Dec 03 , 2018

How to Build a Rain Garden in Your Yard

Too Much Water Can Undermine Your Home

If you worry about a wet or damp basement, a busy sump pump, or muddy puddles in your yard after a heavy rainfall, this story is for you. We want to introduce you to a new tool to improve drainage— a rain garden.

A rain garden is basically a plant pond, that is, a garden bed that you plant with special deep-rooted species. These plants help the water rapidly seep into the soil, away from your house and out of your hair. You direct the rainwater from the downspouts to the garden via a swale (a stone channel) or plastic piping. The garden captures the water and, when properly designed, drains it into the soil within a day. You don’t have to worry about creating a mosquito haven; the water drains before mosquitoes even have time to breed.

If there’s an especially heavy rainfall, excess water may overflow the rain garden and run into the storm sewer system. Even so, the rain garden will have done its job. It will have channeled water away from your foundation and reduced the load on the sewer system. A rain garden also reduces the amount of lawn chemicals and pet wastes that may otherwise run off into local lakes and rivers. In some communities, the runoff problem is so big that homes with rain gardens qualify for a tax break! Call your municipality to learn your local policy.

In this article, we’ll tell you how to design, build and plant a rain garden suitable for your yard. We’ve condensed it to a few handy guidelines. You won’t need any special tools or equipment. A shovel and a level will do. But expect to sweat through some heavy digging!

Rain Garden Details

rain garden figure a

Create the rain garden by building a berm in a low spot in the yard, then build swales to channel runoff from the gutters and higher parts of the yard. The water is then absorbed into the soil through the network of deep plant roots. Use a mix of plants adapted to your area and to the different water depths.

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