Smart & Sustainable, Green Garden Design, Coaching & Seasonal Maintenance

Friday, June 11, 2010

The Great Rain Garden Adventure

and so it begins...

I have a client who wants to do the modern thing ... rip out the lawn, plant natives, reuse materials when feasible, reduce water use, and ... have a rain garden!

I was on board for most all of it. Through my training and certification as a "Green Gardener", it's become a natural way of thinking, and I guess that's what has appealed to me about the green gardening movement most: it's the natural way to garden. Do what Mother Nature would do!

the American River

The rain garden concept was awkward, however, I just didn't quite get it. In Sacramento we need water in the summer when it doesn't rain, so what's the good of collecting it if it isn't available when we need it most? With some reading, I realized that in our area the main benefits are to our waterways:
  • the filtering out of impurities (toxins, fertilizers, whatevers)otherwise sent thru the storm drains to our rivers, by having the rain percolate thru the soil, and
  • the reduction of big "water event" system overloads (where all the local rain gets channeled thru our downspouts and drainage systems to our streets to the storm drains to the rivers with a big "whoosh!"), and
  • it doesn't hurt that they can be indeed, lovely! Nope!

We're so used to our modern system (take it to the streets and down the storm drains), we're unaware of any other way to deal with rainfall. We've paved over everything, hardscaped our property, built freeways and roads and driveways, there's really not much land to absorb the rain, but we needn't worry, we channel it off our property to the street! So, enter the new/old idea, the rain garden. A simple concept ... a bit of a ditch ... a bit of a swale or a berm, something to channel the water flow and slow it down. Like in the good old days!

I'm new to this, not some enviro-scientist. Mostly a person who loves plants, but I'm learning and I like it! The Sacramento Bee had a super article last January which was a great starting point for me. It had some practical links, including a guide from the River-Friendly Landscaping folk which I'll be using in the creation of my very own, first rain garden! Stay tuned for updates! (And, if you have anything to chime in ... your own rain garden successes, failures and advice, feel free!)

rain garden poster
(poster available from the Good Nature Publishing Company)

Whether you need garden design, coaching, seasonal maintenance or planting, Geno's Garden can help! Call me at (916) 764-5243, or email

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