September: Get the Dirt

By Lynn Barber

If you are looking for a way to capture the large amounts of rainfall we have received this year, you may want to consider creating a rain garden in a particularly low area of your landscape. This type of a garden involves a shallow depression in the ground. The functions are to capture stormwater runoff from impervious surfaces, such as roofs, driveways and sidewalks, and allow the captured runoff water to percolate through the soil. Rain gardens are beneficial because they decrease flooding and erosion and attract wildlife and beneficial insects. Another benefit is filtering runoff that would otherwise carry pollutants (grass clippings, pet waste, fertilizer, etc.) to storm drains and ultimately the bay, contributing to algae bloom and ultimately killing fish.

There are a few steps to take in creating a rain garden. First, determine the size and location. The rain garden should be at least 10 feet from your foundation, in an existing low area that drains quickly after a heavy rain, in full sun, not within 25 feet of a septic system or well, away from tree roots and within 30 feet of a water source.

The second step is the construction phase. But, before you start digging, be sure to call 811, Sunshine State One Call of Florida Inc., for underground utility marking. After that occurs, you can design the shape of your rain garden by laying out a garden hose in the manner you desire. There are many plants that like wet feet and are also drought tolerant for those times when we wish we had more rainfall. Some selections include: bald cypress, river birch, beautyberry, dwarf palmetto, Walter’s viburnum, swamp hibiscus, river oats, tickseed and muhly grass. As always, select plant materials after you have determined the site conditions like sun, shade, adequate space for mature height and spread and soil texture.

If you install a rain garden in sandy soil, it will only hold water for a few hours. This will add to your maintenance duties which include watering until plants are established (60 days or so), weeding and using sphagnum moss to decrease weed growth, regulate soil temperature and retain moisture.

For more information on creating a rain garden, stop by our office in Seffner, where we have a rain garden in the Bette S. Walker Discovery Garden.