Spring means getting your garden or yard ready for the most lively time of the year for your plants, but spring showers can drown your efforts. A “rain garden” can help divert overflows of water from spring showers so the rest of your yard stays in shape to bloom.
A rain garden works by directing water into a specific area in your yard and then absorbing that water like a sponge. Installing one takes a bit of work, but if your area is prone to heavy rainfall, it can be worth spending a weekend and renting a digging machine for a fix that will last years. Here are the key elements of an effective rain garden:
- A site that is able to drain water at a rate of at least half an inch per hour. This article from This Old House runs you through how to test different areas in your yard.
- Pipes to direct water from gutters to your rain garden.
- Sandy soil that will absorb and drain water well. You may need to mix this in with the soil you remove from the rain garden site to make room for plants.
- Stones to prevent soil erosion. You don’t want your special soil to erode away in the rain!
- Plants that can tolerate being in standing water. You should have three categories: plants that like drier conditions, plants that do okay in occasional standing water, and plants that are okay in standing water.
You’ll need to dig out the soil in the area for the garden as well as routes for pipes that will direct water from your gutters into the garden. This is easier if you rent an excavator, but you can also dig by hand. Once you’ve dug out your rain garden, filled it with the right soil and plan where the stones and plants will go. Place the stones around the edge of garden to stop soil from eroding over time. The plants that can stand wet conditions should go in the center since that’ll stay wet longest after rain. It’s not the simplest of yard projects, but it’ll pay off as the spring storms start rolling in.
Image from Blue Thumb