Slow rain down, spread it out, and soak it in! The purpose of a rain garden is to reduce rainwater runoff.
Rain gardens (also known as bioswales) are depressions in the soil that are planted with deep-rooted plants and grasses to help divert storm runoff from treated lawns and roofs. An added benefit is that they give gardeners the opportunity to feature native plants that will encourage butterflies, birds, and beneficial insects.
“The main purpose of a rain garden is to divert stormwater to the soil before it hits the sidewalk, runs down storm drains, and enters waterways,” explains Sloat Vice President and horticulturist Katy Thompson. “Soils filter the storm runoff of pollutants, and organisms in the soil work to break them down. This is an efficient way to help mitigate polluted runoff entering bays and streams, help with erosion, and allow gardeners to utilize a precious resource.”
The rain garden concept started in the midwest and on the east coast during the 1990’s, and is now a growing landscaping trend.
Creating a rain garden does not require technical experience, planting plans, or heavy equipment. Here’s how it works: A mounded or bermed garden with a depression space is filled with blooming annuals and perennials. Many of your favorite blooming perennials will be able to live there, though plants selected for a rain garden should be able to tolerate both saturated and dry soil. It should be located near a house to catch roof stormwater runoff, or in an area that will collect runoff from the lawn or driveway. Rain gardens are perfect for both suburban and urban gardens.
“Building a rain garden in your yard is probably the easiest and most cost-efficient thing you can do to reduce your contribution to stormwater pollution,” explains the Rain Garden Network. “By capturing rainwater and diverting it into a rain garden where it can slowly soak into the ground, filtering contaminants and keeping quantities of clean water from going down the sewer system, you’ll have a great looking garden that puts water in its place.”