A rain garden is a landscaping feature using native perennial plants. The garden is used to manage stormwater runoff from impervious surfaces such as roofs, sidewalks and parking lots. When you create a rain garden you can improve local water quality while establishing a beautiful natural area that will attract birds and butterflies. Rain gardens allow rain and snowmelt to seep naturally into the ground. This helps recharge our groundwater supply and prevents a water quality problem called polluted runoff. Rain gardens are an important way to make our cities and towns more attractive places to live.
Rain gardens are designed with a dip at the center to collect rain and snow melt. Any degree of indentation is useful, from slight dips made with your garden trowel to large swales created by professional landscapers. Neatly trimmed shrubs, a crisp edge of lawn, stone retaining walls and other devices can be used on garden edges.
Many people worry about rain gardens causing mosquitoes. This is not a problem because rain gardens do not retain water long enough for mosquito reproduction. Standing water almost always soaks away within a few hours and usually within a matter of minutes. Mosquitoes require a number of days in standing water for reproduction. If water does remain for a matter of days in your rain garden, then your soil is possibly very clayey and/or very compacted. You may be able to remedy this problem by loosening and adding humus in the upper 6 to 18 inches.
Some people think that a rain garden will cause basement water problems. One rule of thumb is to place the rain garden at least ten feet from the house. However, soil and groundwater conditions vary greatly from one location to the next. If no moisture problems occur, then you may be able to safely expand the rain garden closer. If basement moisture problems do occur, then you will want to move the rain garden farther away.
The rain garden at the Pathway to Water Quality exhibit (seen in the photo) contains Sweet Flag, Swamp Milkweed, Bebb’s Oval sedge, Bristly Sedge, Queen of the Prairie, Blue Flag, Common Rush, Great Blue Lobelia, False Dragonhead, Wool Grass, and Great Bulrush.
Benefits of using a rain garden
A rain garden has numerous benefits to helping residents as well as the environment. A rain garden:
- Helps remove standing water from your yard,
- Conserves water,
- Filters pollutants,
- Captures unwanted sediment, and Creates beautiful habitats for wildlife
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