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Backyard Conservation: Rain Gardens and Native Gardens

When areas are developed, the amount of impervious surfaces (hard surfaces such as rooftops, driveways, and compacted lawn areas where water cannot soak into the ground) increases. This means that more water runs off of the surface to storm drains and surface waters and less water soaks into the ground. The extra runoff can cause erosion, decreased groundwater recharge and, when the runoff picks up pollutants in its path, pollution of lakes, streams and wetlands.

A rain garden is a planted depression that is designed to collect storm water runoff and allow it to absorb into the ground. Some of the water is used by the plants in the rain garden and the remaining water filters through soil layers before entering the groundwater system. Many people have installed rain gardens in their home landscaping not only for the water quality benefit, but for the aesthetic benefit. Rain gardens can use a wide variety of plants with varied blooming times and an array of colors. The rain gardens also become home to an assortment of wildlife such as birds and butterflies.

Native plants are recommended for rain gardens and native gardens because they are adapted to the local climate, generally don't require fertilizer, and are more tolerant of the local soil and water conditions. Native plants typically have deep root systems that help enhance infiltration (water soaking into the ground), allow them to be drought tolerant and anchor the soil to prevent erosion.

Front Yard Rain Garden Project

Front Yard Rain Garden Project

Native Garden Project

Back Yard Rain Garden Project

Financial Incentive Programs:

Landscaping for Clean Water Grants
Citizen Conservation Stewards


Blue Thumb - Planting for Clean Water
Dakota County Landscaping for Clean Water
Landscaping with Native Plants (DNR)
Metro Blooms

Rain Garden Installation Guide