Photo courtesy of: Sharon Anderson, Cayuga Lake Watershed Network

Rain Gardens are Pretty and Functional

Rain gardens are landscaped depressions that are designed to capture and filter stormwater from roofs, driveways, and other hard surfaces. By collecting water and allowing it to slowly soak into the ground, rain gardens reduce the potential for erosion and minimize the amount of pollutants flowing from your lawn into a storm drain, and eventually into our lakes, rivers, and streams. Planting your rain garden with native plants not only enhances the beauty of your yard, but also provides valuable habitat for birds and butterflies.

Click here to see our rain garden poster - pdf.
Stop by the office to pick up a free copy!

 

Rain gardens are beneficial in many ways:
- Help keep water clean by filtering storm water runoff before it enters local waterways;
- Help alleviate problems with flooding and drainage;
- Enhance the beauty of yards and communities;
- Provide habitat and food for wildlife like birds and butterflies;
- Reduce the need for expensive stormwater treatment structures in your community.

 


Native Plants for a Rain Garden
Click here for a list of Lake George native plants for rain gardens. (Below we list just a few!)

Swamp Milkweed
New England Aster
White Turtlehead
Blue Flag Iris
Tall White Beardtongue
Joe Pye Weed
Bugbane
Cardinal Flower
Bee Balm
Sensitive Fern
Foamflower

Getting Started
The first step is sizing and siting your rain garden. You want to pick a location on your property that you can direct a downspout or other source of runoff to, is at least ten feet from your home’s foundation, and is flat or gently sloping. A typical homeowner rain garden is around 100 - 300 square feet in area and four to eight inches deep. Just how big your rain garden should be will depend on your soils, slope, and the size of the area that drains to the garden.

Time to Dig!
After you have planned out your garden size, shape, and location, it is time to start digging. You can use a hose, string, or spray paint to outline the shape of your garden. As you dig, use the soil you remove to create the berm around three sides of your garden to hold in the water. The fourth side isn’t built up because that is where the water flows in. You want the bottom of your garden to be level. You can eyeball it - or get out a level to be sure.

Planting the Garden

Since a rain garden is flooded periodically, you need plants that can live in both wet and dry conditions. When selecting plants, consider if your site is sunny or shady. You might also want plants that vary in height, color, and blooming period. This way your rain garden is not only stopping stormwater runoff but is also providing a beautiful landscape to enjoy all summer long.

Need some ideas for your rain garden?
If you are up at the north end of the Lake, check out the garden we helped install at the Ticonderoga Public Beach. Or if you are down at the south end, check out the rain garden we helped install this past summer in Shepard Park.

Additional Resources - Step-by-step Guides
There are a number of very good rain garden manuals available online written by other organizations. All the information is the same, just be sure to use the LGA's plant list which is specific for the Lake George area. These guides walk you through step-by-step planning, designing, digging, and planting your own rain garden. Click on the titles below to download the publications.

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