Creating a Rain Garden

Over the past several years, we have seen a growing trend toward more environmentally conscious ways of living. It’s an attitude that we can carry out in all aspects of our lives, including in our homes and gardens.

One way to do that is to create a rain garden, an area to which rainwater can be diverted and naturally filtered back into the earth instead of running into the city’s storm sewers. Rain gardens are created by incorporating a drainage swale with rocks and natural plantings that work together to hold excess rainwater and slowly defuse it back into the ground. One of the benefits of a rain garden is that a smaller area of your yard will be inundated during a heavy rainfall, which means less soil erosion.

A rain garden isn’t a pond. In fact, in a well-designed rain garden, standing water will seldom last more than a few hours. As a result, rain gardens don’t provide a breeding ground for mosquitoes.  Rain gardens do, however, provide a wonderful habitat for birds, dragonflies, butterflies and other wildlife.

When designed well, a rain garden can blend in with its surroundings and provide an interesting terrain. Remember that proper plant selection and location are key. Since rain gardens are designed with a dip at the center to collect rain and snow melt, neatly trimmed shrubs, stone retaining walls, or other landscaping elements can be used to keep the rain garden edges visually appealing. When deciding on which plants to use, consider hardy native species that thrive in our Southwest Indiana ecosystem without the use of chemical fertilizers or pesticides. You can also create a lovely rain garden with wild flowers and grasses.

In deciding where to locate your rain garden, consider putting it near a hard surface such as an alley, a sidewalk, a driveway, or under the gutters on your home.

Another option if you don’t have an area large enough to create a rain garden but want to collect and use the rainwater in your garden is to use a rain barrel. It’s simply a small reservoir that is tied into your downspout and collects and holds rainwater until you are ready to use it.

One thing to consider when thinking of how to create a more eco-friendly landscape around your home is the use of permeable paving materials. There are several options available with more on the market every day. One example is porous concrete that employs larger pea gravel and a lower water-to-cement ratio to create a pebbled, open surface that is roller compacted. Like the rain garden and the rain barrel, the goal is the same: to redirect water headed for the nearest drain or sewer line back to the earth, where Mother Nature can begin the natural water cycle all over again.

Canada Anemone (Anenome canadensis)
Columbine (Aquilegia canadensis)
Wild Ginger (Asarum canadense)
New England Aster (Aster novae-angliae)
Pink Turtlehead (Chelone oblique)
Tall Coreopsis (Coreopsis tripteris)
Purple Coneflower (Echinacea purpurea)
Joe-Pye-Weed (Eupatorium sp.)
Wild Geranium (Geranium maculatum)
False Sunflower (Heliopsis helianthoides)
Liatris (Liatris spicata)
Cardinal Flower (Lobelia cardinalis)
Blue Lobelia (Lobelia siphilitica)
Ostrich Fern (Matteuccia struthiopteris)
Cinnamon Fern (Osmunda cinnamomea)
Creeping Phlox (Phlox subulata)
Black-Eyed Susan (Rudbeckia subtomentosa)
Butterfly Milkweed (Asclepias tuberosa)
Swamp Milkweed (Asclepias incarnata)
Foxglove (Penstemon digitalis)

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