It’s that time of year when we are generally fortunate to receive frequent rain.
If you are looking to capture rainfall, consider creating a rain garden in a shallow depression in your landscape or at the bottom of a downspout where water puddles.
A rain/bog garden captures stormwater runoff from impervious surfaces—such as roofs, driveways and sidewalks—and allows 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. They also filter runoff that would otherwise carry pollutants such as grass clippings, pet waste and fertilizer to storm drains and ultimately into the ocean, contributing to harmful algae blooms.
To create a rain garden, determine the size and location. It should be at least 10 feet from your foundation. It needs to be 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 larger the garden, the larger the plant diversity and more maintenance involved.
Next comes construction. Before digging, call 811 for underground utility marking. Design the shape of your rain garden by laying out a garden hose in the manner you desire.
Select plants that like wet feet and are drought tolerant for when rainfall is infrequent. 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 determinebased on site conditions: how much sun the space receives, if there is adequate space for the mature height of the plants and soil type.
A rain garden in sandy soil will only hold water for a few hours, adding to maintenance. That includes watering until plants are established (about 60 days), weeding, and using sphagnum or peat moss to decrease weeds, regulate soil temperature and retain moisture.
For more information on creating a rain garden, please consult Marina D’Abreau’s Rain Garden Manual from which this article was adapted.
For help with horticultural questions, contact your county extension office. Note that staff may be working outside offices during COVID-19. For extension information, visit ffl.ifas.ufl.edu.