Happy April, Spring is here! And if you’re anything like us you’ve been itching to get gardening! If you’re looking to freshen up your landscape this Spring, we suggest you consider installing a radiant rain garden! These gardens do more than just look pretty, they will absorb and filter rainwater runoff from your downspouts, improve the drainage on your property, increase biodiversity in your neighbourhood and help protect our watershed in the process.
Rain gardens are one of our favourite green infrastructure features that a homeowner can add to their property! Rain gardens help to manage rain where it falls by capturing rain, infiltrating it through the soils and root systems of plants, recharging our groundwater (like when rain falls in a forest!). You can see our team building a rain garden with a homeowner in Dundas last year as part of our Catch the RAIN program here.
So what exactly is a rain garden, & how does it work to manage stormwater? A rain garden is a shallow, bowl shaped garden bed, strategically placed where it will intercept rainwater runoff. A relatively easy and popular way to achieve this is by disconnecting and redirecting your downspout into it. It is important to ALWAYS plan your rain garden at least 3m away from the house as you do not want roof runoff soaking into a garden near the foundation of your home. A rain garden is planted with deep rooted native plants, grasses, wildflowers and shrubs!On top of its wonderful ability to manage our stormwater, the native plants in your garden will increase biodiversity in our area, while at the same time creating new habitat for pollinators.
Plant placement is important, as you will want the plants in the bowl to be water tolerant as they’ll be the most wet while the plants on the perimeter are typically more drought tolerant. There are more in depth guides below on how to build a rain garden but know that rain gardens can be built on many different landscapes – including those that have clay.You’ll want to check how your infiltration rates. Clay soils mean your rain garden will be more shallow, but larger in square footage. More sandy loam soils can be dug deeper and have a smaller footprint. It is important to determine how much roof area the downspout leading into your rain garden will take. Most rain gardens are built to handle the 1 inch storm which is why you always build an outlet for the water to overflow in case of a more severe rain storm. Check out the guides below for more information on how to plan out your rain garden.
Spring is a wet season, our City’s grey infrastructure can understandably become overwhelmed with stormwater from both snowmelt and increased rainfall. This Spring we can all contribute with a natural solution to stormwater management in our neighbourhoods by installing a rain garden on our properties. Your basement, your watershed, your neighbourhood pollinators and passerbyers will thank you for it!
There are many rain garden guides on the internet to help you make your rain gardening dreams come true. Here are some great resources to help you get started:
- Toronto and Region Conservation Authority (TRCA) https://trca.ca/news/complete-guide-building-maintaining-rain-garden/
- City of Guelph sample rain garden design https://guelph.ca/living/house-and-home/lawn-and-garden/sample-garden-designs/rain-gardens/
- City of Guelph Healthy Landscapes http://guelph.ca/wp-content/uploads/HealthyLandscapes_RainGardens.pdf
- Green Communities Canada hosts a website called Rain Garden Tour featuring rain garden demonstration projects from around Ontario and includes information on how to become a Master Rain Gardener http://www.raingardentour.ca/rain-gardens-101.html
- Landscape Ontario – 7 part video series on how to build a rain garden https://horttrades.com/how-to-build-a-rain-garden-video-series
- Ontario Native Plants has pre-made rain garden plant packs for sunny and shady rain gardens for purchase through their website- delivery in Mid May 2020 https://onplants.ca/plant-packs
- Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources & University of Wisconsin – Rain Gardens: A How-to Manual for Homeowners