(Editor's Note: This article was originally published on January 31, 2008.)

(Picture courtesy of the Virgina Department of Forestry)

Is a rain garden right for you? Steps to follow to help you decide:

The first thing is to choose the right place for your rain garden. Look over your property for your existing drainage pattern. It may not be readily noticeable at first, but note the direction of water run off and low spots where water collects. If these spots are away from the foundation of your home , they will be good places for a rain garden.

Avoid creating a rain garden too close to building foundations, this may lead to a leaky basement.

Be aware of rights of way and underground lines or utilities. Before you dig call your utility company and have all lines flagged so you have a record of these underground locations.

Direct the rain. There are many creative ways to direct and divert the rain if you do not have a natural flow on your property. One areas would be to divert the overflow from a rain barrel down a pre-constructed tunnel or swale to your rain garden. The water properly diverted and filtered leads to fewer mosquito breeding areas.

Native plants are recommended for rain gardens. They generally need little or no fertilizer and are more tolerant of one's local climate. The plants are normally a selection of wetland edge vegetation, i.e., sedges, ferns, and shrubs as well as many other types. These plants take up excess water flowing into the rain garden. Water then filters through soil layers before entering the groundwater and the root systems enhance the infiltration and redistribution of moisture and aid in enhancing microbial populations.

By acting as a filtration system for storm water and surface waters, the planting and maintenance of rain gardens in an urban yard can cut down on the pollution of local creeks and streams up to 30 percent. Rain garden's are very low maintenance,once established they need little or no care other than mulching.

Rain gardens can become wildlife oases-you should plan for songbirds, butterflies, colors, fragrances and sounds. And given your areas, deer, rabbits, squirrels, frogs and lizards may also appear.

Rain gardening was developed in Maryland in the 1990s. It is becoming more and more important in home and commercial landscaping features as people are becoming more aware of the benefits both as a lovely garden feature and a way to help the environment.

It is a far more complex subject than I can cover in one article. If you are interested in adding this delightful feature I recommend a few sites:


http://www.raingardennetwork.com/

http://www.dof.virginia.gov/rfb/rain-gardens.shtml

These are just a few of the sites filled with excellent information on this subject and I believe well worth your time to explore.