• Amy Killeen

Rain Gardens 101

Dear Clients & Friends,


I live in Haverford Township, PA, and our Environmental Advisory Committee was awarded part of a grant from the Water Resources Education Network and the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation. The goal of the program is to install 100 rain gardens in 10 years. One of them is in my front yard, but I will get to that later.


First, what is a rain garden and what is its purpose?


We need to start by talking about the storm water problem. Development of our built environment has increased the area of impervious surfaces to such a degree that flooding from storm water runoff has become a huge problem in many areas. Melting snow and rain flows over parking lots and driveways, carrying pollutants with it. The result is an overtaxed public sewer system and gallons of polluted water spilling into our creeks and rivers. Rain gardens can help by capturing some of this storm water.


A rain garden is a sunken garden, planted in a location designed to capture storm water runoff. Rain water pools and slowly perks down through the soil, allowing the plants to absorb harmful pollutants and reducing the burden on our aging public water system. Risk of flooding is reduced, the water is less polluted, and the native plants installed provide not only natural beauty but also a healthy habitat for birds, butterflies and other pollinators. Here is a nice illustration from the Nature Conservancy:


Okay, this all sounds good, but does it work? Well, in our case it is working almost too well. Our house is at the bottom of a hill and sits across the street from a fairly large creek – gallons and gallons of storm water stream past us. Here is a shot of my garden soon after it was installed, right after a storm:























We are capturing a large amount of water from our street and sidewalk. It gets so full that it often overflows. When the coneflower, black-eyed susans, columbine and bee balm mature, it will turn out to be a great success.


There are other storm water runoff solutions homeowners can implement. Rain barrels are common and work very well. Also, examining your downspouts may help. If you can have them empty into your yard or into an underground dry well it would decrease your property’s contribution to storm water runoff. Check with your local environmental committee for ideas and workshops.


Thanks for taking the time to read this. As Hurricane Harvey barrels toward Texas, we’re reminded that weather extremes are very real. They can ever occur in the form of small, intense storms in our own communities. We should all take some time to think about what we can do in our own front yard to help.


Have a great weekend,


Amy Killeen

Director of Operations



















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