Rain garden at Fernwood Elementary
Rain gardens are shallow depressions filled with plants that are designed to hold significant amounts of water. Rain gardens can collect rainwater and snowmelt from the surrounding surfaces like driveways, cement walkways and sidewalks that do not absorb water. Their sloped sides create a bowl-shaped depression which increases the amount of water that is captured. The depth allows the water to collect and slowly soak back into the ground or evaporate. This helps keep water out of the sewer system and basements during the heaviest of storms.
Space to Grow schoolyards are designed with green infrastructure that captures rainwater where it falls. Most schoolyards include rain gardens that are filled with hardy plants and grasses whose roots can survive in both standing water and dry soil when it’s not raining. Many of the rain gardens in schoolyards collect water from hard surfaces like basketball courts and asphalt or concrete walkways.
- Rain gardens absorb and hold more water than a traditional lawn. Because they can hold more water, rain gardens can also capture and clean more pollutants from stormwater runoff.
Do It Yourself
Rain gardens are an easy, beautiful and effective tool to collect water from rain and snow. Rain gardens offer pollution control, flood protection, habitat creation and water conservation and can be easily installed and maintained on residential properties.
The most suitable rain garden plants can survive in wet soil but can also tolerate dry conditions, as rain gardens are not always filled with water. Placing rocks strategically around the garden keeps the water moving and the soil from washing out of the garden later. When possible, it’s also great to use native plants in your rain garden. This helps attract butterflies, birds and pollinators to your rain garden as well.
Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago
Resources + Local Partners
- The University of Illinois Extension has several rain garden resources that can help, including a plant list and guidance on where to locate and best practices for designing your rain garden.
- The Chicago Botanic Garden also has a rain garden page with tips and information to consider when planning your own rain garden.
- The Illinois Department of Natural Resources has a helpful rain garden plant list as well as other good information for planning your rain garden.
- The Center for Neighborhood Technology RainReady Program has homeowner information on how to maintain your rain garden.
This web page is available as a downloadable PDF.
Coming Soon: this resource will be available in Spanish.