Have you been thinking about adding a rain garden to your landscaping? Well, this is the perfect time! In spring, the soil is softer to dig and the rainy weather contributes to the initial watering. Rain gardens are a beautiful way to enhance your landscape both visually and sustainably — benefiting everyone. So let’s get started!
A rain garden is a garden in a shallow depression made to naturally gather and filter rain water -designed to temporarily collect storm water runoff from roofs, driveways, walkways, patios, and lawns. Once the water is collected, it percolates down into the soil, which is then absorbed by trees, shrubs and other plants – cleaning the water of pollutants such as pesticides and fertilizers. Rain gardens are also a natural habitat for butterflies, birds and beneficial insects. We call that a win-win!
When choosing a rain garden site, first, decide where the rain garden will be filtering storm water from such as a downspout, driveway or sump pump. This area should receive water regularly from its source during a rainstorm. Also, make sure to choose a garden site that is at least 10 feet away from building foundations and septic system to avoid storm water from leaking into these areas.
Determine your hardiness zone before picking out your trees and shrubs. Knowing which hardiness zone you live in will clarify which trees will grow properly in your area. Also, select plants that will add beauty but also have the ability to thrive in wet areas. Find information on trees and shrubs through the Arbor Day Foundation’s Tree Guide.
One recomendation we have for your design is the sweetbay magnolia, thriving in zones 5-9. Its creamy white flowers have a light lemon scent and are visible in late spring and early summer. Bright scarlet-red seeded fruit ripens in the fall attracting a variety of songbirds.
Another colorful choice is the redosier dogwood. It has a wide range of tolerance except for extremely dry conditions. Its fibrous root system provides effective erosion control on banks and slopes. The shrub also has vibrant red stems that remain in winter-adding color all year round in zones 2-7.
Another bird-friendly option is the prairifire flowering crabapple. Long-lasting spring blossoms add variety and color to the year-round beauty it offers. Withstanding climates in zones 3-8, this ornamental is disease-resistant and able to adapt to many different conditions.
In the final steps of designing a rain garden, dig the desired area and arrange the spacing of plants according to their directions. Mulch the area with woodchips that won’t float away and apply so it is two to three inches deep. Remember to water!
Most importantly, while your plants are soaking in the water, you can soak in the splendor you have just created! Visit the Arbor Day Foundation’s Tree Nursery to find a wide variety of trees and shrubs, perfect for your rain garden. Get a discount on all of your trees when you become an Arbor Day Foundation member.