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Backyard Conservation: Rain Gardens and Native Gardens

A clean water problem

Developed areas, like cities and suburbs, are full of "impervious surfaces" - areas like roofs, driveways, and sidewalks where rainwater runs over and off the land, rather than soaking into the soil.

That rainwater runoff heads downhill to the nearest waterbody or storm drain, taking with it everything it's washed off the land. Many people don't realize that the storm drains on their streets and in their backyards drain directly to lakes, ponds, wetlands and streams without being treated. All of that runoff, carrying pollutants like fertilizers, pesticides, sediment, or trash, dumps right into the nearest body of water. In addition, all of the water running off land causes erosion, and means that less water soaks into the ground to recharge our underground aquifers (where many of us get our drinking water!)

An easy solution

There are some simple, efficient, and beautiful solutions to this problem, however. Landscaping practices like native gardens and raingardens can capture and hold water on land, where it can slowly soak into the ground and be naturally cleaned and treated by the soil. Plants specially chosen for their deep roots (and attractive blooms) speed up the process - and help our native pollinators at the same time.

A raingarden is a planted depression or basin that is designed to collect storm water runoff and allow it to absorb into the ground. Some of the water is used by the plants in the garden and the remaining water filters through soil layers, being naturally treated and filtered, before entering the groundwater system. Many people have installed raingardens in their home landscaping not only for the water quality benefit, but for the aesthetic benefit. Raingardens can use a wide variety of plants with varied blooming times and an array of colors. The rain gardens also become home to an assortment of wildlife, such as birds and butterflies.

Native plants are recommended for rain gardens and native gardens because they are adapted to the local climate, generally don't require fertilizer, and are more tolerant of the local soil and water conditions. Native plants typically have deep root systems that help enhance infiltration (water soaking into the ground), allow them to be drought tolerant and anchor the soil to prevent erosion. They also produce nectar and seeds that are great for native pollinators and birds!


Front Yard Rain Garden Project


Front Yard Rain Garden Project


Native Garden Project


Back Yard Rain Garden Project

Financial Incentive Programs:

Landscaping for Clean Water Grants
Citizen Conservation Stewards

More Resources:

Blue Thumb - Planting for Clean Water
Dakota County Landscaping for Clean Water
Landscaping with Native Plants (DNR)
Metro Blooms