Build a Rain Garden in 3 Easy Steps | Omega


You can build a rain garden in your own yard, just like those near Omega's Main Hall and Dining Hall.

A rain garden is planted a little lower in the ground than a normal garden to help catch stormwater. This low-maintenance gardening style adds more plants to your yard, attracts more butterflies and wildlife, and can even help prevent moisture damage to your home.

Rain gardens also protect our natural waterways from pollution. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates that stormwater runoff is responsible for about 70 percent of all water pollution in lakes, rivers, and streams. A rain garden is an excellent way to intercept, detain, and infiltrate rain and snow runoff.

Follow these 3 steps to create your own rain garden:

Step 1: Choose a location and mark it.

Start by observing your yard during a rainstorm. Where is the water coming from and where it is going? You want to position the garden between the source of the runoff, such as a roof or driveway, and the destination, which is usually a low spot in the yard, a drain, or a natural stream. Be careful not to place the garden over a septic field or in the way of your utility lines. You also want it to be at least 10 feet away from your home. Look for an area that receives partial to full sunlight. Your garden can be small, medium, or large, depending on the size of the drainage area. Use string or stakes to mark your area.

Step 2: Pick your plants.

Now that you know the size of your garden, take a trip to a local nursery. Ask for native plants, as local varieties will adapt best to your climate. Choose flowers, grasses, and plants that like both wet and dry areas. Your garden will fill with water for about 48 hours, as the water slowly drains into the ground. Don't worry, mosquito larvae can’t flourish in a rain garden because they need more than a week to complete their life cycles.

Step 3: Dig, plant, mulch.

Get a garden hoe and shovel, and dig about three to six inches deep. You want to be sure the garden is level, so if you are working on an incline take care to get the whole garden as even and smooth as possible. You can use some of the soil to build a shelf around the garden's edges. Mix in some compost to help ready the soil for new plants and provide extra nutrients to help the plants thrive. For many gardeners it’s helpful to place the plants around and check out the design before getting them in the ground. Place the plants about one foot apart. Once you are happy with the design, you can plant. Finally, add a layer of mulch to help prevent weeds. A heavier mulch is preferable for a rain garden because lighter mulches tend to float or get displaced in heavy rain. Try wood chips or pine straw.

Once your garden is in, be sure to water it regularly (unless it's rainy season) for the first few weeks to help the plants establish their root systems and adapt to their new home. Once they are established, you won’t need to water, unless there are severe drought conditions.

© 2013 Omega Institute for Holistic Studies