Rain gardens: Gardens with benefits

    Whether we get our drinking water from groundwater or our creeks and rivers, rainwater keeps it all flowing.

    It makes sense (as well as saving cents) to capture, protect, and conserve rainwater as naturally as possible.

    Rain comes from nature, but stormwater runoff is manmade.

    During a common rain or snowstorm, our roofs, sidewalks and driveways create thousands of gallons of runoff that cause flooding and soil erosion.

    Stormwater runoff also carries pollution such as motor fluids, trash, lawn chemicals and bacteria into local waterways.

    In southeastern Pennsylvania, creeks flow to the Delaware River and Bay.

    The health of these vitally important waterways depends upon how we conserve and protect water resources far upstream.

    Rain gardens can:

    *Reduce flooding in our communities;

    *Filter pollution out of rainwater and melting snow;

    *Protect and replenish drinking water supplies;

    *Provide important food and shelter for wildlife;

    *Replace wet areas with a lovely garden feature!

    How to make a rain garden:

    Shaped like a bowl, a rain garden captures water and soaks it into the ground – just as nature intended.

    A simple rain garden slows and reduces the runoff that flows from your property while providing a lovely landscape feature.

    You can turn a spot in your yard into a beautiful garden – with benefits!

    In most yards, a rain garden can be easily installed with the following steps:

    1 – Choose an area in your yard that gets water from your roof downspout or driveway runoff. Make sure the area is free of tree roots and at least 10 feet away from foundations and utilities.

    2 – Dig a 4” to 8” flat-bottomed bowl in a shape and size of your choice. Use the dirt to create a ridge on the downhill side to help collect more rainwater. Ponding water should soak into the ground within 2 days so as to not breed mosquitoes.

    3 – Check your soil to see if you have clay. Clay soils must be removed to create good drainage.

    4 – Loosen bottom soil up to 12” and mix in compost, sand and topsoil to create a loose, absorbent soil mixture.

    5 – Select native plants and shrubs (some drought tolerant, some water-loving) to plant in your rain garden. Local nursery staff can help with your selections.

    6 – Use natural (dye-free) mulch to avoid weed growth.

    7 – Water plants as needed in the first growing season. Once established, your rain garden will not need watering, mowing or fertilizing!

    Visit to learn more about rain garden installation and care, and view local garden photos.