Bob Vila Radio: Rain Gardens

If you're concerned about storm water runoff, consider the practical—and yes, aesthetic—benefits of a rain garden.

In a heavy downpour, all of that water pouring through your downspouts can overwhelm your local sewer system, leading to flooding. Even worse, storm runoff can carry pollutants, fertilizers, and other chemicals into local lakes and rivers. A rain garden is a clever—and beautiful—way of diverting this water before it enters the system.

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Listen to BOB VILA ON RAIN GARDENS or read the text below:

Rain Gardens

Photo: betterground.org

A rain garden is a plot that is sited, sized, constructed and planted with the express goal of capturing a house’s rainwater runoff. Through planning, thoughtful selection of plants, and the right mix of soils, a rain garden acts like a water runoff sponge. In fact, compared with a typical lawn, a rain garden absorbs about 30 percent more water.

To be effective, a rain garden needs to be properly sited and sized. It must be at least 10 feet from the house to keep the water from seeping into the foundation, and it cannot be placed over a septic system. Its size and depth are determined by many factors, including the type of soil, the amount of runoff it needs to absorb, and the garden’s distance from the downspout. You’ll find plenty of calculators online, as well as suggestions for appropriate native plants and soil amendments.

Be forewarned: Establishing a rain garden takes some serious digging. Before you start, call to find out where your cable, electric, gas and other utility lines are.

Bob Vila Radio is a newly launched daily radio spot carried on more than 75 stations around the country (and growing). You can get your daily dose here, by listening to—or reading—Bob’s 60-second home improvement radio tip of the day.