July 12, 2020
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Looking for a little peace? Plant a rain garden

May 1, 2020

The term “rain garden” may bring to mind images of tropical forests or elaborate garden water features. In reality, they are one of the easiest ways to improve your yard while protecting our creeks, streams and Russian River. They are also a great excuse to play in the garden. 

Rain gardens filter, infiltrate, and slow the flow of storm water off your roof, patios and driveway. They provide a place to capture the water below ground and allow it to soak in naturally. Decorative plants are planted above this underground reservoir to help filter out pollutants before they can reach our natural waterways. 


Ready to plant Apa rain garden?


A rain garden starts with a good location such as under your roof downspout or near to your driveway. Pick a location where rainwater can be guided from these features to the rain garden. If your downspouts connect directly to an underground drainpipe, locate the rain garden anywhere along the length of that underground pipe.

The next step is to dig out the bed for the new rain garden. Bigger is better. The bigger the new garden bed the more rainwater can be captured. Then add the feature that makes a rain garden work, make the new garden 2’ to 4’ deep. Again, bigger is better. You can skip the gym after digging this garden bed. If you located your new garden bed along the underground drainpipe from your roof, then leave the pipe in place for now. Add a temporary support (a short length of 2x4 lumber works well) to keep the pipe from sagging and move on to the next step.

Now, partially fill the new garden bed with coarse drain rock or pea gravel. “Clean” rock is better; no dirt or fine sand. If you have an underground drainpipe, then drill several holes (about ½” in diameter) into the underside of the pipe before adding all of the rock. Remember, we want the rainwater to flow out of the pipe and prevent dirt from flowing into the pipe. 

Add enough coarse drain rock to fill the new garden bed about halfway. If you have an underground drainpipe, then add enough drain rock to almost cover the pipe. Remember to drill those holes in the pipe before adding the rock.

Now for the fun part; add the garden soil right on top of the drain rock and plant your new plants. You can use any garden soil you like. Select plants that like an alternating wet and dry watering cycle. Annual flowering plants and perennial “no mow” grasses are great for rain gardens and add color. For a  Homeowner’s and Landowner’s Guide to Beneficial Stormwater Management, a good selection tool for California native plants, and other landscape resources, visit