Rain, rain, go away or at least drain the right of way. We need rain in our ecosystem; however, when rain hits concrete and other impervious surfaces it picks up pollutants and adds to storm water runoff which is not good for our environment. A rain garden can alleviate the associated problems of runoff and do so beautifully.
A rain garden simply put is a shallow, sunken landscape. It captures storm water which is soaked into the ground during the following 48 hours. In addition to filtering and absorbing the rain which prevents water pollution, flooding, and erosion, a rain garden improves the soil. Native plants and grasses will thrive in that environment. The deep roots of native plants will soak up the rainwater which in turn recharges the groundwater supply.
The first thing to look at if you want to plant a rain garden is the drainage pattern in your yard. Look for a natural downslope originating near a driveway, sidewalk and your downspouts. After you identify that area, dig a shallow depression. Based on Lexington’s average rain history, create a space that is 8” deep and covers an area that is 8’ x 10’. This space is adequate to collect water from one downspout. If you have an area that will be absorbing a greater amount of runoff, go bigger or consider creating more than one rain garden. After you have identified your prime spot, call before you dig. A quick call to 8-1-1 will prevent damage and the danger of hitting underground lines.
Another biggie, make sure your rain garden is at least ten feet away from your house. The last thing you want to to soak the foundation of your home. The digging is done.
Time to plant. Everything is game: shrubs, trees, plants, and grasses. Take your pick. Top it off with a shredded, hard wood mulch. That will keep weeds at bay and maintain the moisture. The design of a rain garden allows the water to drain within 48 hours. That’s good news if you’re worried about creating an environment for mosquitos. The mosquito life cycle needs a week to twelve days worth of standing water. A little planning and you can cash in on the trifecta of gardening. Beauty. A natural habitat for birds, bees, and butterflies. And it’s great for the environment. That’s a winning combination. The city of Lexington’s department of environmental quality has an online brochure with tips from scouting out the perfect location to design, building, and maintaining a rain garden. Here are two other great local resources on rain gardens.
University of Kentucky College of Agriculture www.ca.uky.edu/gogreen/ Bluegrass Rain Garden Alliance www.bluegrassraingardenalliance.org