What is a Rain Garden? The Solution for a Soggy Yard
Updated: Feb 21
The soft pitter-patter of raindrops on a window or roof can provide a sense of calm amidst a city's chaotic hustle and bustle. For those living in cities, have you ever wondered where all that rainfall goes after it drops gently from a corner eave or down the rainspout? Concrete and asphalt aren't as porous as we'd like them to be, the marvel of engineering though they are, and a manicured lawn can only accommodate so much water depending on its level and soil permeability. Thus, city landscaping infrastructure relies on curbside storm drains to handle any overflow from a deluge. This heavy flow can transport a wild assortment of pollutants to our local bodies of water (pet waste, excess pesticide or fertilizer, and even little Jimmy's toy boat). If you spread this tainted water collection over the total amount of land that runs into a particular river or body of water (referred to as the 'watershed'), it adds up to a lot of downstream effects, literally!
So what can you do to help maintain this high standard of urban living and mitigate polluted stormwater runoff? Greenscape Geeks has an elegant solution: the construction of a rain garden on your property can help! A rain garden is a shallowly depressed soil bed with mounded dirt gradients around the perimeter that allows excess rainwater to be quickly and effectively drained into the soil. This drainage, in turn, feeds back into a natural underground water store, or aquifer. Think of a rain garden as a set of Russian nesting dolls in your soil. The innermost doll is in a zone of the heaviest water concentration and, as you expand outward, the zones become larger in area but shallower in depth to allow for plant varieties of different soil moisture requirements to flourish.
Rain gardens do more than preventing excess stormwater runoff and fix soggy yards. Tall, flowering plants--like the Midwest's echinacea purpurea, or purple coneflower--are the welcome mats for surrounding pollinators like butterflies and hummingbirds! These visitors germinate flowers, provide food for other animals and insects, and bring a healthy pop of color to your property. Choosing a site on your property for all this activity can be challenging, but Greenscape Geeks' landscape architects are here to help. With an on-site consultation, we can plan the installation around the natural flow of your land by integrating a rain garden with existing drainage swales.
Planning your project with us from the start is a smart financial move too! The short and long term savings associated with a rain garden stem from our use of 100% native plant species. Our species selection cuts fertilizer costs usually associated with exotic or non-native species. Unless a preliminary soil test indicates otherwise, the native plants we geek out over are hardy enough to grow and combat the weeds other non-native species cannot; talk about a home-field advantage!
After installation, the maintenance schedule for a rain garden is reasonably straightforward. The dreaded weed season in spring is unavoidable, even as the grasses and robust plants take root. Young rain gardens require the love and attention of any starting flower bed, but with a Greenscape Geeks low-maintenance plan, the length and growth of your rain garden can be amped up or pruned back as necessary to ensure maximum viability of your investment.
If Greenscape Geeks' enthusiasm about rain gardens isn't sufficient (hard to believe, we know), then maybe the Hamilton County Soil & Water Conservation District can jazz it up! There is an array of projects eligible for cost-share funding for the backyard enthusiast, including rain gardens. Your city wants to help you help nature; what a novel idea! You can reach out to one of Indianapolis's all-star urban conservationists, Claire Lane, here for a project rebate estimate. Take advantage of eco-friendly landscaping offers for a unique, beautiful addition to your yard.
If you're unsure a rain garden is the best organic choice for your land or budget, we're happy to answer any remaining questions you may have to help you make the best choice for your landscape, so contact us. In the meantime, we'd like to impart some lawn management practices to embrace as you make the green-thumb transition!
-Composting fresh grass clippings, leaves, and other lawn trimming waste (another Greenscape Geeks service FYI) can prevent stressing municipal water treatment facilities. Rotting vegetation removes oxygen from the water it is in and can affect the food chain for fish further downstream, not to mention it gunks up those amazing water purification systems that work hard to keep you and the neighbors hydrated. Through proper drought-resistant landscaping we can turn that soggy grass into soil gold for you!
-Non-organic fertilizers and pesticides can bring unwelcome health hazards to areas where children and pets frequent. Chemistry can be geeky, but we advocate clean, all-natural solutions. Consider alternative organic products like bone meal, essential oils, or compost tea for your fertilization and pest-control needs. For growing new turf or large scale prairie restoration projects, let Greenscape Geeks custom landscaping handle it.
-Winter is waning, and the salted roads have caked up on your car over the season. Keeping a clean whip is important, especially concerning the longevity of your car's chassis. Washing your vehicle on grass as opposed to the street is another great way to prevent excess detergents and sediment from going down the drain. Greenscape Geeks doesn't have any car detailing services, but we'd be happy to aerate your existing soil for proper drainage!
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Sources for rain gardens taken from:
Greenscape Geeks, LLC
"Rain Gardens: Sustainable Landscaping for a Beautiful Yard and a Healthy World" by Lynn m. Steiner and Robert W. Domm. Published by Voyageur Press, 2012.