With time on your hands and extra helpers at home, creating a beautiful and functional rain garden in your home landscape is an ideal family project. A rain garden collects water from your roof through a downspout and holds it in a shallow depression like a bathtub, until it soaks into the ground within 48 hours. The garden is planted with native and adapted perennial plants and small shrubs that can thrive in wet soil, attract pollinators, and provide year-round color in your yard. Installing a residential rain garden is a do-it-yourself home project that all in the family can enjoy. It requires planning and design – for both the garden location and layout and the plants to be used – work with a shovel to construct the garden; and planting, mulching, and continued care to establish new plants. Installing a garden now will give the plants a chance to grow strong over the summer.
UNL Extension offers a free online, interactive guide, EC 1262 Rain Garden Design, http://extensionpublications.unl.edu/assets/pdf/ec1262.pdf which includes interactive graphics, videos, and an active calculation worksheet (accessible after downloading the guide in a .pdf format), and complete instructions for planning the installation of your rain garden. Extension Specialist Tom Franti, who authored EC 1262 along with Steve Rodie, is featured in several informative videos on how to measure your roof size contributing to a rain garden, measure your lawn slope, and general considerations for rain garden installation. He suggests starting small. “Our design guide instructs how to capture a 1.25 inch rainfall in the garden. If the size of the garden is too big, you can build it to fit your space. Don’t set it next to the house; however, you want the water to enter the soil, not your basement.”
Three UNL Nebguides also cover installation, including all the tools and layout planning you will need, and what plants to select for the garden. These Nebguides are Rain Garden Design for Homeowners (G1758), Plant Selection for Rain Gardens in Nebraska (G1759), and Installing Rain Gardens in Your Yard (G1760). A comprehensive design guide that features much on planting design and selection is also available for purchase, Nebraska Bioretention and Rain Garden Plants Guide (EC 1261). Several videos and segments on the Backyard Farmer YouTube channel feature the Backyard Farmer Garden on UNL’s East Campus, including information on specific plants.
Additional information can be found at the website water.unl.edu by searching for rain gardens, and from your Local County Extension Office. For more information contact Tom Franti, Extension Specialist and Surface Water Management Engineer at email@example.com, or Kim Todd, Extension Landscape Specialist at firstname.lastname@example.org.