Rain Garden Project

A rain garden is a planted depression designed to take as much excess rain run-off from a house or other building. It’s critical that a rain garden site be designed to provide sufficient drainage to handle the expected volume of water.

Rain gardens are emerging as an especially important element  in urban design by replacing hard paved surfaces with plants and vegetation, helping to ensure a more sustainable environment by returning rain water to the aquifer, rather than have millions of gallons overload storm sewers and go directly into our rivers and other bodies of water.

Wherever implemented (urban or rural), rain gardens encourage biodiversity, are good for wildlife, reduce flooding, ameliorate pollution problems and provide humans with aesthetic pleasing habitats.

Our new small rain garden (established May 2012) uses a rain chain to divert our roof run-off into two 65-gallon rain barrels. The rain chain replaced a downspout that previously connected to our foundation drains. Two rain-barrels feed a rill that crosses our deck and spills into the newly planted rain garden.

So far there is no indication of the garden not being able to handle the roof run off.  But if needed, we can simply take the overflow hose from the first rain barrel (normally it goes to fill the second rain barrel) and divert it back to the foundation drain.

Overflow hose diverted back to downspout leading to foundation drains

Future plans call for adding more rain barrels to increase our storage capacity.

4 thoughts on “Rain Garden Project

  1. I like the look of your raingarden – nice and modern. Can you confirm a few things for me though? Firstly, is the rate of flow into the garden limited by the tap on the first rain-barrel (or water butt as we call them in the UK) which presumably you keep open? Secondly, in low intensity rainfall events, presumably the second barrel doesn’t get any flow into it as it’s all going through the tap on the first one?
    I guess if the overflow into the rill was from the top of the second barrel then both would have maximum storage available, fill up each time it rains, stay full and then overflow at a greater rate than the tap allows?

    • Thanks Kevin for your insightful comments. Yes the rate of flow is controlled by the tap on the first barrel. The second barrel also feeds into the rill from a hidden hose that comes out of the bottom of that barrel. That hose can be seen in the picture laying flat on the deck behind the barrels, it has a simple on/off hose valve. This is temporary, since I plan to do something similar to what you suggest once the rainy season starts. It’s been an unusual dry September. One other possibility would be to leave that hidden hose on/off valve slightly open in heavy rainfall, closing the tap on the first barrel. That way the second barrel will fill up in heavy rains as you note and feed the rain garden during heavy rains. Of course the tap on the second barrel is always closed.

      Unfortunately, these two barrels for the new rain garden are not as well designed for linking together as my other eight rain barrels, which have an internal plastic tube that the water spills into at the top inside of the barrel and out at the bottom through a fitting that connects to the next barrel in what we call here in the USA a daisy-chain. The next barrel fills from the bottom up, where the process is repeated. These are behind my garage building and I use them for water in our dry summers. I plan to make a blog post with pictures of this system.

      • Well, the rains came as expected. October, November and December were wet and generally milder (above average temps). The rain garden performed exceptionally well. I can think of only one day where I even noticed a bit of “pooling” in the center depression of the garden, but that quickly receded within an hour or two after the deluge ceased. It was a pleasure to watch the torrent of rain cascading down the rain chain into the barrel. I frequently opened the spigot and let the rill carry water to the garden during the rainiest of days. I’ll have a more detailed post soon, which will include a list of the current plants and new plants planned for this spring.

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