The Benefits of a Rain Garden

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Rain Garden

Green LivingA sustainable landscaping trend sweeping the nation is the installation of rain gardens. These unique additions to yards are attractive and, if planned well, can help the environment, too.

A rain garden could make sense on your property if it’s exposed to water runoff from downspouts, roofs, driveways or other routes by which melting snow or year-round storm waters drain.

Read on to learn how you can make a landscaping change that’s as pleasing to the eye as it is to the environment.

What is a Rain Garden?

In simple terms, a rain garden is a collection of vegetation with naturally deep-reaching roots that’s deliberately planted in direct line to some source of storm water or spring melt waters. Instead of losing this water to normal forms of drainage, runoff and erosion, a rain garden utilizes this water.

According to the University of Connecticut’s Rain Garden website, you will likely want to water your rain garden with runoff from your house using a pipe from the downspout. Experts say you should find a spot at least 10 feet from your house for your rain garden if you have a basement, and make sure your garden is not close to the septic system, any wells or steep slopes. You also shouldn’t plant your rain garden in an area of your yard where water always seems to pond. Once you’ve chosen the perfect spot, it’s time to create your garden; ThisOldHouse.com offers step-by-step instructions.

Why are Homeowners Doing the Rain Garden Dance?

Rain gardens can have multiple benefits to the environment — and to your property. The University of Wisconsin-Extension offers these examples:

  • Absorbing runoff. Rain gardens soak up rainwater, slowly soaking it into the ground and keeping it from bombarding storm drains and potentially causing floods. They allow about 30 percent more water to soak into the soil than a similar-sized area of lawn, the UW-Extension says.
  • Diverting pollutants. Helping to prevent runoff can also keep rainwater from washing pollutants, such as fertilizer, into lakes and streams.
  • Attracting wildlife. Rain gardens full of beautiful native plants can attract nearby wildlife, such as birds and butterflies, to your yard. One thing to note: A properly constructed rain garden should not hold standing water long enough for mosquitoes to breed in it, according to the Three Rivers Rain Garden Alliance, and can also attract mosquito-eating dragonflies.
  • Cultivating beauty. Choosing attractive native plants to fill your rain garden can make your property more beautiful — as well as greener.

Maintenance and Costs

When it comes to maintenance, Rutgers University suggests several steps. Some, such as pruning and weeding, are the same things you’d do to maintain any garden. But, there are a few other things to consider, as well.

  • Inspections. It’s important to keep an eye on your rain garden, to help make sure it’s functioning properly. Rutgers suggests regularly inspecting your rain garden for weeds, plant health, gullying or sediment deposits.
  • Sediment. Speaking of sediment, Rutgers says you should watch out for any deposits in your rain garden and carefully use a shovel to remove any deposits.
  • Gutters. Since a spout from your gutters is likely sending water to your rain garden, you will want to make sure your gutters don’t get clogged up — which could cut off your garden’s water supply.

No two rain gardens are identical, and neither are the costs involved with their installations. But, the Rain Garden Alliance says that the cost of a rain garden is on par with the cost of other perennial flower gardens. The organization’s calculator can help you estimate the costs.

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