Rain, man!

puddleAustin is in the midst of a deluge today, so what could be more topical than rain gardens? The notion of a rain garden is so lyrical, as if you can grow your own rain, but in truth, they are areas to capture rain before it leaves your property.

Lisa Cowan, studioverde landscape architecture + design

Lisa Cowan, RLA studioverde landscape architecture + design

We used to work hard to get extra rain to move quickly off the land into a storm drainage system. We now know this water is not something to be gotten rid of, like guests who’ve overstayed their welcome. Rain gardens help replenish ground water supplies and reduce pollution by keeping some of the junk from roofs, driveways and roads out of creeks and streams.

TypesofRainGardens

From article by Jann Ichida (jmichida@owu.edu)

To make your own rain garden, locate the lowest spot in your yard, or perhaps place it at the end of a downspout. Add compost and partially decomposed leaf litter to your existing soil. Sand is generally recommended, but I’m not a fan. That sand has to come from somewhere – why destroy one ecosystem to improve another? Plus if you add that sand to clay soil, you get something like concrete…

park rain garden

As for what to plant, Austin has a phenomenal Grow Green program, that teaches us about all kinds of gardeny things, including what to plant in local rain gardens. Do wait until the soil is no longer saturated to get started. You will damage soil if you work it while it’s wet… it will become compacted and no longer able to transfer water and nutrients to roots. It takes years to undo this damage, so avoid it in the first place!

~ Sue Lambe