It’s that time of year again where we are generally fortunate to receive rain frequently. If you are looking for a way to capture rainfall when it arrives, consider creating a rain garden in a low area in your landscape or at the bottom of a downspout where water puddles. The purpose of a rain garden is to capture stormwater runoff from impervious surfaces (roofs, driveways, sidewalks) and allow the captured runoff water to percolate through the soil.
Rain gardens are beneficial. They decrease flooding and erosion and attract wildlife and beneficial insects. They filter runoff that would otherwise carry pollutants (grass clippings, pet waste, fertilizer) 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. It 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.
Next, and before you start digging, be sure to call Sunshine 811, Sunshine State One-Call of Florida Inc., for underground utility marking. Then, design the shape of your rain garden by laying out a garden hose in the manner you desire. Information about construction is contained in the publication cited below.
Select plant materials after you have determined the site conditions (sun, mature height, spread). If you install a rain garden in sandy soil, it will only hold water for a few hours, adding to your maintenance duties: watering, weeding and using sphagnum/peat moss to decrease weed growth.
Select plants that like wet feet and are drought-tolerant for times when rainfall is infrequent, such as: bald cypress, river birch, beautyberry, dwarf palmetto, Walter’s viburnum, swamp hibiscus, river oats, tickseed and muhly grass.
For more information, please see Marina D’Abreau’s rain garden manual, https://gardeningsolutions.ifas.ufl.edu/pdf/articles/rain-garden-manual-hillsborough.pdf, from which this article was adapted.
Have horticultural questions? Call 744-5519 or visit us at http://hillsborough.ifas.ufl.edu and check out our calendar of events at https://sfyl.ifas.ufl.edu/hillsborough/upcoming-events/.