When designing landscapes and outdoor living areas, we love to work with nature to create spaces of both beauty and function. One such trend we’ve seen recently is the incorporation of water conscious methods. With changing weather patterns and an ever-increasing urgency to preserve our natural resources, there’s no better time than now to start going green with rainwater retention! Below are three water conscious techniques we find to be great additions to any landscape.
Rain barrels are a holding cell for water that attach directly to your downspout. During a rainfall event, the barrels collect water from your roof and hold it for future use. This collected water, sometimes called gray water, is free and naturally soft, making it an excellent choice for watering indoor and outdoor plants as well as washing vehicles. Using this recycled water for your landscape also has the added benefit of lowering your water bill.
The key to retaining water on your property is to slow the water flow and allow time for it to infiltrate the soil. To this end, rain gardens are an excellent addition to your space. They act as a buffer area, capturing rainwater so it has more time to soak into the ground. To create a rain garden, several inches of soil are removed in a designated area to form a depression, or sunken area of land. Water loving plants, native shrubs, perennials and flowers are then planted in the depression in combination with strategically placed stones and mulch. The depression is designed to hold water during and after a rainfall, providing water for the plants and allowing time for the water to seep into the soil. Not to be confused with water gardens, rain gardens are not designed to remain wet. The goal of a rain garden is not to collect and hold water for long periods of time like a pond, but rather to slow the water down so it can seep into the soil rather than the storm drain. After a rain, the water should drain within 12 hours. Something to consider when picking the best spot for your rain garden – if water pools in that area of your property and tends to kill grass, it will not make a good space for a rain garden. For those with compacted or clay soils, amending the soil to create a more permeable mix may be required before planting. Some plants that work well in rain gardens are joe pye weed, liatris, cardinal flower, switchgrass, dogwood, and serviceberry.
Homeowners lose a significant amount of rainwater from concrete driveway and patio spaces. The solid nature of concrete does not slow the water flow nor does it allow any of the water to reach the soil. As an alternative when designing these areas of your landscape, permeable pavers are both attractive and functional. They mimic the natural process of rainfall absorption into the soil. The burden on municipal storm drains is reduced since the pavers allow water to flow through them instead of over and around them. Additionally, the permeable pavers often have less ice and snow buildup in the winter, which is awesome for us Midwesterners!