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Create a Garden

Key steps in building your rain garden include sizing, choosing the appropriate plants, construction, planting and maintenance. You may decide to do all or some of the steps yourself or you might select a professional to help you. The Illinois Rain Garden Initiative can provide you with professional assistance if you need.

Keeping the design of the garden simple will help make the garden very affordable and increase your ability to be as involved as possible.

Landscaping

Prairie Rivers

Rain gardens are designed with a dip at the center to collect rain and snow melt. Any degree of indentation is useful, from slight dips made with your garden trowel to large swales created by professional landscapers. Neatly trimmed shrubs, a crisp edge of lawn, stone retaining walls and other devices can be used to keep garden edges neat and visually appealing. Provide for overflow from heavy rains. Size and shape are flexible dependent on your needs, although a suggested size would be about 300 sq. ft, with the option of either 1 plant per 3 sq. ft. or 1 plant for every sq. ft. A small drain may be used to move excess water to another rain garden. There may even be a community rain garden that receives water from a number of nearby properties.

Prarie Crossing is a nationally recognized conservation community in Grayslake, IL. The community's guiding principles include environmental protection and enhancement, and energy conservation. The planned community includes the Liberty Prairie Reserve, which shelters tallgrass prairie, wetlands, oak savannas, rolling farm fields, and forest. This rare convergence of ecosystems, well within the sprawling reaches of suburbia, is an unexpected oasis of natural beauty. To find out more about Prairie Crossing visit their web site at www.prairiecrossing.com.

Location

Each site should be considered unique. Microclimates (light, temperature and wind), and the size of the drainage area will affect the size of the rain garden and plant selection process. Strategic placement next to hard surfaces such as alleys, sidewalks, driveways and under gutters makes your rain garden effective.

 

Plant Choices

Hardy native plant species that thrive in our ecosystem without chemical fertilizers and pesticides are the best choices for your rain garden. Many rain gardens feature shrubs as well as wild flowers and grasses. Loosening compacted soil will increase infiltration. Infiltration will also increase with addition of hummus, or a mixture of hummus and sand.

Maintenance

Applying simple, basic upkeep to your rain garden will keep it blossoming season after season. Here are some helpful tips to keep your garden looking tidy while preventing flooding and drainage problems.

  • Light weeding and removal of excess sticks and grasses
  • Replace dead plants
  • Visually inspect and repair erosion monthly
  • Use small stones to stabilize your rain garden
  • Re-mulch