The spring after we moved into our house, we decided to create a rain garden. Rain gardens are a fantastic way to conserve water and create a lovely spot in your yard. We noticed that our little side yard had a natural swell…after the rain there would be a huge puddle of water. Instead of feeling like it was a problem, we were delighted…it would be the perfect spot for a rain garden.
Rain gardens help with water conservation because we channel the run off that would normally go right into the city storm drains. (This is how our water gets poisoned…lawn chemicals and fertilizers, oils and gas from our cars all contaminate our water ways).
The great thing about rain gardens, though, beyond the water conservation, is that they are beautiful and really take very little work to make them beautiful. We’ve had ours for three years and the only work we put into it is one spring day each year.
The photo above was taken during the first year of planting. We went to a local nursery and picked out as many native perennials as we could find. We added a piece of one of the trees that had been cut down on our street and topped it with a cement bird bath. We mulched with an organic material and then let it go.
Now, those black-eyed susans are taking over! We have dragon’s blood, sedum, and cone flowers. This year we added some yellow lillies and some purple speedwell (just four plants!). Everything is coming up very well. I think we are going to add a rain barrel to this side of the yard. Sometimes, in high summer, it doesn’t rain for weeks and I worry about the plants. With the rain barrel, I can help it along without worrying about buying water from the city.
The first step for us, this year, was to go to the home improvement center and pick up some mulch. We also picked up four plants (2 speedwells and 2 lillies). I’d like to add a few more cone flowers to round out that area. We’ll pick them up this weekend.
Then, the hard work began. You’ll see in the pix below, we had lots of weeds going crazy along the side of the house. And the rain garden, itself, was pretty weedy. We spent a good hour or so weeding and tilling the soil (we use a Mantiz roto-tiller, but just in a few spots).
If you look along the house wall, in the photo to the right, you’ll see lots of weeds. Most of it was thistle. When we first moved into this house, there were three pine trees in that area. They were huge at some 70+ feet. We had to have them taken down. They were just too close to the house and we were worried about the foundation. Cathy is trying to kill the stumps very gradually. We don’t want to bring in a stump grinder because we aren’t sure that the roots aren’t all grown into the foundation at this point. The garden is looking fairly raggedy in the photo above. Though we had done nothing to the garden when I took this picture, you can see that the perennials are doing very well and coming back really strong. This is a sunny garden and gets about 5 -6 hours a day.
After we pulled out all the weeds and tilled a couple of trouble spots, we scattered Hero’s ashes. If you don’t know, my beloved border collie/lab mix, Hero, passed March 28th. She was 16 years old and was the best dog. The rain garden is a place of joy and peace and sometimes Hero would walk around in it…so we decided to scatter the bulk of her ashes there. Hero’s ashes are really great for the garden as a good kind of composting material (not to sound too matter of fact!). And then we spread some corn glutten (the yellow pellets) as a weed inhibitor.
After we watered in the corn glutten, we put down a layer of mulch. Oh, I should mention…I did rake out a lot of the old mulch. We want to keep the natural depression so that rain water collects in the garden. If I didn’t rake out the old mulch before adding the new, it would elevate the garden too much (especially over the years). I ended up with a nice wheelbarrow full of last year’s mulch and good soil. We used it to fill in some of the holes that the big weeds left. We also spread it in the area where we took out a tree in the backyard (it was 80′ and very close to the house and pretty much dead). So then, as a last step, we added about 7 bags of good mulch.
To the right, you can see the end result of all our hard work! The weeds are gone from the the back wall. We’ve spread corn glutten there to inhibit their growth and, in the next few weekends, we’ll spread newspaper over that area, water it well and then cover it with mulch. This will kill all the weeds and prepare the soil for us to plant native ornamental grasses this fall.
The rain garden will require no further maintainance this summer…other than the occasional drink of water from the rain barrel. The rain garden does not breed mosquitos…in fact, this is a great way to keep the mosquito population down. When the rains come, the garden fills up with water, mosquito mamas lay their eggs, and then, within a day or so, the garden dries out and dries up and kills the mosquito eggs/larvae…
If you are interested in creating your own rain garden, just google it. There are a lot of great websites out there that will give you a blueprint to creating your own little patch of peace and beauty.