Rain gardens soak up runoff

BLUE EARTH – One thing is certain in Minnesota: the weather will change. We never know if it will rainy or be sunny, if we will have drought or flood.

But we always want to have fresh-looking gardens.

One of the best ways to do that, says Michele Wigern, urban outreach specialist with Faribault County Soil & Water, is to put in a rain garden.

“It’s a depressed, native-planted garden,” she explained. “It’s depressed so it can pool water. That water drains out within 24 hours, so it handles the first flush of storm water runoff that would regularly just go down a storm drain.”

Wigern said a rain garden is a great fix for a problem area that pools water and can’t be mowed.

“Catching the runoff reduces pollutants, like grass clippings and garbage, metals, oils, dog poop, before it gets to storm drains and before it goes to rivers and lakes,” she said.

It also helps control sediments and sustain the water supply.

“Water that seeps into the ground is recharging the aquifer that urban development has drastically decreased,” Wigern said.

Anyone who wants to put in a rain garden should first do a little homework, though.

“Look at where that water is coming from and why it’s getting there,” Wigern suggests.

Is rain running down a street and accumulating along a curve, like in Fairmont’s Lincoln Park? Do you have a hill the water runs down? Those would be good places for a rain garden.

Do you have water in the basement? A rain garden might help.

“Look at the downspout,” Wigern said. “Direct the downspout to a rain garden and release the pressure.”

A rain garden should have native plants, like trees, shrubs, perennials or grasses. Native plants are tolerant of the weather conditions in the area and do much better than non-native species.

“If it is dry, you don’t have to water,” Wigern said. “Native plants are designed for this area.”

As far as planning goes, rain gardens can be a lot of work or hardly any.

“Real easy to do,” Wigern said. “The most labor-intensive part is digging it out so you have that basin.

“It can look however you want,” Wigern said. “It depends on personal preference; you can make it look as native as you want or as manicured as you want.”

The best part is: “It makes your yard pretty,” she said.