Did you know that your landscape design can help the environment? If you live in an area that receives precipitation, the addition of a rain garden can help protect your local watershed by controlling stormwater runoff from your home. On your own, or with the help of your own local landscaping services, you can create your own rain garden that will naturally blend in with your landscaping design.

What is a Rain Garden?

In essence, a rain garden is a bowl-shaped, functional garden that absorbs and captures rainwater. These types of gardens mimic nature by allowing your landscaping design to slow down the flow of rainwater, spread it out and soak into the earth. Even though they have a bowl shape, rain gardens appear flat and include native plants that thrive in moist soil.

Rain Garden Benefits

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) reports that about 70 percent of the pollution in the nation’s surface water is from stormwater runoff. As water flows through neighborhoods and into drains, it picks up pollutants, garbage, road salt, animal waste, pesticides, automobile oil, fertilizers and other pollutants. So when you incorporate a rain garden in your landscaping design, you help reduce the amount of pollution in your area’s lakes, streams and rivers.

Additional benefits of rain gardens include:

  • Flood protection. A rain garden helps redirect rainwater to prevent flooding around your home.
  • Better water quality. As the rain garden’s plants absorb the stormwater, the plants filter out many toxins so cleaner water goes into the soil.
  • Decreased pest population. By decreasing the amount of water that pools around your home, you reduce the number of water-loving pests, such as mosquitoes.

How to Install a Rain Garden in Your Landscaping Design

A rain garden isn’t a simple DIY project (unless you’re a landscape architect). It takes planning, preparation and -depending on your skilll level - the assistance of a local landscape professional. The following are the basic rain garden installation steps.

1. Map your yard. Take note of any slopes, inclines and depressions so you can determine how water flows.

2. Determine the best place and size. To prevent damage to your foundation, your rain garden should be at least 10 feet away from your home, as well as 25 feet from a water supply and 15 feet away from a septic system. The ideal area is also in a location that receives full or partial sun so the water can evaporate better.

3. Hire a professional to test your soil. The test will reveal how well the soil drains.

4. Build the rain garden. Landscaping professionals can dig the garden bed for you, add amended soils and plant native plants. These may include dwarf redtwig dogwood, slough sedge or Douglas spirea. The experts may also create trenches that carry water from your home’s downspout to the rain garden.

When your rain garden is finished, it’s important to keep it maintained by mulching, weeding and pruning. While the plants are still young, you may also need to provide supplemental water during the first year. When it rains, you’ll notice that your rain garden looks like a pond for a few hours, which is perfect if you’ve always wanted a house that overlooks water.

Guest authored by Landscape East & West, an award winning full-service landscaping and rain garden design Company based in Portland, OR. They provide clients with landscape maintenance services, outdoor structure and water feature design and more.