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What is a Rain Garden, How Do They Work, and Why We Need Them

Rain gardens are a unique type of garden that helps filter stormwater runoff from rooftops and other hard surfaces before the water gets into our rivers, streams, and lakes. They are becoming more popular, especially for those interested in a more sustainable, green lifestyle.

Rain gardens reduce flooding when there’s too much rainfall in a short period of time. They also provide habitats for wildlife in urban areas. This post will discuss what rain gardens are made up of, how they work, and why it is so important that we integrate them into our landscape designs.


What is a rain garden?

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A rain garden is a landscaped area that soaks up rainwater runoff from hard surfaces like patios, sidewalks, and roofs.

They are also known as a bioswale or sub-surface retention basin/trench depending on the design of the rain garden. They can be located in front or backyards, parking lots, golf courses, and other places where rainwater runoff can be directed.

The main goal is to collect water and keep it from going directly into rivers, streams, or even your own home’s plumbing system. This reduces flooding during times of heavy rainfall as well as prevents pollutants such as fertilizers and sediment from being washed away. The rain garden becomes a place for rainwater to settle and percolate into the soil, which then helps replenish groundwater supplies. 

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How do rain gardens work?

Rain gardens work by capturing rainwater runoff. Landscapers plant them with rain-loving native plants such as rainforest grasses, wildflowers, and cattails that help to filter the rainwater. This prevents pollutants, like pet waste, automotive fluids, and garbage truck waste on the pavement from running off into our rivers and lakes.


Why do we need rain gardens?

Here are just a few things that rain gardens do for our environment:

  • First, they minimize flooding during periods of heavy rainfall by slowing down and filtering storm water runoff from roofs and other hard surfaces before it reaches storm drains.
  • They provide habitat for wildlife in urban areas, which can be scarce in large cities.
  • They help to keep rain from getting into our sewer systems, which can lead to overflows and backups in the system during periods of heavy rainfall or snowmelt. In addition, this reduces wastewater treatment costs for municipalities because they don’t have to treat as much water that isn’t coming through the storm sewer system.

Rain Gardens For the Pacific Northwest: Design and Build Your Own (Design & Build Your Own)

Why rain gardens are important for sustainable living

Rain gardens are important because they help to keep rain from getting into our sewer systems, which can lead to overflows and backups in the system during periods of heavy rainfall or snowmelt.

This gathering of water can help prevent water from coming up from your basement floor and flooding your basement.

They also provide habitat for wildlife in urban areas and an area for native grasses and plants to grow.


Some benefits of a rain garden

A rain garden has many benefits. There are several reasons to have a rain garden in your yard.

  • Help reduce stormwater pollution, keeping rainwater clean as it flows over the soil.


  • Provide habitat for wildlife in urban areas where there is little natural vegetation or greenery, especially if you have a rain garden on your own property.


  • They can prevent flooding during periods of heavy rainfall.


  • Rain gardens can help prevent damage from sewer backups by slowing down water flow before it reaches your house’s plumbing system.


  • They are aesthetically pleasing. You get the benefit of a beautiful design in your landscape. Plants, like flowering perennials, filter pollutants from rainwater runoff before it reaches storm drains and waterways. They add beauty to any yard or outdoor living space with their lush vegetation and vibrant colors.


Other benefits of a rain garden

Rain Gardens: Managing Water Sustainably in the Garden and Designed Landscape

  • They improve the overall level of your garden soil mix, making rain garden plants more likely to grow well. If you have a rain garden on your property that is not near any trees or large shrubs, the rainwater runoff from rain gardens can help prevent drought in these areas of dry soil by providing water when it’s needed most.


  • You get the benefit of sound absorption as rain gardens act as a natural sound barrier to the noise of traffic, lawnmowers, and other loud yard equipment.


  • A rain garden is an environmentally friendly way to landscape your property with less effort than traditional landscaping methods.


  • They can decrease your lawn maintenance costs as rain gardens do not require a lot of maintenance. In addition, if they take up most of your lawn, you have less grass to mow.


  • They will save time spent watering your lawn or other landscape plants since rainwater runoff is their water supply.


  • Rain gardens are low maintenance compared with most landscape plantings because they need little watering after initial establishment, which can last anywhere from two to six weeks.


Who is a rain garden right for?

Rain gardens are perfect for people with limited space. They take up very little room in your yard or landscape since they don’t need to be big enough to support tall vegetation like trees and shrubs do. You can build one even if you’re working with a small yard.

They are perfect for yards that don’t have much sunlight. Rain gardens need to be located in full or partial shade since they use rainwater runoff as a water supply.

They are perfect for yards that have just suffered severe storm damage as rain gardens can be used to quickly clean up rainwater runoff after it’s been through your yard. So whether you’ve experienced a significant storm or you’re having trouble with flooding in heavy rainfall seasons, a rain garden could help. In addition, if the soil underneath needs to be repaired because of water damage, rain gardens can be built on top of the damaged soil so they won’t disturb it.


Tips about rain gardens

Rain gardens are really simple to construct. Depending on how much rainwater runoff they’re expected to absorb and where they are located in relation to the rainwater flow from your roo, they can be as small or large as you need them to be.

They don’t have any special drainage or soil condition requirements  – rain gardens need soil that will absorb rainwater runoff, but you can use any type of garden soil mix.

You can design and build one yourself, even if you’re not a rain garden expert. You don’t need to hire a contractor for this type of project, although you can if you’re short on time. Be advised, however, that rain gardens can be expensive. So if you build one yourself, make sure to contact your underground utilities before digging.

Lastly, make sure you have well-draining soil so that the water can soak into the ground. Since the rain garden collects water you will want to make sure that the excavated soil mix is able to handle the water runoff. You may want to add sand to the bottom to ensure proper drainage of the area.


Final thoughts about rain gardens

A rain garden can be an easy and environmentally friendly way to deal with the excess water on your land. They are a great way to improve water quality and can be a nice addition to your house’s landscaping.

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