Weekend Project: Plant A Rain Garden

Your future rain garden?

We have talked about stormwater several times this month, and for a good reason. Stormwater is a huge source of non-point source pollution, meaning pollution that enters waterways from many places and is difficult to pinpoint and quantify. It is also something that we, as homeowners, have the power to influence.

Because run-off water can become polluted from multiple sources, addressing it requires a multi-front approach. We have discussed the two main ways to avoid contributing polluted water to the world. Broadly they are:

(1) Don’t pollute the water. This means not putting chemicals or pollution in the water in the first place, and not putting pollution in the path of water.

We have already talked about several of these:

(2) Clean up the water. As water travels, it will always pick up pollutants, but we have several ways to clean it up before it reaches our waterways or groundwater. We have talked about Rain Barrels and the hydrological and ecological benefits they have. Today we are talking about rain gardens and the way they benefit you and the environment.

Nature is pretty good at filtering water. Plants soak up water, excess nutrients, and minerals, and can help break down compounds in the water. Different layers of soil help scrub water clean as it makes its way to natural reservoirs of surface or groundwater. All we have to do is make sure we give nature a chance to work its magic. That’s where rain gardens come in. Much like the rainwater collection system you use for a rain barrel, one of the ways you can set up a rain garden is by connecting a tube to your roof gutters that directs rainwater towards the garden. Once there, the plants will soak much of the water up as they need it, but they will also hold the water in place and allow it to infiltrate naturally into the ground, which is all it really wanted in the first place.

This brings us to a second important point about rain gardens: what to plant. There are many excellent guides out there about planning and planting a rain garden, and about selecting native species, which you can find below. The main thing to keep in mind is to pick plants that are (a) native to your area, and (b) will function well in a rain garden. Pick plants that thrive in wet conditions.

Finally, location is crucial. Consult the guides below and local master gardeners or green landscapers to make sure you are situating your rain garden in the best possible place for your yard.

Now go get started! What better way to celebrate Earth Day Weekend than by reinvesting in your yard and the world around you? This weekend promises to be beautiful, so let’s get out there and make a difference!

Also, check with local garden stores or extension services–many of them offer workshops on a variety of topics, including rain gardens! In Mobile in particular, check with the Auburn Extension, they have several rain garden workshops scheduled over the next few months. http://www.aces.edu/main/

Learn More and Get Started!

How A Rain Garden Works

How to Build A Rain Garden

Native Plants