Plan a rain garden

Horticulture Hints

Creating a rain garden

A rain garden can be created in a slightly depressed area in your lawn where water collects. With the recent warm up and melting snow, now is the time to examine your yard for low spots of standing water. This can help to determine a good location for installing a rain garden this spring to filter and recycle rain water.

Rain gardens are designed to help manage storm water runoff from buildings, driveways and sidewalks. Water from roofs can carry chemical residues and a rain garden serves to filter pollutants from rain water before it enters the groundwater. Hard surfaces also tend to collect oil and radiator fluid from autos, pet debris and other pollutants.

A rain garden also helps to protect the landscape against erosion. Nutrient-rich soils can be washed away by storm runoff; but the deep roots of those plants recommended for rain garden plantings work to hold soil in place. Rain gardens also allow sediments to settle and plants to absorb nutrients.

Installing a rain garden also can provide an attractive habitat for birds, butterflies, and beneficial insects. Placing your rain garden in a sunny location will increase the number of plant choices to put in.

For further information on installing a rain garden and recommended plant list, see the ISU publication “Rain Gardens”. Download at: or stop by your local ISU Extension Office for a copy.

Did you know? The size of a rain garden needed will depend upon the amount of hard surfaces being drained. A typical rain garden can range from 100 to 300 square feet in dimension and can be any shape. The size of a rain garden generally will handle runoff from hard surfaces that are about three times its size. For larger areas, more than one rain garden may be needed, as large roof tops may require a rain garden located near each down spout.

Horticulture Questions? Contact McCormick at for information or advice.