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Sunday, 14 July 2013 20:00

Reducing runoff by growing a rain garden

Rain gardenA rain garden is a landscaped depression that is planted with native shrubs, grasses, and flowers. It is designed to collect rain water that runs off of hardened surfaces such as your roof or driveway.

When stormwater washes across hard surfaces it can pick up pollutants such as fertilizers, pesticides, bacteria from pet waste, and sediments. A rain garden slows and reduces stormwater runoff by temporarily holding it and allowing the water to soak into the ground. The plants also help filter the contaminants and sediments that would otherwise be carried into your lake or the nearest water body through the storm water system.

A rain garden, full of plants and flowers, can be a beautiful addition to your yard, while helping protect the environment. Here are a few things to consider when building one:

  1. Proper Location - It is important to identify an area on your lawn where stormwater can be captured, such as near a downspout or even the over flow from a rain barrel, or at an existing depression in the ground.
  2. Size - The size and depth of your rain garden is important as it needs to be large enough to manage the amount of stormwater it receives. 
  3. Soil Type - Use sandy or loam soils (loam soils are an even mix of sand, silt, and clay) as they are porous and allow the water to seep back into the ground at a faster rate. You want to avoid clay soils as they are less porous. 
  4. Plants - It is important to choose plants that are native to the area and can tolerate both wet and dry conditions. Certain native plant species have fibrous root systems that grow well in rain garden conditions. Remember to consider whether the species are shade or sun tolerant species.

For more details on building and maintaining a rain garden, see Type “rain gardens” into the online search field, or go directly to

Suggested plants for your rain garden:

  • Bayberry
  • Black Chokeberry
  • Blue Flag Iris
  • Blue Vervain
  • Buttonbush Canada
  • Bluejoint
  • Fireweed
  • Porcupine Sedge
  • Swamp Milkweed