By Candy Venning
The next time it really pours – put on your rain boots and go outside, first check that your own and your neighbours’ gutters aren’t overflowing (Downspout issues are the number one reason that water gets into the foundations) and then follow to see where the rain wants to go.
Poof! You’ve just started the first part of the research into your rain garden.
As a Landscape Designer I can assure you, a huge part of my job is solving problems, and for many, water is one of them. The good news; whether it’s pooling in a certain area, running into the foundations or across your driveway, there are beneficial solutions.
Collecting rainwater and storing it seems like a good idea, as long as you’re easily able to use it & channel overflow. When installing rain barrels have an overflow spout or large hose to direct the excess away from walkways and basements when the barrels are full.
If you’ve used any combination of downspouts, slot or trench drains (Google images is very helpful here) swales ditches or even a liner covered in stones to get water to somewhere in the yard (Again; away from your foundations) you’ve now come to the fun part of creating a rain garden.
Much depends on how fast your soil drains and what type of soil you’ve got but it can be as simple or as complex as you’re prepared to make it. Roof size and the amount of water you need to deflect or having clay or compacted soil that takes some time to drain means you may want to create a deeper pocket or even series of pools to hold it all. Most gardens will drain relatively quickly and if you’ve got sun, then the plant list of species that enjoy some flooding is quite long. Swamp Milkweed, Cardinal Flower, Ostrich Fern, Blue Iris, and Marsh Marigold are among my favourites. Willow, Red Twig dogwood and Buttonbush are all very happy with wet feet – and since you’re in the garden, far enough away from your dry foundations, roots should not be a problem. In fact if you have the space and want a privacy hedge/ hedgerow and can dig a swale to line with one or a mix of these native shrubs your previously problematic water will keep these waterbabies happy & healthy. Birds will be very appreciative of the protective cover, and pollinators benefit greatly from the early flowers of these shrub species.
Channeling water to stay on your property is a win for the unique conditions you can provide to the unusual native species that prefer wet or damp soil and the specific insects (and hummingbirds) that rely on these plants. It’s also an opportunity to add visual interest while slowing down stormwater and reducing flooding impacts that include; soil erosion, sewage overflows, algal blooms and more – pretty great eh?
If you’re looking for help – get in touch with Michael Albanese of Avesi Stormwater, they have a business consulting and setting up rain gardens while finding the best way to channel water on your property. Avesi also gives workshops through Green Venture and local garden clubs.
Turn the rain in to you ally, not your enemy.