The drier and colder season may not seem like the right time to be thinking about garden plans, but consider this the perfect opportunity to plan out a rain garden.
A big part of creating a sustainable plan for the yard is in what decisions are made long before digging up any dirt.
So put the shovel down and remember a well-researched and thought out plan for the yard could save homeowners money in the long term and help prevent water pollution.
Water conservation, sure. But preventing pollution?
Yes. And a way to do that is to consider a rain garden.
A rain garden is essentially designed to keep rainwater from escaping through the yard and into the driveway or street. When rainwater travels through the yard and then down the road and into the streets, it captures harmful materials that then enter our waterways, including oil and gas residues, pesticides, and fertilizers.
Essentially, a rain garden is a depressed area in the yard that collects water from roof downspouts, asphalt or sump pump discharge.
Less runoff from homes means less channel erosion and fewer suspended solids and pollution in our waterways, according to the Greater Lansing Regional Committee for Stormwater Management.
Capturing clean rainwater from your roof or driveway and diverting it into a rain garden allows water to slowly soak into the ground, filter out contaminants and keep quantities of clean water from going into the storm sewer system.
“Each raingarden is unique because of different conditions and desired results. Take the time to plan. The three planning areas are inventory of physical conditions, garden design, and plant selection.” – Texas A&M AgriLife Extension. “Rainwater is welcome in Texas, but stormwater can be too much of a good thing. Rain is not the only source of water. Sprinkler system water may collect in that gully between your house and your neighbor’s. Residential watering of lawns and gardens, though well intentioned, often ends in excess runoff. Corral that water for gardening and help the environment at the same time.”
First things first. How much stormwater is in your area?
Follow this Greater Lansing Regional Committee for Stormwater Management formula to get an estimate of the amount of stormwater runoff produced each year for the home:
• 1 inch of rain on a 1,000-square-foot roof yields 623 gallons of water.
• To calculate the amount of stormwater your roof yields after 1 inch of rain, take the square footage of your house and multiply by 623. Then divide that number by 1,000.
• To calculate the average yearly amount of stormwater generated by your roof, multiply the number above by the average amount of annual rainfall in your area.
Plans can then include which area of the yard will best hold the rain garden and what size and shape it may be. The local extension office may have information to help size a rain garden to suit rainfall patterns typical in your area.
Then, measure how far you’ll need to run piping after digging a trench for a pipe that will carry water from one or more gutter downspouts to the rain garden. After adding soil and plants, don’t forget to mulch, which helps even drought-tolerant plants.
So, what plants should you select? Across the Brazos River basin, there are different topographic and geographic features. A homeowner should consider plants that would work best for their area. Check out this guide to find water-efficient plants that survive best in your area.
Rain gardens are cost-effective and aesthetically pleasing ways to help our waterways.
Learn more about creating a rain garden at:
• PennState Extension
• The Rain Garden Network
• MSU Extension
• Wisconsin DNR