Get The Dirt With Florida Yard Expert: Rain For Rain Gardens

Lynn Barber, Hillsborough County Extension

It’s that time of year once again where we are fortunate to receive rain very frequently, sometimes daily. If you are looking for a way to capture rainfall, you may want to consider creating a rain garden in a particularly low area (shallow depression) in your landscape.

The purpose of a rain/bog garden is 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 into Tampa Bay, contributing to algae bloom and killing fish.

To create 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 ft. of a septic system or well, away from tree roots and within 30 ft. of a water source. Next is the construction phase. Before you start digging, be sure to call 811, Sunshine State One Call of Florida Inc., for underground utility marking.

Select plants that like wet feet and are 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. Select plant materials after you have determined the site conditions which include sun, 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. A tip from Anne King is to “create your own mini rain garden using a plastic oil receptacle from a big box store. Dig a hole in the ground the size of the receptacle, add potting soil and kitty litter and your favorite plants like those above.”

More information on Rain Gardens click here. Stop by our office at 5339 CR 579 in Seffner to visit the rain garden in the Bette S. Walker Discovery Garden in our courtyard. Call 744-5519.