Building a rain garden | Living the Country Life

Building a rain garden

Rain gardens will help drain collected yard water, prevent runoff, and beautify your landscape.

Radio interview source: Denny Schrock, Garden Editor, Better Homes & Gardens

Listen here to the radio story (mp3) or read below

If there's an area of your yard that collects water, consider building a rain garden.  
Denny Schrock is a garden editor for Better Homes and Gardens. He says rain gardens are designed to capture excess moisture from your property before it runs off, and help it slowly filter into the ground. He says it should be located where water naturally flows, typically about 10-to-30-feet from a downspout. The area chosen could also be a natural low depression in your yard. The goal is to have the water collect only temporarily, not turn the garden into a bog. Schrock says your first step is to do a percolation test on the soil. Dig a hole, fill it with water, and see how long it takes to drain away.
"If it is gone within a day or so, you probably have a good site for a rain garden," he says. "If it stays there for several days, you may have to do some extra work to get additional drainage such as poking through a compacted layer, or dig deeper for the water to filtrate out."
The rain garden should be six-to-eight-inches deep. Schrock says there are formulas that will compute how big the garden should be in relation to the amount of water it's collecting.  
When choosing plants, you'll have the best luck with native species.
"Particularly moist prairie plants," says Schrock. "If you think about it, many prairie plants survive this type of landscaping. That is, in the spring time when we have a lot of moisture, there may be what they call little 'prairie pockets,' water standing there. But by summertime, they'll certainly have dried out. So, plants need to be able to survive periodic wet conditions as well as quite dry conditions."
Schrock also recommends adding mulch around the plants, which will help keep the weeds down. 

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