Monday, 10 June 2013

Planning the Rain Garden

The first thing you need to know is where the water goes. Where do the downspouts from your gutters point? Do you see small rivulets of water passing through the grass? Do they join the stream from the downspouts? Does the water pool anywhere? Where can you catch the most water?

This downspout allows stormwater to flow away from the property.

Once you have an idea of where the water flows, you can start eliminating areas around your house. Do not install a rain garden where the water naturally pools, that is where filtration is slowest; think about installing it where the rain garden can catch the water before it pools. You also want to avoid large tree roots. If there are branches overhead, there are roots beneath your feet.

Try to put the rain garden close to a downspout but it is important that you keep the rain garden at least 3 meters (or 10  feet) away from the building to protect the foundation of your house. It is also important to keep your rain garden at least 7.6 meters (or 25 feet) away from your septic system.

After that, it is more a matter of practicality. Installing a rain garden in a flatter portion of land will be easier to dig and level. Make it easier for yourself and do not decide to dig a rain garden where the slope is more than 12%, you will need retaining wall or a high berm to keep the water in and it will take a lot of earth to level out the garden.

In terms of design, crescent-, kidney-, or teardrop-shaped gardens work well. You will want the longer side of the garden to face upslope. Water will hit the berm at the back of that long line, and then flow back towards the garden like a receding wave at the beach. A larger surface will catch the most water possible.

Consider the height, bloom times, colours, and textures of the plants you are planning to use. By choosing plants that bloom at different times, your garden will have a longer flowering season. If you want a traditional, more formal look, try clumping individual species in groups of 3-6 plants and repeat the pattern throughout the garden. Try mixing sedges, rushes, and grasses with flowering species to keep the root network strong and keep some plants from overpowering each other. 

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