Rain gardens: sustainable idea that saves communities and the environment!

Rain gardens are native shrubs, flowers planted in a small depression, generally formed on a natural slope. They are designed to retain rainwater that comes from roofs, driveways, sidewalks, or lawns. They use the biological activity of plants and microorganisms in the removal of pollutants from rainwater.

Rain gardens can be designed, both in the urban and residential areas

According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, rain gardens are actually very effective in removing up to 90% of nutrients and chemicals and up to 80% of sediments from the rainwater runoff. 

Compared to a conventional lawn, rain gardens allow for 30% more water to soak into the ground!

In a city that hides in its underground, part of its rivers and streams, the construction of rain gardens can be an excellent and inexpensive solution with regard to sustainable drainage.

"In other words, every time it rains, water runs off impermeable surfaces, such as roofs or driveways, collecting pollutants such as particles of dirt, fertilizer, chemicals, oil, garbage, and bacteria along the way. The pollutant-laden water enters storm drains untreated and flows directly to nearby streams and ponds."

Every city - large or small - has points of flooding or sharp unevenness that favor the accumulation of excesses by forming puddles that gradually infiltrate the soil, the results of which everyone knows.

Rain gardens may solve one of the worst issues in cities!

Thus, the massive construction of rain gardens is urgent, especially in places susceptible to frequent flooding, improving urban stormwater management practices. If they are well designed, they can provide important changes in the dynamics of the drainage system, such as increasing volume and speed of water flow from torrential rains.

Rain gardens allow the management of rainwater in the urban environment, as well as a great deal of economic benefits!

Nonetheless, the substrate formed by rain gardens improves the quality of runoff water and assists in the development of trees and other plants.

What if there are no rain gardens:

  • Rainwater runoff, after floods, contains 70% of the pollution flowing into lakes, ponds, rivers, and streams.
  • Roads, parking lots, paved sidewalks, and sealed surfaces accumulate excess oil and other contaminants.
  • Pesticides for lawn treatments, increase nitrogen, and phosphorus concentration in the atmosphere.
  • The streets and sidewalks are infested with animal poop and uncollected garbage.

You can have a rain garden at home!

10 tips to create a rain garden in your home:

If your backyard is well flooded during the rainy season, a domestic rain garden will be a good spot to avoid excessive saturation because of runoff. Here's what can be done:

  1. Find an appropriate place and dig a small depression to fill it with compost and add the new plants.
  2. Determine the slope of the ground using a long plank of flat wood and a level, then analyze the slope of the projected space.
  3. Analyze and prepare the soil, digging, and revolving the ground.
  4. Take weeds off and put some dry leaves on the surface.
  5. Test soil infiltration in order to check if the site accepts water.
  6. Track the water route by mapping where it comes from and where it flows to.
  7. Determine the type of plant, whether edible or not, preferably the ones that require little moisture.
  8. Look for plants that adapt to the soil conditions, insolation, and to the site's temperature.
  9. Plant properly so species can widely expand.
  10. Cover the soil with dry leaves in order to become a natural fertilizer.

Choosing the right plant: 

  • Plants can help to manage stormwater, so it's a good idea to plant all types.

  • Large trees and shrubs help deflect rainfall by reducing volume before hitting the ground.

  • Tall grasses act as filters when sucking water, retaining pollutants, and preventing the excess of mud flowing to ponds or rivers.

  • Short-rooted plants protect the soil and direct water straight to the underground.

Well done! Now you can add some decorative stones to prevent rain from destroying smaller plants and voilá!

You have just done great not only for the environment but also for yourself and to your community! If authorities omit or postpone their obligations, the only way out is, within the possibilities, to do the job yourself!

By Marco Veado - THINK GREEN