Native plants in a residential rain garden.
Photo by Karen Eckman.
A rain garden is a shallow, constructed depression that is planted with deep-rooted native plants and grasses. It is located to receive runoff from hard surfaces such as a roof via a downspout, a sidewalk and driveway. Rain gardens slow down the rush of water from these hard surfaces, hold the water for a short period of time, and allow it to naturally infiltrate into the ground rather than pooling or entering a storm drain.
Rain gardens are a beautiful and colorful way for homeowners, businesses and municipalities to help ease storm water problems. There is a growing trend by municipalities and homeowners to incorporate natural processes to help relieve flooding and pollution.
When you make a rain garden, you improve local water quality while creating a beautiful natural area that will attract birds and butterflies. Rain gardens allow rain and snowmelt to seep naturally into the ground. This helps recharge our groundwater supply, and prevents a water quality problem called polluted runoff. Rain gardens are an important way to make our cities more attractive places to live while building urban ecological health.
As a rule, the less "turf" on lawns, the better it is for water quality -- turf-style lawns create a harder surface which does not absorb water as readily as garden areas. Turf-style lawns usually require chemical treatments and extra water to look uniform, increasing the risk of pollution in local water. Yards that feature native plants, grasses and shrubs are much easier to maintain in addition to promoting water conservation practices, and reducing urban pollution.