How to Create an Earth-Friendly Rain Garden

If April showers bring May flowers, then now’s the perfect time to learn about eco-friendly rain gardens! Designed properly, rain gardens – shallow, planted areas designed to hold water as it slowly soaks into the soil – are great for the earth and beautiful to boot.  Also called bio-infiltration basins, these gardens offer solutions in urban and suburban neighborhoods where storm water runoff and pollution are common. After all, when the hundreds of gallons of rainwater rolls off our roofs and driveways into sewers, that water has to be treated so we can use it to irrigate our gardens. That’s not exactly sustainable!

Consider getting rid of a chunk of your yard by incorporating a rain garden in your outdoor space, which will gradually and naturally filter environmental pollutants through the soil and deep root system of the plants. You can put in a rain garden just about anywhere – alongside a walkway or driveway, within a perennial flowerbed if you’re tight on space, or as a focal point in your backyard. It can be any shape you like, so get creative!

It’s important to choose a spot at least 10 feet from your house, and at a natural low area if possible. Just make sure your rain garden will receive full or partial sun. Then, dig a shallow basin about four to eight inches deep, and fill it with plenty of well-draining soil. Add in about three inches of compost, and a selection of water-tolerant plants, preferably native ones. Try some of these moisture-loving varieties: hostas, ferns, lady fern, culver’s root, amsonia, blue flag iris or primroses – they can handle lots of water at once!

Spread on a thick layer of mulch – use shredded wood chips so they don’t blow away! Point your downspouts and sump pump outlet towards your new rain garden. Your rain garden will look like a pond after a storm, but will go back to normal within 24 hours. Bonus: if you replaced a chunk of turf with a rain garden, you’ll have that much less to mow!

Rain gardens will reduce storm water waste, while also keeping your landscape both sustainable and lovely.

Share photos of your rain gardens with us!


‘Urban Rain Garden’ sign: Photo Credit: Elvert Barnes Flickr via Compfight cc

Amsonia: Photo Credit: mwms1916 Flickr via Compfight cc

Primroses: Photo Credit: tomylees Flickr via Compfight cc

People planting a rain garden: ukagriculture Flickr via Compfightcc

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