A rain garden is a miniature eco-system that you can create right in your back yard! It's a small-scale oasis that doesn't take a lot of space, and once you have it set up, they're cheap and easy to maintain.
When the folks at Timber Press offered to send me a copy of Creating Rain Gardens, I was expecting a totally different sort of book. I'd never heard the term rain garden before and thought this book would be all about building rain barrels, basically. Was I ever pleased to be wrong!
What is a Rain Garden?
Basically, a rain garden helps solve many of the problems created by urban development. It reduces water pollution and flooding by catching water and letting it filter through soil and root systems which cleanses the water on the way back to the aquifer. It also helps reverse habitat destruction by creating a space where native plants and animals can thrive.
The book is a beautifully-written practical guide to planning and creating your own rain garden, and I found myself underlining passages as I read as if I were back in school. Here are a couple of the passages that jumped out at me as I started reading.
This is a rain garden: a simple depression in the ground that becomes a watery oasis every time it rains. [...] A rain garden recreates the prairie sloughs and woodland bogs that were filled in and paved over to build our cities and suburbs, creating a blooming oasis watered only by the rain. If every downspout led to a rain garden, much less water would run down streets and storm drains, and the flash floods that turn urban streams into raging rivers would end. Instead of washing contamination from roofs, streets, and storm drains into the nearest lake or estuary, rain would sink into the soil, rehydrating parched landscapes and recharging aquifers. - P 12
The book delves deeper into why planting rain gardens is important, but you can get the basics from the paragraphs above. Rain gardens heal the land and the watersheds that we've disrupted through urban and suburban development. As the authors point out:
City planners turned to rain gardens to solve these two pressing problems caused by urbanization: pollution and flooding.
You can grow native plants, plant food in your rain garden, or have a mixture of both. The key is in the shape and contours of your garden. Whether you're looking to put a lot of time, money, and energy into your rain garden or just want to create a mini wildlife habitat on your land, the book walks you through how to plan your rain garden by sharing case studies and resources.
I don't know about you guys, but I can't wait to start planning a rain garden for our backyard!