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Going Green: Make Your Own Rain Garden

Explorer B
Did you know that water is not the only thing that flows into storm drains after a heavy rain?  Chemicals from fertilizers and pesticides, oil residue from cars, soil rich with nutrients like nitrogen and phosphorus, and trash can be swept off our lawns and streets and flow straight into our drainage systems.

Since some of these drains empty into rivers and streams, runoff pollution causes a lot of problems and damage to watersheds across the county.  But your lawn doesn’t have to be part of the problem.  Smart (and beautiful!) landscaping can be part of the solution.  I’m talking about planting rain gardens!

Besides being a pretty addition to your property, rain gardens are super effective when it comes to filtering rainwater.  If constructed properly and filled with native plants that thrive in wet conditions, a rain garden can improve water quality while soaking up runoff.  Additionally, rain gardens will attract butterflies, birds, and even small animals to your lawn, promoting biodiversity.

You can construct your very own rain garden by following these six steps:

Find a Location
Ideally, the rain garden should be located at least a few feet away from your house to prevent excess water from accidentally flooding your home.  The garden should be located in an area of your lawn where water naturally drains, so consider planting the garden close to where the water from your rain gutter flows onto your lawn.  Positioning the garden at the bottom of a slope or small incline would also work.

Design the Space
Plan the size and shape of your garden. Be creative, and figure out what size works best for your space.

Prepare the Ground
After you have determined the location and size of the garden, rip out any grass or other plants covering the space.  Dig into the ground to make a bowl-shaped hole that covers the entire area of the garden. The middle of the garden should be deeper than the sides, so that the water will have space to soak into the ground.  Try to make three tiers or levels of depth in the ground, with the edges of the garden sloping down toward the center.

Plant Native Species
Be sure to select native species to plant in your garden.  These plants will be more accustomed to the climate and more likely to flourish.  You should also select plants that can withstand both wet and dry conditions.  Plant them about one foot apart from each other, and fill the space around them with soil.

Add Compost
Add a few inches of compost to the garden after the plants are in the ground.  Use the layer of compost to level out the ground.  

Water and Weed
Over time, your rain garden will become fairly low maintenance.  At first, however, be sure to water your new plants regularly and keep the garden free of weeds.

Do you have a rain garden?  Tell us what you’ve planted by commenting below.  DING!  You are now free to be green!