The size of your rain garden depends on how much space you have, but typically 100-300 square feet is adequate for capturing a considerable amount of runoff. Placement of your rain garden is important so it will conveniently capture rainwater that flows from downspouts or a driveway.
The use of native plants in your rain garden is wise as they are accustomed to the conditions typically seen in your region. Able to withstand times of heavy rain and even times of drought, native plants have a better chance of thriving in your garden. Consider how tall the plants will be and what color their flowers will be when in bloom. Keep in mind the amount of sun needed for healthy plants to thrive.
To construct your rain garden, begin by choosing a location that is sunny and at least 10 feet from the foundation of your home. It is important to know that the site will drain adequately. You can test this by digging a small hole approximately eight inches deep. Fill it with water and return four hours later. If the water is at least one inch lower, the site is probably suitable.
Remove the sod if need be and excavate at the center about six inches and gently slope the sides of your garden. Your garden can take on any shape, but organic shapes look more natural. Fill your garden with water to test proper drainage. If the garden drains within 24 hours, it should be successful. Gardens without adequate drainage can lead to mosquito infestations.
Work the soil six to eight inches deep like you would for any garden. There is no need to amend the soil unless it needs organic material or sand to make drainage more efficient. Place plants in the garden based on size, height when mature and color. Be certain to water deeply when placing plants in the garden. When there is no rain, water twice a week for at least four to six weeks while the rain garden is getting established. Once established it will be unnecessary to water except in cases of extreme drought.
Adding hardwood mulch to your rain garden will improve its appearance and also hold in moisture in times of drought. As the mulch breaks down it adds vital organic matter to the soil.
In the region, plants to consider for your rain garden might be iris and cardinal flower for shade, butterfly weed and Culver’s root for partial shade and royal catchfly and dense blazing star for full sun. Ornamental grasses do very well in rain gardens and add visual interest.
A rain garden can beautify your home or business, prevent rainwater from being wasted and can provide a habitat for wildlife. Even in winter, when the native perennial plants are dormant, the garden can be a lovely sight and be a source of shelter for birds and other small animals.
The Tuscarawas Soil and Water Conservation District (TSWCD) installed a rain garden at Fort Laurens at Bolivar in 2010. Now in its second year, the garden is well-established as it captures runoff from the pavilion. Partially shaded from the old growth trees on the site, the native plants chosen were suitable for the conditions and have beautified the area considerably. A great resource, the TSWCD provides an excellent instruction book with details about how to install a rain garden. They can be contacted by calling 330-339-7976.
Published: June 12, 2012