The spring rains continue filling our springs, tributary creeks and rivers. As I have mentioned before in regard to rain, one of the best ways to counteract our impact on the natural environment is to build a rain garden. As I am gearing up to begin a rain garden project in my own backyard, I thought I would expand on the information for any of you who might be interested in partaking in this exciting endeavor, as well.

The spring rains continue filling our springs, tributary creeks and rivers. As I have mentioned before in regard to rain, one of the best ways to counteract our impact on the natural environment is to build a rain garden. As I am gearing up to begin a rain garden project in my own backyard, I thought I would expand on the information for any of you who might be interested in partaking in this exciting endeavor, as well.

The first thing you will want to do is choose the site. A rain garden can help reduce soil loss from erosion by preventing water from quickly running off of a site and down a slope, taking grass and soil with it. Rain gardens can also be the perfect maintenance solution for areas that are difficult to mow and care for, especially in the rainy seasons, due to standing water. Mowing in these areas can be completely eliminated by planting moisture-loving plants.

Rain gardens also add an aesthetic value and beautification to your landscape by adding wildflowers and sedges that bloom and attract birds, butterflies, insects, amphibians, and mammals for an up-close and personal look at nature.

Rain gardens are a shallow depression in the ground that has been planted with specialized water-loving plants. A good choice for one is on a downhill slope from your house and in full sun, or mostly full sun. To determine how large your rain garden should be, we use the average rain event in Missouri. We typically have 1/2 inch of water fall during each rain event (and about 30 rain events each year). So, using the estimate of an average house that has 1,100 square feet (50 feet x 22 feet) of impervious roof surface area, that would receive 342 gallons of water per half-inch rain event (one cubic foot holds 7.5 gallons of water). Assuming there are four downspouts, this equals about 80 gallons of water each.

When you are placing your rain garden you will want a downspout to empty into the rain garden. This will “feed” the garden and be able to absorb the water rather than having it all pour on to the lawn, running down the slope, or simply into the street gutter filling the sewer systems.

You will want to carve a trough from the downspout to the actual rain garden, maybe six to ten feet from the downspout to help slow the water down. The trough can be a buried tube that opens into the rain garden. For the 1,100 square foot roof, the garden should be about four to five feet square and about six inches deep to capture the 1/2 inch rainfall on your house. If you have two downspouts empty into one rain garden, ensure you expand your garden to 8 by 10 feet wide, but the depth can remain 6 inches. If your soil has a lot of clay, you probably would want to enlarge your rain garden to about 6 to 8 feet square per downspout to allow for proper drainage.

Once the rain garden shape has been dug, use the soil removed from the middle and bottom and pat down around the back edge (at the back of the downslope) to form a berm. This will help keep the water in during heavy rainfalls.

Now comes the fun part! Plant the specialized rain garden plants in and around your garden, lining the edges with rocks or stones to help the garden keep its shape.

Remember, when it rains the garden will fill with water and then slowly drain over a matter of several days. But, there will also be weeks when the garden is dry.

When your project is finished, sit back and enjoy one of the most unique and rewarding features of your landscape. Not only is it going green at its finest – the local wildlife will appreciate our efforts.