An introduction to Rain Gardens

A “Rain Garden” is really a fancy name used to describe designing a landscape to be a natural participant in its ecosystem.  Rain refers to where the water comes from and garden refers to the earth and dirt. Taken in together, “Rain Garden,” poetically describes the water cycle. In practicality, a Rain Garden is a natural approach to Storm Water Runoff and drainage.

It is easy to take what is usually under our feet for granted. It is not common to stand around and think about what a raindrop does when it hits the ground.  How this little drop of water begins stripping away the soil a little bit of dirt at a time before moving it somewhere else. It goes unnoticed, water squeezing itself down into the ground, in-between the soil, dirt, sand, rocks, minerals, and whatever else it might find, to make it into the water table.

This natural process is part of how soil nutrients spread into the surrounding environment. As native plants, even animals, decompose to create nutrient rich compost, water carries this food into the earth itself. With gravity as its guide, this entire process helps ensure the proper nutrients are reaching the entire ecosystem and is a big part of maintaining a healthy ecology.

Unfortunately, the modern world has complicated this natural process.  Pollutants have become part of what trickles down to feed the Earth. Much of what has become today’s urban environment has displaced nature. Concrete surrounds graded and level backyards designed to give an artificial beauty based in symmetry and design without considering a garden’s role in bringing nutrients into the earth.

Studies by the US Environmental Protection Agency have determined that up to 70% of the pollution in surface waters have been carried into the ground water because Storm Water Runoff.  Storm Water Runoff is a drainage problem that happens when the amount of rain falling is more than our sewer systems can handle. When Rain exceeds a sewer system’s capacity, the sewer system will open a bypass straight into the Puget Sound. This skips the sewer system, which is supposed to remove pollutants before reintroducing the water back into the water cycle. Some studies show that about 50% of such pollution comes from individuals and homeowners, due to yard care, yard waste, and chemical pollution from household activities.

A Rain Garden is a simple and responsible solution for homeowners to make a big impact in their own local ecology. It is a natural way to landscape with the management of storm water drainage in mind.  When the rain comes, water flows into the Rain Garden, giving the water has a natural entry back into the ecosystem. A Rain Garden is a great idea for anyone living in the Northwest.

 Additional Resources
Lathan, Zora . “Ecoscaping Back to the Future.”rainscaping.org. N.p., n.d. Aug 2005.
http://www.rainscaping.org/_ccLib/attachments/pages/Ecoscaping Back to the Future…Restoring Chesapeake Landscapes.pdf

Rain Gardens for Everett
http://raingarden.wsu.edu/Everett.html