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Skaggs: Rain gardens provide many benefits, including water conservation

POSTED: May 12, 2008 5:00 a.m.

Rain gardens are becoming increasingly popular in the home landscape.

A rain garden is a natural or dug shallow depression designed to capture and soak up stormwater runoff from your roof or other impervious areas around your home like driveways, walkways and even compacted lawn areas.

They can be used as a buffer to capture runoff from the home landscape before it enters a lake, pond or river.

The rain garden is planted with suitable trees, shrubs, flowers and other plants allowing runoff to soak into the ground and protect water quality.

In addition to adding beauty to your home landscape, rain gardens can help protect water quality, by reducing stormwater runoff from your property.  

A rain garden will allow the runoff generated on your property to infiltrate into the ground and help reduce potential water quality problems. While your individual rain garden may seem like a small contribution, collectively, rain gardens can produce water quality benefits.

In addition to reducing and filtering stormwater runoff and increasing groundwater recharge, rain gardens provide many other benefits, such as:

  • Provide habitat for wildlife and, with the proper plants, increase the number and diversity of birds and butterflies for those who enjoy watching them.
  • Provide an attractive and creative alternative to traditional lawn landscapes.
  • Require less maintenance than lawns because they do not need to be mowed, fertilized or watered once established.
  • Increase property values with creative landscaping designs.
  • Reduce storm drain overload and flooding if adopted on a community or neighborhood scale.
    Where you choose to locate the rain garden is important and you should take the time to assess the conditions in your yard to determine the most appropriate place.

The rain garden should be at least 10 feet from the house so infiltrating water doesn’t seep into the foundation.

Do not place the rain garden directly over a septic system or near wells and underground utilities.
It is better to build the rain garden in full or partial sun, not directly under a big tree.

It may be tempting to put the rain garden in a part of the yard where water already ponds. Don’t! The goal of a rain garden is to encourage infiltration, and your yard’s wet patches show where infiltration is slow.
Water should only pool in your rain garden for several hours after rainfall before it is absorbed. This is important for both the plants as well as mosquito concerns.

It’s best to use native, noninvasive species that are resistant to the stress from both brief periods of pooling as well as dry periods between rainfall events. A variety of plants with large root structures will make your rain garden more effective and less susceptible to disease.

Once the rain garden has become established, maintenance is minimal and will generally only include periodic mulching, pruning and thinning, and occasional plant replacement.

Be sure to inspect your rain garden periodically during and/or immediately after rainfall events to be sure the rain garden is working as designed.

Billy Skaggs is an agricultural agent and Hall County Extension Coordinator. Phone: 770-531-6988. Fax: 770-531-3994.



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