When you learn how to make a rain garden you basically learn how to create gardens that use your gutters and downspouts for irrigation. It’s a more direct way to harvest rainwater if you wouldn’t use that water for anything other than your garden to begin with.
The site “Art and Linda’s Wildflowers” has devoted an entire page to rain gardens. They included a quote from University of Wisconsin civil and environmental engineering professor Kenneth Potter to demonstrate how good rain gardens are for the environment.
“”Rain gardens help capture rainwater directed from roofs or other surfaces. When it rains, water initially pools in the garden’s plant zone, percolating quickly from there into the permeable layer underneath. The permeable zone then stores water until it seeps into subsoil. Rain gardens may improve water quality as well, capturing common contaminants such as excess nitrogen and phosphorus.”
There are a couple of ways to go about creating your rain garden.
Create an Underground Irrigation System
An underground irrigation system is the easiest way to handle a garden that already exists. You’ll need a couple of things to make this work.
- A shovel.
- Flexible drain pipe.
- A soaker hose.
- A piece of plexiglass.
A soaker hose, if you don’t already know, is a type of hose that is made out of recycled car tire. It has tiny holes in it, which means the water will seep slowly into the ground.
Before you do anything you’ll need to call Miss Dig at 811. Obviously we don’t want to knock out any underground utility lines while creating our irrigation system.
Once you’re free and clear to dig you’ll want to attach the flexible drain pipe to the end of your downspout. Then you’ll want to run it out for a few feet. The length will depend on the length of your soaker hose as well, since you want to make sure everything can reach your garden.
Cut your plexiglass to fit into the other end of the tube. Seal it in with some silicone caulk.
Now, drill a hole in the middle of the plexiglass that is big enough to fit your soaker hose. Push about two inches of the soaker hose inside and then caulk the soaker hose into the plexiglass.
Now you’re going to bury the whole thing across your yard and under your garden. As your water flows out of your gutters and into your downspouts it will travel through this irrigation system to slowly and efficiently wet your garden soil.
Create a Downspout Garden
Some people just use the downspout directly by creating a downspout garden. There are a couple of ways to manage this.
One way is to create a raised garden bed with some sort of wall directly under the downspouts. Fill it with soil, mulch, and the plants you intend to grow. Let the downspout water the garden directly.
This method still lets some water get awfully close to your house, however. Building a small waterfall, or a depression in the ground that slopes away from your downspout extender, will solve this problem.
Either way, you’ll need to be sure to plant things that really like moisture. Otherwise you’ll just get a muddy spot full of dead, over-watered plants.
Build a Downspout Planter
A downspout planter is a fairly simple alternative. They support only a small number of plants, but they still filter sediment and pollutants while providing a pretty addition to your landscaping.
You can purchase versions of the planter, or you can simply build your own. Here are some instructions from the Philidelphia Water Department.
Other Rain Garden Resources
Here are a few more useful rain garden sites to help you plan as you figure out how to create a rain garden.
- Sue’s Rules for Rain Gardens
- Architectural Gardens Rain Garden Tips
- The University of Florida Rain Gardens Site
- Florida Department of Environmental Protection’s Rain Garden Page
- Lillian Egleston’s Rain Garden Idea Board on Pinterest
Rain Control Gutters is a trusted gutter contractor working in Brandon, FL and the rest of the Tampa Bay metro area. We’ve been installing gutters and helping homeowners for over 35 years. If you’d like a free estimate on gutter repair, gutter guards, gutter cleaning or brand new gutters give us a call.