Designing and Building a Rain Garden Designing and Building a Rain Garden

Designing and building a rain garden has become a very popular do it yourself project for homeowners who wish to go green and preserve and protect our planet. Designing the garden to use primarily the water that drains from your roof to the ground saves you the problems of watering and uses more or less wasted water. Having the water routed to the garden from your downspouts will allow the plants to flourish and transmit it into the ground more evenly to further add soil nutrients.

There are a few rules of design when designing and building a rain garden. Try to think of them more as guidelines rather than as rules.

Step 1: Helpful Guidelines

  • The garden should not be within 10 feet of the house foundation
  • Gardens should be located at least 25 feet from a septic system drainfield
  • Check with utility companies about location of underground utility lines.
  • Rain gardens should be located where the water table is at least two feet or more below soil level.

Step 2: Choosing a Site

The best way to decide where to place your rain garden is to actually go into your yard during a rainstorm. Observe where water pools or drains to and place your garden between the house and that area. Have metal markers or spray paint to mark this area while its raining. If you are in an area where you don't get a lot of rain, you may want to route rainwater from your downspouts toward this area. You can do this by attaching black plastic tubing to the end of your downspouts and direct it to the area by burying it in small underground channels.

You also want to be sure your soil where you're planning your garden is permeable. If water stands in the area for more than one day after a heavy rain then it is not a good choice for a rain garden. You can either amend the soil to make it drain better or change your plans and construct a marsh or wetland garden.

Step 3: Digging the Garden

There are varying opinions on the distance from the house to the garden since you don't want the wetness to damage your foundation. Most people choose between 20 and 30 feet but 10 feet is fine if you live in an area that doesn't get a a lot of rain. Use your garden hose or chalk dust to make the shape on the ground of your garden. When you start to dig, first scoop off the grass or weeds and discard. Then dig and turn over the soil to a depth of at least 6 inches. You want the garden to be higher on the edges and deeper in the middle, picture a cone shape. This will allow water to flow through the roots to the middle.

Step 4: Finishing The Rain Garden

The best plants to use in your garden are plants that are native to your area. Avoid exotic plants and bushes. If you are a novice gardener, you can talk to your local garden store or call your county extension office for a list of plants. You may have neighbors who are willing to share plants also. Perennials and biannuals are the best choices for a rain garden. After planting, mulch with hardwood mulch at a depth of 2 to 4 inches to hold in moisture.

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