Demonstration Rain Garden. North Kingstown Town Hall, June
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on the Demonstration Rain Garden at
the North Kingstown Town Hall.
our brochure about
the garden (print version)
is a Rain Garden?
Rain gardens are becoming increasingly popular in the home
landscape. A rain garden is a natural or dug shallow depression
designed to capture and soak up stormwater
runoff from your
roof or other impervious areas around your home like driveways,
walkways, and even compacted lawn areas. They can be used
as a buffer to shoreline areas to capture runoff from the
home landscape before it enters a lake, pond, or river. The
rain garden is planted with suitable trees, shrubs, flowers,
and other plants allowing runoff to soak into the ground
and protect water quality.
In addition to adding beauty to your home landscape, rain gardens can also help
protect water quality, by reducing stormwater runoff from your house lot. Stormwater
runoff is considered one of the main sources of water pollution nation-wide.
As watersheds become developed, urbanization and an increase in paved surfaces
such as parking lots, driveways, and rooftops increase stormwater runoff causing
rainwater to run off quickly into storm drains and surface waters.
runoff can result in:
- Overall reduction in groundwater recharge.
Long-term lowering of groundwater tables and loss of stream
during dry weather.
Increased water quality impacts caused by pollutants in
Flooding – especially
more frequent “flash” flooding.
A rain garden will allow the runoff generated on your property
to infiltrate into the ground and help to reduce potential
water quality problems. While your individual rain garden
may seem like a small contribution, collectively, rain gardens
can produce water quality benefits.
Benefits of Rain Gardens
In addition to reducing and filtering stormwater runoff and
increasing groundwater recharge, rain gardens provide many
other benefits including:
habitat for wildlife and, with the proper plants, increase
the number and diversity of birds and butterflies
for those who enjoy watching them.
an attractive and creative alternative to traditional lawn
less maintenance than lawns because they do not need to
be mowed, fertilized, or watered once established.
property values with creative landscaping designs.
storm drain overload and flooding if adopted on a community
or neighborhood scale.
Designing and Installing a Rain Garden
There are different methods for designing and sizing your rain garden. Review
sources for details and instruction on rain garden creation:
Cooperative Extension Resources:
Gardens: A Design Guide for Homeowners in Rhode
Rain Garden Service Project Manual for Students
Gardens in Connecticut: A Design Guide for Homeowners
Cooperative Extension System
CT research/demonstration rain garden
University of Connecticut NEMO Program
Garden Information Center
Rutgers - State University of New Jersey
for Maine: Adding a Rain Garden to Your Landscape University
of Main Cooperative Extension
Gardens: A How-to Manual for Homeowners. Wisconsin
Flyer - Center
for Watershed Protection
time to completely read through these references as your
first step to creating a rain garden. The sources describe
various ways to design and install a rain
and the method you choose will
depend on your needs and desires.
you choose to locate the rain garden is important and you
should take the time
the most appropriate place.
The rain garden should be at least 10 feet from the house so infiltrating water
doesn’t seep into the foundation.
• Do not place the rain garden within 15 feet of a septic
system, or 25 feet of a
or water supply.
• It is better to build the rain garden in full or partial sun, not directly
under a big tree.
It may be tempting to put the rain garden in a part of the yard where water
already ponds. Don’t! The goal of a rain garden is to encourage infiltration,
and your yard’s wet patches show where infiltration is slow.
• Water should only pool in your rain garden for several hours after rainfall
before it is absorbed. This is important for both the plants as well as mosquito
Choosing the Right Plants
It is best to use native, non-invasive species that are resistant to the stress
from both brief periods of pooling as well as dry periods between rainfall
events. A variety of plants with large root structures will make your rain
garden more effective and less susceptible to disease. It is also better
to use plants with a developed root structure instead of starting plants
by seed. Seeds will have a hard time establishing in the conditions of a
rain garden and will also leave the soil exposed and prone to erosion. We
have provided a list of suggested plants below.
Rain Garden Cost
The cost of a rain garden can vary greatly. If you do all of the labor yourself,
the cost will depend on the number and type of plants you use, as well as
any additional materials you may have to purchase such as mulch, crushed
stone, roof gutter downspout extensions, or tools for digging. If you hire
a landscaper or someone else to install the rain garden the cost will be
more and will be a function of the size and depth of the rain garden as well
as the number and type of plants used.
Rain Garden Maintenance
While the plants in your rain garden are young and becoming established they
may require some supplemental water during dry periods, though this should
only be the case for the first year. For more information on proper watering,
view our Water Wisely factsheet. Some weeding may also be required the first
year until the plants fill out and can out compete weeds.
Once the rain garden has become established maintenance is minimal and will
generally only include periodic mulching, pruning and thinning, and plant replacement.
Be sure to inspect your rain garden periodically during and/or immediately
after rainfall events to be sure the rain garden is working as designed.
The information in this factsheet is adapted from the following
Rain Gardens: A How-to Manual for Homeowners. Roger Bannerman
and Ellen Considine. Wisconsin.
Community Watersheds: Educating Watershed Constituents. Center
Creating a Rain Garden in Your Yard. Town of Maplewood, Minnesota.
thanks to the following people for their information and
review of this factsheet:
Brain Maynard, URI Department of Plant Sciences
Sherry, URI Master Gardener Coordinator
Gould, Rhode Island Natural History Survey, College of
the Environment and Life Sciences
The following photos are courtesy of the University of Connecticut
to show additional examples of a rain garden.
Rain gardens are designed to pond for a few hours at a time.
Ponding should not occur for more than six hours. Jordan Cove
Urban Watershed Project, Waterford, CT.
Rain Garden installation containing a young River Birch.
University of Connecticut, Michael E. Dietz, Department
of Natural Resources Management and Engineering.
more information, visit the Haddom,
CT research/demonstration rain garden, University of Connecticut. Site provides data
on pollutant removal.
Rain Garden Plants
plant list includes plants that can tolerate temporary
pooling of rainwater as well as dry periods. Most of the
plants are native species and those that are known for
attracting butterflies or hummingbirds are noted. Some
of the native plants included in this list may not be readily
available at all garden centers. Call your local nurseries
and garden centers to find out availability. You can also
contact the Rhode Island Wild Plant Society, www.riwps.org for
more information about native plant sources.
Island Coastal Plant Guide includes plants that are
suitable for rain gardens.
about many of these plants can also be found in the URI
Cooperative Extension Sustainable Tree and Shrub Manual.
* attractive to butterflies and/or hummingbirds
Red Maple, Acer rubrum
Shadblow, Amelanchier arborea
River Birch, Betula nigra
Gray Birch, Betula populifolia
Red-Panicled Dogwood, Cornus racemosa
White Ash, Fraxinus americana
Green Ash, Fraxinus pennsylvanica
Witchhazel, Hammamelis virginiana
Red Cedar, Juniperus virginiana
American Sweetgum, Liquidambar styraciflua
Tupelo, Nyssa sylvatica
American Hop Hornbeam, Ostrya virginiana
Swamp White Oak, Quercus bicolor
Pin Oak, Quercus palustris
Red Oak, Quercus rubra
Shrubs and Vines
Red Chokeberry, Aronia arbutifolia
Black Chokeberry, Aronia melanocarpa
Wild Clematis, Clematis virginiana
Sweet Pepperbush, Clethra alnifolia
Red Twig Dogwood, Cornus sericea
Black Huckleberry, Gaylussacia baccata
Inkberry, Ilex glabra
American Holly, Ilex opaca
Winterberry Holly, Ilex verticillata
Mountain-laurel, Kalmia latifolia
*Northern Spicebush, Lindera benzoin
Trumpet Honeysuckle, Lonicera sempervirens
Northern Bayberry, Myrica pensylvanica
Virginia Creeper, Parthenocissus quinquefolia
Rosebud Azalea, Rhododendron periclymenoides
*Great Rhododendron, Rhododendron maximum
Shining Sumac, Rhus copallinum
*Small Pussy-Willow, Salix humilis
Elderberry, Sambucus canadensis
American Arborvitae, Thuja occidentalis
Late Lowbush Blueberry, Vaccinium angustifolium
Highbush Blueberry, Vaccinium corymbosum
Witherod, Viburnum cassinoides
*Northern Arrowwood, Viburnum dentatum
Nannyberry, Viburnum lentago
Perennials and Herbaceous Plants
Northern Maidenhair Fern, Adiantum pedatum
*Jack-in-the-pulpit, Arisaema triphyllum
*Wild Columbine, Aquilegia canadensis
*Bushy Aster, Aster dumosus
*Heath Aster, Aster ericoides
New England Aster, Aster novae-angliae
Dwarf Cornel, Cornus Canadensis
Glade-fern, Deparia acrostichoides
Tufted Hair Grass, Deschampsia cespitosa
Carolina Lovegrass, Eragrostis pectinacea
*Sweet Joe-Pye Weed, Eupatorium purpureum
*Grass-leaved Goldenrod, Euthamia graminifolia and Euthamia
Wintergreen, Gaultheria procumbens
Interrupted Fern, Osmunda claytoniana
Switchgrass, Panicum virgatum
*Torrey’s Mountain Mint, Pycnanthemum verticillatum
*Virginia Mountain Mint, Pycnanthemum virginianum
*Rough Goldenrod, Solidago rugosa
New York Fern, Thelypteris noveboracensis
The information in this list is adapted from the following
Flora of Rhode Island: A List of Native and Naturalized
Plants. Lisa L. Gould, Richard W. Enser, Richard E. Champlin,
and Irene H. Stuckey. Rhode Island Natural History Survey.
Trees and Shrubs. University of Rhode Island
Cooperative Extension Landscape Horticulture Program. GreenShare.
Third Edition, 1999.
Design Suggestions. University of Connecticut. Middlesex
County Cooperative Extension Center. 2002.
rain garden at the North Kingstown
View our brochure about the garden.
to plan, install, maintain - additional resources