Rain Gardens Save Water


  • Author Marie Wakefield
  • Published May 11, 2008
  • Word count 729

The native soil and forests of many areas store, filter, and slowly release cool, clean water to streams, wetlands, and estuaries. The rich diversity of life in marine and fresh water, as well as on land, depends on clean water to thrive.

As cities grow, they encroach upon and change natural settings; wild areas are replaced with infrastructure and other hard surfaces. During periods of precipitation, more water flows from these man-made surfaces than natural areas, carrying oil, fertilizers, pesticides, sediment and other pollutants downstream. In fact, much of the pollution in streams, wetlands and rivers now comes from storm-water (water flowing off developed areas. The increased volume of water and allied contaminants from developed land are detrimental to water resources and harming aquatic life.

One possible solution is a type of landscaping called the rain garden-


A rain garden functions like a native woodland by collecting, absorbing, and filtering storm-water runoff from manmade structures that don't allow water to soak in. Rain gardens are designed as low depressions that:

Can be formed and sized to fit your landscape.

Are constructed with soil mixtures that allow water to infuse quickly and support healthy plant growth.

Can be filled with a variety of plants to fit the environs.

Rain gardens are one of the most versatile and effective tools in a new approach to managing storm-water called low impact development (LID). An LID project may incorporate several tools to soak up rain water, reduce storm-water runoff, and filter pollutants. Some examples of these tools include permeable paving, compost-amended soils, vegetated roofs, rainwater collection systems and rain gardens.

Rain gardens offer numerous benefits, including:

Sieve oil and grease from driveways, pesticides and fertilizers from lawns, and other pollutants before they reach the storm drain and eventually the waterways.

Decrease flooding on adjacent areas, overflow in sewers, and erosion in creeks by absorbing water from impermeable surfaces.

Provide homes for beneficial insects and birds.

Augment the amount of water that soaks into the earth to recharge local groundwater.

Maintaining the rain garden

Rain gardens need maintenance just like any landscaping, to perform well and look good. However, a well-designed rain garden needs minimum care.

If it doesn't rain , water your plants until they are established. Once the deep root system has grown into the soil,they will probably survive a drought. But until then, just like any newly planted perennials, they need water to get started.

Watering Tips

Water deeply, but infrequently, so that the top 6 to 12 inches of the root zone is moist. To know if you're applying enough water , dig down 12 to 18 inches off to the side of the plant a few hours after watering- don't disturb the roots.

Use soaker hoses or spot water with a shower type wand.


Mulch prevents erosion, controls weeds, replenishes the organic material in the soil, and improves infiltration. Every year check the mulch layer and, if needed, add shredded or chipped hardwood or softwood to the sides and coarse compost to the bottom to maintain a layer that is about 2-3 inches thick. Mulch can be applied any time of the year, but assuring an adequate mulch layer for the dry summer and rainy winter months is particularly beneficial.

Weed regularly. A nicely prepared rain garden is a great place for invasive plants to start growing. This is where mulch comes in handy; it will be simple to just pull those little seedlings out before they get established. Excavate or pull weeds out by the roots before they go to seed.

Break strong water flow. The area where water flows into your garden can, during strong storms, erode soil, mulch, and plants. A few strategically placed rocks, boulders, or stone dams in this area of strong water flow can break the force and prevent this from happening.

Don't let sediment, soil, sand, or debris flow into your rain garden. It can bury the plants, destroy the absorbency, and ruin all your efforts.

Remember, rain gardens can be an integral part of our storm-water management and environmental approach. Their use doesn't involve a lot of centralized planning. They don't require much space, can be fitted into oddball shapes, and can readily added to existing buildings. They look nice, and you don't need to be an engineer to build one. Anyone can make a rain garden -- including you!

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