Eight simple steps to creating rain gardens

Step-by-step guide to planning and planting rain gardens helps prevent water pollution.

Rainwater can add to water pollution. When rainwater flows over hardened, impervious, surfaces like sidewalks, rooftops and parking lots, it collects oils, soaps, fertilizers and other pollutants on its way to our sewer systems. During periods of heavy rain in highly urbanized areas, like much of Southeast Michigan, the contaminated rainwater can flow directly into waterways such as the Rouge and Detroit Rivers. Strategically placed rain gardens can help contain rainwater before it gets into the waterways. The new Step-by-Step Guide to Planning and Planting Rain Gardens in Detroit is a great resource for people who want to create rain gardens, in not only Detroit, but also elsewhere. According to the guide, when Detroit neighborhoods were built, they used one sewer system to carry wastewater from homes and rainwater from streets to the wastewater treatment plant. As the population grew, sewer lines filled to capacity. When pipes are full, they overflow into the Rouge and Detroit Rivers to prevent sewage from backing up in residential basements.

The guide was developed to be one of the easiest and most concise resources on rain gardens in the Detroit area. The guide breaks down the process of planning and planting a rain garden with photos and information for each of the eight steps, as well as sample planting plans (e.g., full sun plan, partial shade plan):

1) Select a location

2) Determine the garden size

3) Choose native plants suited for the site

4) Prepare the garden area

5) Plant the garden

6) Cover with an organic mulch

7) Disconnect downspouts & direct rainwater to the garden

8) Maintain your garden over time

By following these eight steps, your rain garden will decrease the amount of rainwater that flows off your property and into the sewers, while you can help prevent water pollution. According to Michigan State University Extension, this process will allow us to disconnect our home downspouts from the sewer system and directing the water into a beautiful rain garden.

This guide makes it easier for people who want to build rain gardens to do so, and by creating rain gardens, they can do their part to prevent water pollution in our local waterways and the Great Lakes.

For a copy of the guide, contact Cynthia Ross at Friends of the Rouge or Melissa Damashchke at the Sierra Club Great Lakes Program. Supplemental information with a native plant list and sample rain garden designs are also available.

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