Rain Gardens

What is all of this buzz about rain gardens?

Rain gardens have the potential to solve stormwater runoff problems before they occur. And, rain gardens add a low maintenance, landscaped feature in your yard!

Rain Gardens are landscaped depressions that receive stormwater runoff and allow the runoff to slowly infiltrate to the groundwater table.  As well as intercepting stormwater runoff that could have added to potential flooding problems, the rain garden allows nature to play a role, removing some of the pollutants that would have otherwise affected downstream water quality.  During infiltration, plants use excess nutrients for growth, sediment is trapped in the garden and biological and physical processes remove pathogens.  Dissolved metals and nutrients bind or absorb to soil particles and are removed temporarily out of the system.  Rain gardens also create important habitat for bees, butterflies, and birds.

Typical rain garden installation requires:

  1. A suitable area located between the rainwater source and its destination that is at least 10 feet from a home or building and is either a depressed area or an area where water flows naturally.
  2. Materials, such as:
    1. an appropriate soil-mix (50-60% sand, 20-30% topsoil, and 20-30% compost), check your native soil first and have it tested at your local Extension office;
    2. native plants (a hardy mix of grasses, small shrubs, and self-seeding perennials are good choices, especially those that are both wet- and drought tolerant);
    3. a dense-material mulch that won’t float away.
  3. Earth-moving tools (to excavate about 6-9" of soil) and planting tools.
  4. A desire and willingness to manage stormwater on-site and protect water quality.

View a sample budget for rain garden materials. More elaborate designs may include the addition of underground corrugated pipes to convey rooftop runoff from downspouts to the rain garden location or perhaps the addition of a rain barrel.

View a plant pallette (587KB, pdf) that may be suitable for your South Carolina rain garden.

Carolina Clear has a new rain garden manual for 2016. You can download here or see the Clemson Marketplace to order a printed copy.