your backyard, it is best to place vegetation that have a tendency to be extra resilient to saturated soil within the middle and develop extra drought-hardy varieties nearer to the perimeter. 

Workers at your native nursery ought to have the ability to level you within the course of native vegetation. Alternatively, right here’s a listing of vegetation generally chosen for rain gardens that thrive in full solar and partial shade in North America: 

  • Widespread Camas, Camassia quamash: Grows finest in USDA Zones 3-7, dry to moist soil
  • Showy Fleabane, Erigeron speciosus: Grows finest in USDA Zones 4-7, dry to moist soil
  • Snowberry, Symphoricarpos albus: Grows finest in USDA Zones 2-7, dry to moist soil 
  • Purple Flowering Currant, Ribes sanguineum: Grows finest in USDA Zones 6-9, moist soil 
  • Salmonberry, Rubus spectabilis: Grows finest in USDA Zones 4-9, moist to moist soil
  • Panicled Bulrush, Scirpus microcarpus: Grows finest in USDA Zones 2-8, moist to moist soil 
  • Child Solar Rose, Mesembryanthemum cordifolium: Grows finest in USDA Zones 10-11, dry to moist soil
  • Butterfly Weed, Asclepias tuberosa: Grows finest in USDA Zones 3-9, dry soil 
  • Wild Bergamot, Monarda fistulosa: Grows finest in USDA Zones 3-8, moist to moist soil
  • Cardinal Flower, Lobelia cardinalis: Grows finest in USDA Zones 3-9, moist to moist soil
  • New England Aster, Aster novae-angliae: Grows finest in USDA Zones 3-8, moist soil
  • Black-Eyed Susan, Rudbeckia fulgida: Grows finest in USDA Zones 4-8, dry to moist soil
    Blue Lobelia, Lobelia siphilitica: Grows finest in USDA Zones 4-9, moist to moist soil
    Purple-osier Dogwood, Cornus sericea: Grows finest in USDA Zones 2-7, moist to moist soil
    Sword Fern, Polystichum munitum: Grows finest in USDA Zones 4-8, dry to moist soil
    Winterberry, Ilex verticillata: Grows finest in USDA Zones 3-9, dry to moist soil
    Dagger leaf Rush, Juncus ensifolius: Grows finest in USDA Zones 3-10, moist to moist soil
    Rocky Mountain Iris, Iris missouriensis: Grows finest in USDA Zones 5-10, moist soil
    Stream Violet, Viola glabella: Grows finest in USDA Zones 4-8, moist soil
    Western Columbine, Aquilegia formosa: Grows finest in USDA Zones 3-7, moist soil
    Monkey Flower, Mimulus guttatus: Grows finest in USDA Zones 5-9, moist to moist soil
    Switchgrass, Panicum virgatum: Grows finest in USDA Zones 5-10, dry to moist soil
    Culver Root, Veronicastrum virginicum: Grows finest in USDA Zones 3-8, moist to moist soil
    Widespread Boneset, Eupatorium perfoliatum: Grows finest in USDA Zones 3-8, moist to moist soil
    Purple Coneflower, Echinacea purpurea: Grows finest in USDA Zones 3-9, dry to moist soil 


Digging and designing 

Rain gardens are sometimes oval or kidney bean formed and twice so long as they’re broad however nonetheless broad sufficient in order that the water can disperse evenly. The federal government of Snohomish County in Washington State has put collectively this useful graphic when you’re having bother visualizing the form and particulars of your design. 

When you’ve decided the dimensions, depth and form, you may map it out in your garden utilizing marking paint earlier than you excavate. Chances are you’ll want to take away grass when you’re constructing on a garden. This may be carried out utilizing a sharp spade or a sod cutter. After grass is eliminated, you can begin digging to your required depth utilizing a shovel. Guarantee that while you’re digging out your backyard, the underside is levelled out. It will encourage optimum drainage. You may test to see if it’s degree by laying a wooden board throughout the underside with a carpenter’s degree on it. 

Use the surplus soil that you’ve extracted out of your web site to construct a slight rise alongside the underside and downhill sides of your backyard. That is in any other case often called a berm. Your berm will assist lure runoff and permit the water to have extra time to infiltrate into your rain backyard. It needs to be about a foot throughout and 6 inches at its highest level. Gradual slopes of the berm may even enable it to aesthetically mix into the encircling garden. 

When you want to dig a trench as a result of your runoff supply is a appreciable distance out of your backyard, think about lining your trench and the realm between the ditch and the backyard with rocks or stones. It will be certain that water doesn’t eat away on the entry level into the backyard. 

When a huge storm hits and water overflows, you’re additionally going to need to have an space that may catch the surplus quantity. This needs to be a despair or further trench hooked up to the berm on the downhill aspect of the backyard. Ideally, it’ll connect to an open patch of grass. You can even line this space with rocks to forestall extra water from eroding it. 

When you’ve dug out your backyard, fill your excavated space together with your soil combination, however make sure you’ve left about six to 12 inches of room to your vegetation, mulch and water. 


To softly transport your plant out of its container, tip it the other way up and provides it a shake in order that it falls out root aspect up. Gently untangle the roots if they’re in a ball and unfold them out. 

Your vegetation needs to be about one foot other than one another. How deep they’re planted within the soil needs to be based mostly on how deep they had been planted of their authentic containers. 

When you’ve accomplished your planting, cowl your backyard with a layer of mulch that’s about two to three inches thick. This won’t solely assist maintain out weeds but additionally assist with the absorption and filtration of runoff. 

Upkeep and care 

Most vegetation will want a wholesome watering to set up their root methods for the primary 12 months. After that, they are going to solely want to be watered when you’re coping with longer intervals of drought. Give them about one inch of water every week or sufficient in order that the highest six to 10 inches of soil is moist. To retain as a lot of the water as attainable, do your watering within the morning or the night when the solar isn’t at its strongest and the temperatures aren’t their warmest. 

You may add mulch any time you discover uncovered soil. We additionally advocate that you simply sometimes test for any particles that has constructed up in your backyard in addition to the entry and overflow passages. Maintaining every thing intact will enable as a lot water to be absorbed as attainable. 


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