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Typically made in shallow depressions in the landscape, rain gardens are a great way to beautify your yard and give back to the environment. Since they contain native grasses and perennial flowers, these gardens do not have to cost much — and they are easy to build on your own. To get started, simply use this guide to explore the benefits, then follow the steps to create the rain garden of your dreams.
Rain Garden Benefits
As you survey your yard, you can likely see a few depressions that puddle up when it rains. These areas are the perfect place to build rain gardens. As you add native flowers and grasses to those depressions, their roots quickly drain and filter the runoff, pulling pollutants out before they reach the groundwater.
The plants are nourished by the rainwater, growing heartily and providing food to bees, butterflies, and other important pollinators. These pollinators can also find shelter in the rain garden, keeping them flitting across your property all through the growing season. You might even find frogs and other wildlife making their homes in these small gardens.
As all these creatures find homes in your yard, the rain garden can also protect your home from flooding during heavy rains. The plants promote up to 40 percent more drainage over typical lawn spaces, which helps keep water flowing down into the ground instead of toward your house.
How to Build a Rain Garden
When building a rain garden, you need to know your USDA plant hardiness zone and the types of native plants that thrive in your area. You can then select your favorite varieties and plan how to arrange them in your prepared space to best complement your landscape design. Here’s how to get started.
You should select about a dozen different plants in large enough quantities to fully fill out the garden space. Choose plants that are both native to your area and will happily grow together.
With your plants selected, you will need to grab some tools to prepare the space, such as:
- Spray marking chalk
Also, consider gathering up décor items, such as glass baubles and painted rocks, to personalize your garden.
Once you have all your plants and tools on hand, you can start building your rain garden by following these steps.
- Observe your yard to find the lowest points and select one for your rain garden
- Spray the marking chalk around the perimeter of the planned garden space
- Use the shovel and rake to remove the grass in the area, creating a bowl shape
- Amend your soil as needed to make it habitable for the selected plants
- Artfully arrange the plants around the garden to create a beautiful design
- Plant the grasses and flowers in the garden and generously water them
- Add your other decorative elements to personalize the space
Once you finish these seven steps, all that is left to do is watch in wonder as your garden grows and wildlife flock to their new home.
Not everyone has a green thumb, but everyone can learn to be a good gardener. You should understand some basics about gardening in order to expand your skill set. With a little knowledge, you’ll have the art of gardening down in no time!
Know Your Soil
Take a good look at your soil. How good your garden is has a lot to do with the soil. For soil to be healthy it needs plenty of water, air, and nutrients. You can test your soil with a kit that will give you some good analysis of how your soil is doing.
To improve your soil, you can do a few things including adding organic materials like compost, old leaves, or peat moss. These can help to improve the health of any kind of soil.
Know The Types Of Soil
- Succulent mix
- Premium mix
- All purpose mix
Prep The Garden
Prepping the garden is one of the most important things that you’ll do. You shouldn’t work with soil when it’s wet, only when it’s damp or dry.
Always plan your garden first before you plant. Know the size and the number of plants that you need. Match the plants based on the growing conditions that they will need. It’s especially important to consider the amount of sun and shade that’s needed for each plant.
When you start shopping for plants, make sure that you pick plants that have buds and aren’t already flowering. You should also check the roots of the plants that your buying for smoothness and moistness. This will help your garden to be more lush and full. Always buy plants that will thrive in the climate you live in. You can find guides online or talk to experts at your local nursery.
Know Your Plant Types
If you know the types of plants that exist, you’ll know what types of plants are best suited for your garden.
These plants live for one growing season. They are either flowering or foliage only.
These bring shape, colors, textures, and wonderful scents to your garden year after year.
These can be planted in the colder months in order to bloom in the spring.
Climbers and Vines
These types of plants grow vertically and either have foliage or flowers. They can be either annual or perennial.
Flowering or evergreen type shrubs make great accents or hedges to be used for privacy.
The most important thing to remember about gardening is that every plant needs to be properly watered and nourished in order to grow. Continue to fertilize and care for the soil throughout the life of your plants to help them thrive. It’s easy to turn your thumb green once you have the right knowledge!
Keeping a vegetable or flower garden is one of the most rewarding things you can do during the warm months. It’s an excuse to get outside, grow delicious food, save money on groceries, and learn about the art of gardening.
One of the keys to a healthy garden is to maintain your soil quality. There are a number of ways you can achieve this, from buying fertilizer, to mixing in lime, manure and other additives. One way to improve your garden soil quality while also reducing household waste is to start composting.
In this article, we present a guide to garden composting that will help you grow healthier plants and find a new purpose for the waste that would otherwise end up in a landfill.
What is composting?
Composting is a lot like recycling. It’s nature’s way of reusing minerals and nutrients from organic matter by putting them back into the soil.
Most of us are averse to rotting fruit and vegetables, but they’re packed with the nutrients that your garden needs to flourish.
Benefits of composting
Aside from increasing the nutrients in your soil, composting can help in a number of other ways. It will help the soil retain moisture, meaning you’ll have to water less, it can help you save money on fertilizer, and it will yield healthier plants and fruit that have a higher nutritional value.
Better yet, aside from the cost of buying or building a composting bin, it’s a free resource.
Most homeowners who compost their organic waste do so by buying or building a composting bin. These range from simple wooden boxes to barrels built on a spit for rotating.
Generally, compost bins are either wooden (unstained) or plastic. Metal will generally rust, and you don’t want to mix rust into your garden.
The key to good composting is being able to move the composting matter around so that it can receive oxygen. However, you’ll also want to be able to keep it moist to encourage decomposition.
If you decide to start off with just a simple wooden box for your compost, make sure you have easy access to a shovel to mix the compost around.
In terms of location, you probably don’t want your bin to be too close to your home. Decomposition doesn’t smell great, and you won’t want the odors floating through your windows on a hot summer day.
What to compost
The number of things you can toss into your compost bin is surprisingly large. However, here’s a short list of some common compostable items:
Fruits and vegetables, coffee grinds, leaves and grass clippings, breads, and cereals.
There are more advanced composting methods that can break down things like newspaper, paper bags, and egg cartons, but it’s best to start with organic materials.
Maintaining your compost bin
There are a few key steps to maintaining a healthy compost bin. First, make sure you have a variety of materials in it. Putting only one type of organic matter in your compost bin will make it hard to break down. A mixture of leaves, clippings, and fruits and vegetables will yield better results than just grass clippings.
Next, make sure you keep it moist by watering the compost heap once a week, or whenever it seems like it’s drying out.
Finally, rotate or mix the composting material around with a shovel. This will help matter break down faster and more evenly.
Why start a community garden?The benefits for having a community garden in your neighborhood are endless. First, it allows people to grow their own food--a rewarding process in itself. You'll learn about sewing seeds, caring for plants, and harvesting the vegetables. When it's all said and done, you'll save money as well, since it's much cheaper to grow your vegetables than to buy them from the grocery store. Gardens are also a great way to build a sense of community in your neighborhood. You'll meet new people, make new friends, and have something to be proud of together. Plus, talking about what you're planting is a great ice-breaker when it comes to meeting the neighbors for the first time. Aside from helping you and your neighbors, community gardens are also a modest way to help the environment. A garden means more food for bees, a refuge for local critters, and more plants producing oxygen. Plus, when you get your vegetables right from your garden you cut back on all of the resources used to wrap, pack, and ship vegetables across the country to grocery stores, reducing your carbon footprint in a small way. Excited yet? I hope so! Now that you know why to start a community garden you need to know how.
Steps to making a community garden
- Get the neighborhood together Invite your neighbors to a local cafe or library to talk about starting a garden. To build interest and awareness, start a Facebook group and post a few flyers in your neighborhood.
- Figure out the funding and logistics At this meeting, start talking about how the garden is going to be funded. Seeds, tools, fertilizer, and other expenses don't have to put a damper on your fun if you're prepared. The three main sources of funding for a community garden are finding sponsors, running neighborhood fundraisers, or having a membership fee for plots in the garden.
- Find a spot for your garden The best places to turn into gardens are plots of land that currently bring down the aesthetic of the neighborhood. Find an area that could be cleaned up and approach the owner of the land with the idea. You can offer them free membership or whatever other resources are available in exchange for being able to use the land.
- Throw a cleaning and a kick-off party To build the garden, invite everyone from the neighborhood over to the plot of land for pizza. Then once they're there stick a shovel in their hand (okay, maybe let them eat a slice or two first). Once the garden is ready to be planted, you can host another "kick-off party" so everyone can celebrate their hard work.
- Rules are made to be spoken Community gardens are a ton of fun. But to keep them that way you're going to need to decide on some ground rules for things like open hours, membership acceptance, tool usage, leadership, and so on. Post the rules on the Facebook, website, and at the garden itself so everyone can see them.
- Keep the momentum If you want your garden to last you'll need to do some work to keep everyone excited. Make a Facebook group, a website or whatever else you think will help people stay connected. Ideally, you want your messages to include everyone involved in the garden so that everyone feels involved.