Water is essential to life. Building a rain garden is a great way to introduce a water source into your ecosystem with minimal disturbance to the processes already happening on your land. Rain gardens can be beautiful, functional, and critical in developing your property with all things in mind.
A rain garden is a depression in the land in which runoff from around the landscape drains into. Rain gardens captures runoff which allows plants, animals, and soil to naturally clean the water as is slowly drains into the ground water. In many ways, rain gardens act as a wetland and can often even enhance an existing wetland.
Rain gardens slow down the rate in which rainfall and snow melt enter river systems. This prevents flooding downstream. A rain garden’s water level will rise and fall as the water comes which is a perfect ecosystem for amphibians to live. It will also provide a water source for larger animals such as deer, moose, and birds to fill up on their seasonal migration. Installing a rain garden will truly unlock your area’s ecosystem.
Installing a rain garden will take some research, follow through, and time to create the perfect environment for your area. There are many resources that go in detail about each aspect of a rain garden. The Rain Garden Planner provides simple yet detailed descriptions on each step of the process and is a major help when planning an area of your own. Filled with tips on preservation, species to stock and ways that the system works, it is excellent for the experienced gardener or anyone who just wants to add a natural touch to their environment. Contact your area’s natural resource department for tips about what to do for your specific location.
Look for an already existing soggy area or an area that water naturally pools during a storm. Find the lowest point on your land in which water will come from far and near to fill your garden. You can even hire a professional to find contour lines on your property so you will know exactly where the water is draining.
Study the soil in the area you plan to build the rain garden. Clay soils will take much longer to drain than sandy soils. It is possible to amend the soil with compost and / or sand to change the rate in which water will drain.
To know how large and deep to dig your rain garden, you must calculate how much water will need to be stored there. Use your area’s rainfall events, the size of the area draining into your rain garden, and the soil porosity of the area to know the maximum amount of water that will sit in your garden at one time.
Once you know the volume, you can find the right depth and size of your garden. Larger, shallower gardens will provide more ecosystem benefits but will take up a larger portion of your land space, so play with the dimensions until you find a size suitable for you and the environment around you.
Knowing what plants to use in your rain garden will depend on your location. Call your natural resource department for a list of species you could use. Plants.usda.gov will give you a lot of information on the plant you are deciding to use. Use color, seasonality, and personal preference to build a beautiful display of an ecosystem.
Rain gardens are an amazing habitat for a copious amount of species, including you! A small bench or even a log next to your rain garden will literally bring your closer to your environment. The list of ecosystem benefits of this style of garden goes on and on and installation effort is minimal. You and the ecosystem around you will gain endless joy when you see your functional rain garden in action.
Photos: The Rain Garden Planner, Unsplash, Rebecca Selah
**Disclaimer: Received a product(s) in exchange for this honest article. I was not compensated monetarily for this or any other post on Aquaberry Bliss and opinions are, as always, my own.**
Jake Frazier is an outdoor enthusiast and the owner of Residential Ecology, a sustainable ecological resource management company. He uses existing natural systems to improve the quality of life for both humans and the Earth. Jake is interested in permaculture, living systems and exploring. Connect with him on LinkedIn.