The Ultimate Guide to Florida Rain Gardens

how-to-make-a-rain-gardenMarch is a great time to start getting out into the yard, which is why we wanted to take some time to remind you that a rain garden is a great way to help the environment while saving some money. See: 4 Reasons to Start a Florida Rain Garden.

We also wanted to give you a comprehensive resource which would guide you through the process of creating your rain garden. Rain gardens are a simple concept, but they’re ultimately somewhat tricky to execute. If you don’t get it right you could wind up with a big mud puddle instead of a beautiful new addition to your landscaping.

What is a Rain Garden?

It’s a garden planted in a shallow depression, planted in a position that will allow it to catch storm water run-off. Often, you’ll place yours downstream from your downspout. You might even build a little rock bed stream to gently guide the water from the downspout to the garden.

You’ll fill your rain garden with beautiful, water-resistant native plants. These plants will never need extra watering. They also don’t require any fertilizer. They’re quite used to making the most out of Florida’s natural habitat, so they don’t need quite as much help as an imported species does.

How Do I Get Started?

You should actually begin with a series of phone calls. The local county extension can be a great resource.

They can give you a lot of great tips on how to make your rain garden a success. Every rain garden is a little different, and it might take some expert help to choose the right diameter, depth, soil composition, and plants.

Here are the links to every county extension in our service area.

Your second call should be 811, since there is going to be some digging involved. You want to be sure that you aren’t going to hit any buried gas lines.

Next, take the time to really sit down and design your rain garden. As you might predict, there is an app for that.

How Do I Actually Do the Work?

First, understand that a rain garden actually has a series of zones inside of it. You’re going to need this knowledge when it comes time to plan yours.

The innermost ring is Zone 1, and it’s reserved for plants that can tolerate the wettest conditions. Zone 2 is for plants that can tolerate some standing water. Zone 3 is for plants that like the damp, but who prefer not to be soaked down.

As you can see, you’re going to need to count on purchasing a variety of plants. There’s no such thing as a really good monoculture rain garden.

Use spray paint to mark off all three zones. This is going to be your dig zone.

You should either create an underground drain system or your little downspout riverbed at this time.

Once you’ve got the area excavated you’ll fill it with whatever sod mix the county recommended. You’ll also ring the outer area with stones.

Finally, the fun part! You can begin planting, adding each group of plants according to its zone. Once they’re in, make sure that you mulch them to protect them from weeds.

If none of this sounds workable this post will offer a few alternative rain garden designs.

Still feeling unsure about what to do? See: Q&A Florida Rain Garden Guide to Get You Started With Confidence.

Maintain and Troubleshoot

Rain gardens are low-maintenance, but they’re not no-maintenance. We’ve written quite a few posts on the subject of maintaining and troubleshooting a rain garden. Here they are, for your reference.

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