How to Build Rain Gardens and Their Benefits

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Rain garden with flowers and rocks

A downpour can do more than ruin a day, it can be an environmental hazard and a nuisance for homeowners who have to deal with the runoff. Rain gardens, a sunken area in the landscape that collects and filters runoff, can solve both problems beautifully.

4 Environmental Benefits of Rain Gardens

  1. Runoff can pick up pollutants and carry them to streams and watersheds via storm drains. Rain gardens catch the runoff, filter it and repurpose it.
  2. Gardens double as habitats and food sources for wildlife, such as butterflies and birds.
  3. They protect against flooding and drainage problems.
  4. Businesses can also use rain gardens to help safeguard the environment. Nearly 300,000 gallons of water are captured and cleaned by the rain garden at Fernbank Museum each year, preventing dangerous pollutants from the parking lot from entering local water sources.

7 Tips For Building Rain Gardens

  1. Conduct a soil infiltration test to determine if your yard is suitable for a rain garden. See the University of Connecticut’s rain garden website for an easy how-to. www.nemo.uconn.edu/raingardens
  2. Select a location that is a minimum of 10 feet from your home if you have a basement.
  3. Before you dig, call the Utilities Protection Center, Inc. at 811 or 1.800.282.7411 to request an underground locator service. This will ensure that you don’t accidentally hit a gas or water pipe, or a buried electrical line.
  4. Install the garden in a flat or slightly sloped area versus a steep slope. Avoid areas that are always wet.
  5. When selecting plants, try selecting some native varieties. The Georgia Native Plant Society maintains a searchable online directory of more than100 indigenous plants. www.gnps.org
  6. Use transplants instead of direct sowing seeds, otherwise they will be washed away by the rain.
  7. Do not build your garden over your septic tank or near a drinking water well.

10 Plants that Work Well for Rain Gardens in Atlanta, Georgia

  1. Astilbe
  2. Cardinal flower (native)
  3. Daylily
  4. Joe-Pye weed (native)
  5. New England aster
  6. Rhododendrons (some species native)
  7. Southern arrowwood
  8. Turtlehead (native)
  9. Virginia sweetspire (native)
  10. Wild columbine

Connect with Landscape, Outdoor Living and Gardening Experts if you need help creating your rain garden and designing your outdoor living spaces.

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