The “Whatever” Yard
We suffer for an affliction I call the “whatever” yard. Basically, we just let rainwater do whatever it wants, and never engage or direct it to a purposeful end. With a rain garden, you can get your yard creates an incredibly beautiful space that attracts butterflies and birds while solving problems like mosquitoes, and ultimate have a awesomely dry yard for your enjoyment. AND, you can say good-bye to that whatever yard ;) !
If you have a wet backyard (or front yard), here’s a few things to look for:
1. Does your yard have a wide variety of plants in it, or only a small selection of plants? What I see most times is a yard that has mainly lawn with hardscape (like a deck or patio), and a few shrubs and trees. A healthy rain garden (and yard for that matter) will thrive with 6 to 12 different plants. The more biologically complex the rain garden, the better it will perform. The better the performance, the more water it can manage.
2. Have you activated your yard to move water where you want it to go, or are low and high points just kinda wherever they want to be? This is a tell tale sign of a “whatever” yard. You might even have a yard that is pitched toward your house. You don’t have to grade the entire yard to fix this whatever condition. Grading can be expensive and doesn’t always work. You can as easily (and more affordably) remodel your yard to create a more active landscape for water to go where you want it to go. Hopefully, you will direct it to a rain garden.
3. Do you make sure the plants in your yard are happy by feeding them organic compost or have you let them survive on their own wit and tenacity for the last 1, 2, 5 or 10 years? Healthy soil and plants will soak up water better than low-quality yards. The Yard Detox Challenge is geared to getting you out of bad habits and giving you a happy yard.
The Rain Garden
The construction of a rain garden is pretty straightforward. Dig a hole about 12 to 24 inches deep. It should be a minimum of 6 to 8 ft long and 4 to 5 ft wide (but they can be smaller or bigger). You will want to put a geotextile into the bottom and along the sides. Fill the fabric with gravel, and then wrap the geotextile around the top of the gravel. The gravel depth should be half to 3/4s of the depth of the hole. Pin the fabric and then add a layer of soil on top of the wrapped gravel. You want to soil to be a minimum of 6 inches deep, though I prefer a thicker growing medium. After that, plant the new bed. You should make sure that water is directed to the rain garden. Pick plants that can both manage wet soil and the amount of sunlight the rain garden will get. Steer clear of Skip Laurels for a rain garden.
There are a bunch of resources to help you tackle the construction of a rain garden by yourself.
I like to design rain gardens to fit the character of a house and amplify how a family uses the yard. I have some favorite rain garden plants like Rose Mallow that I use whenever I can. If you build it correctly, water will flow into the rain garden and not flood your property. In extreme situations, a rain garden might not be enough to stop the flooding. So, if you’re not sure how to characterize your situation, talk to a professional.
There are other things you can do to help stop an annoying wet yard. But for now, consider a rain garden as an incredible and beautiful option.