Click here for Planting List.

How do you build a rain garden?

Rain gardens may vary greatly in size, soil type and plant selection, but the basic steps are the same:

  • Select the low-lying site, at least 10 feet from any building, that will be used for the rain garden.
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  • Determine the area of roof, parking lot, etc., that will be drained by the rain garden. 
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  • Determine how quickly the soil will drain by performing a percolation test.  This will indicate the maximum bed depth that will drain in 24 hours for the existing soils.  The slope of the site is also a factor in determining the bed depth.
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  • The drainage area, bed depth, type of soil and distance from the downspouts can be used to determine the area of the rain garden. (The calculations are explained in several rain garden construction manuals available online.)  Mark the boundary of the garden with paint or string.
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  • Till or double dig the basin of the rain garden and grade it toward the center.  Dig deeper to loosen clay soils.  Amend with compost or peat moss and sand, if necessary. 
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  • Re-test the infiltration of water to make sure that the basin drains in 24 hours.
  • Select plant materials.  Native plants that like average to wet conditions will thrive in local soils and continue to loosen the soil and to encourage the infiltration of water.
  • Plant the garden and apply 2 to 3 inches of mulch.
  • Maintenance in the first growing season will include limiting standing water while the plants are small, watering the garden during dry periods and pulling weeds.

Planning and Design:
-Draw a map of the property to scale
-Determine how big you want your garden to be
-Call Ohio Utilities Protection Service (OUPS) “Call Before You Dig” at 1-800-362-2764

Soil Analysis:
-Have a standard soil test done
-Determine how quickly the soil will drain in 24 hours

Appropriate Plant Selection:
-Pick plants that are appropriate for your soil, moisture level, and sun exposure

Appropriate Maintenance:
-This will include watering the garden during dry periods and pulling weeds

Soils: Two Approaches:

  1. Using Native Soils
  2. With Amended Soils
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Application using an existing catch basin - Not representative of a typical homeowner's rain garden

Native Plants – The Root of the Solution to Improve Infiltration

Root Depths:
-Turfgrasses: Inches
-Native Grasses and Wildflowers: Feet

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Plants for a Rain Garden:
-Coneflowers
-Black-eyed Susan
-Red-Twigged dogwood
-Blazing Star
-New York Asters
-Butterfly Weed
-Solidago
-Grasses
-Blue Flag Iris
-Blueberries
-And many more!


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