Rain gardens are more than just a beautiful corner of the garden that gets supplemental water from a downspout. They can be a natural way to address some serious man-made problems such as urban runoff, habitat depletion and pollution.
Urban runoff- In the cities and suburbs property drainage is a big deal. With all of the concrete around us much of the rainwater that lands on our properties inundates the municipalities in large rain events and causes flooding of the system. (Even turf causes a great deal of run-off as the thatch layer is only slightly more permeable than concrete.) This rainwater is not only a nuisance itself, but it is filled with pollutants that are collected from roadways and parking lots. Rain gardens alleviate run-off by keeping most (if not all) of the runoff on-site where it recharges the soil and keeps it moist and healthy. Nature doesn’t have a “concrete” element of the system. Water is meant to soak into the soil where it lands. Continually sending water elsewhere dehydrates our soils and makes man-made irrigation vital to a healthy landscape. It also makes it very difficult for vital soil micro-organisms to survive and flourish.
Habitat- The lawn, shrub, flower bed standards of today’s yards do not offer a great deal of habitat for wildlife. Thoughtfully planned rain gardens offer habitat to native birds, bees and beneficial insects. Rain gardens can be filled with a variety of natives trees, shrubs and perennials that provide food, water and shelter to native fauna.
Pollution- Rain gardens offer another important ecosystem service, bioremediation. Bioremediation is a fancy way to say that they clean pollutants out of the water as they percolate through the system.
Maintenance- Man-made systems involving french drains and drainage tiles need maintenance over time. Debris must be cleared from the system and leaks may develop over time. Once rain gardens are established their maintenance involves gardening. No trenching to find the pipe or lay new ones. Just a little gardening here and there.
Installation costs- Depending upon the scope of your rain garden installation and planning costs may be very low. If you are addressing a large drainage issue, initial cost may be higher than installing a man-made system. However, the long-term services that are provided by rain gardens will offset the higher cost of initial installation.
Rain gardens aren’t as simplistic as they initially sound. Our Colorado clay soils can complicate the rain garden building process, but a few modifications make them the perfect way to slow runoff and replenish soil moisture.
If you would like to see if a rain garden is the right solution for you, drop us a line and request a free initial consultation.