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How to Build Your Own Rain Garden

by Marsha Wolber 08/16/2020

Photo by InspiredImages via Pixabay

Typically made in shallow depressions in the landscape, rain gardens are a great way to beautify your yard and give back to the environment. Since they contain native grasses and perennial flowers, these gardens do not have to cost much — and they are easy to build on your own. To get started, simply use this guide to explore the benefits, then follow the steps to create the rain garden of your dreams. 

Rain Garden Benefits

As you survey your yard, you can likely see a few depressions that puddle up when it rains. These areas are the perfect place to build rain gardens. As you add native flowers and grasses to those depressions, their roots quickly drain and filter the runoff, pulling pollutants out before they reach the groundwater.

The plants are nourished by the rainwater, growing heartily and providing food to bees, butterflies, and other important pollinators. These pollinators can also find shelter in the rain garden, keeping them flitting across your property all through the growing season. You might even find frogs and other wildlife making their homes in these small gardens.

As all these creatures find homes in your yard, the rain garden can also protect your home from flooding during heavy rains. The plants promote up to 40 percent more drainage over typical lawn spaces, which helps keep water flowing down into the ground instead of toward your house.

How to Build a Rain Garden

When building a rain garden, you need to know your USDA plant hardiness zone and the types of native plants that thrive in your area. You can then select your favorite varieties and plan how to arrange them in your prepared space to best complement your landscape design. Here’s how to get started.

Supplies

You should select about a dozen different plants in large enough quantities to fully fill out the garden space. Choose plants that are both native to your area and will happily grow together.

With your plants selected, you will need to grab some tools to prepare the space, such as:

  • Spray marking chalk
  • Shovel
  • Rake

Also, consider gathering up décor items, such as glass baubles and painted rocks, to personalize your garden.

Steps

Once you have all your plants and tools on hand, you can start building your rain garden by following these steps.

  1. Observe your yard to find the lowest points and select one for your rain garden
  2. Spray the marking chalk around the perimeter of the planned garden space
  3. Use the shovel and rake to remove the grass in the area, creating a bowl shape
  4. Amend your soil as needed to make it habitable for the selected plants
  5. Artfully arrange the plants around the garden to create a beautiful design
  6. Plant the grasses and flowers in the garden and generously water them
  7. Add your other decorative elements to personalize the space

Once you finish these seven steps, all that is left to do is watch in wonder as your garden grows and wildlife flock to their new home.

About the Author
Author

Marsha Wolber

Marsha Wolber - A Little Background Marsha Wolber was born and raised in Pittsburgh, PA and graduated from Carnegie-Mellon University. After college, Marsha moved to Boston, MA where she worked in the information technology field as an applications programmer and software manager. She and her family moved to Fairfax County in 1987 and have lived here since then, except for a brief 4 year stint in the San Francisco Bay Area. Marsha’s family returned to Fairfax County from California primarily because of the quality of life and top notch education provided by our public schools. She and her husband Noel have two daughters, both graduates of Robinson Secondary School, the eldest a graduate of George Mason University and the youngest a graduate of Auburn University. 

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