Rain gardens

Wendy S. Delmater
By Wendy S. Delmater on Tue, Sep 24, 2013 - 4:23pm

A Rain Garden is a structure on a slope that catches rain and allows it to seep into the soil instead of running off.  I find them useful in my area since water tends to run off our hard pan clay layer. This sequesters the water and puts it to good use. More at http://www.raingardennetwork.com/build.htm

Have any of you built a rain garden or even a berm to catch rainwater for your plantings?

1 Comment

Grover's picture
Status: Platinum Member (Offline)
Joined: Feb 16 2011
Posts: 896
Good Idea in the Right Location

Great idea - with caveats. I've seen these increasingly used in parking lots and in ditches along mountain roads. In the right location, they can work wonders. As with anything else, in the wrong place or with the wrong design, you're asking for trouble during extreme events.

  1. The garden will act as a temporary dam. When the soil gets saturated, it loses strength and can wash out. The small drainage channel underneath could get overwhelmed. Consider extreme conditions when deciding what to place and how strong to make it. A placid location will be more forgiving than a steep hillside. Do you get hurricanes or severe thunderstorms? Who would have thought that Colorado would be inundated by tropical moisture. It was. If the garden washes out and causes downstream damage, do you think a sharp eyed lawyer would want to make you financially responsible for additional damage? It's not nice to fool with mother nature - even giving her a helping hand can backfire. There may be a reason that the slope is barren. Do your homework before you "fix" the problem.
  2. You need to keep the gravel isolated from the other soil layers so it can remain unclogged. If I were building one of these, I'd use a cheap filter fabric between the native soil and the gravel and another one between the gravel and the garden soil. I'd likely put a closed end slotted drainage pipe in the gravel layer. That way, if the gravel spaces got filled with clay, there still would be positive drainage.
  3. Choose the appropriate plant types for these gardens. Cacti probably won't flourish. You might be able to grow cucumbers or other viny plants that will produce outside of the garden, but I'd be more tempted to plant a flower garden that invites birds and bees.


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