Rain Gardens

Purpose

As cities and suburbs grow and replace forests and agricultural land, increased stormwater runoff from impervious surfaces becomes a problem. Stormwater runoff from developed areas increases flooding; carries pollutants from streets, parking lots, and even lawns into local streams and lakes; and leads to costly municipal improvements in stormwater treatment structures.

Benefits

By reducing stormwater runoff, rain gardens can be a valuable part of changing these trends. While an individual rain garden may seem like a small thing, collectively they produce substantial neighborhood and community environmental benefits. 

Rain gardens work for communities in several ways:

  • Enhances the beauty of yards and neighborhoods
  • Helps protect communities from flooding and drainage problems
  • Helps protect streams and lakes from pollutants carried by stormwater runoff
  • Increasing the amount of water that filters into the ground, which recharges ground water
  • Provides habitat for insects, birds, and animals

Designing a Rain Garden

Rain gardens can be located just about anywhere on a landscape, but here are some guidelines to help you select the right place:

  • Areas where there are water puddles long enough to form small ponds are not ideal. The infiltration of the soil is already low, and adding a garden will make it worse.
  • Choose a relatively flat section of land that has well drained soil. This will make digging easier.
  • Place the garden at least ten feet from a building foundation to prevent structural damage from flooding and wetness.
  • Place the garden in full, or immediate, sunlight. This will speed up drying, decrease pathogens, and promote plant growth.
  • You will want to look for a place that the rain garden will catch runoff. It is usually a low-laying area.

When you go to design your garden, you can do just about anything. They can be just about any shape or size. A lot of rain garden designs are in the shape of a kidney bean, with the largest side facing the source of the runoff. However, shape is not critical. Use your imagination. But, before you start digging call your local utilities to make sure that your garden will not interfere with electric, gas, phone, or water lines.

Additional Assistance

If you need a little help coming up with a rain garden design, the Engineering Department has developed 6 different Rain Garden Designs that will work with our local soils.