April 2009
Home Grown Tomatoes

April showers? Build a rain garden.


Build a rain garden to take advantage of  areas that get a lot of water with rain.

Natural drainage patterns of homes are often overlooked during the construction process. Countless communities have been built without much educated consideration to just where the rainwater will subsequently go after a heavy rainfall. With all of the concrete and asphalt, along with the footprint a house makes on the land, it’s no wonder some neighborhoods have water issues due to areas of impervious surfaces versus percolating soil areas.

Rain aids in moving particles of contaminants to and through Mother Nature’s all-natural filtering system, earth, thereby replenishing the aquifers with clean water.

If you have an area in your landscape that seems to get the worst of a rain storm, why not build a rain garden? It will, at the very least, give you less lawn to mow, decrease your carbon footprint and give you something cool to look at and brag on.

Let’s get started with a plan to use the rainwater from your downspouts to create a new rain garden. How big should we make it? Here’s a formula to use.

· You will want the rain garden to be at least 10 feet from the foundation of your house.

· Choose a shape that compliments your landscape.

· To estimate the size of the garden, measure the footprint of your home’s roof by multiplying the width by the length of your outer walls. Then you should estimate the percentage of area serviced by the downspout you will use to supply the rain garden with water and again multiply that number. Example: House measures 40 x 60 = 2,400 square feet. House has five downspouts equally servicing the roof. 1 downspout = 20 percent. Multiply 2,400 square feet x .20 = 480 square feet. Then use a simple calculation to estimate the area to build. A rule of thumb factor for an eight-inch deep basin is 25 percent. Multiply 480 x .25 = 120 square feet of area to be dug for your rain garden.

· Select plants, then plant them.

· Mulch using leaf litter rather than tree bark. Leaves are nature’s own mulch.

Use as many native plants as possible. Remember when selecting your plants to take into consideration the light and water requirements, as well as the height at maturity.

When planting, be sure to place the plants that like wet feet at the lowest end of your garden.

Remember to select plants that don’t mind a little extra water during the rainy season and somewhat of dry conditions during droughty times.

For a list of plants suitable for Alabama rain gardens and some design ideas that can be printed or downloaded to your computer, go to the official Home Grown Tomatoes website at
and click on the "Rain Garden" tab. (NOTE: This link will be up and running on the website by 03-27.)

Good luck with your rain garden!

Email me at kennalan@ hgtradio.net if you need further information on rain gardens or other gardening projects.

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