Rain Wise Gardening

While many of us complain about what seems to be endless rainfall in the Pacific Northwest –The rain actually plays a significant role in our lives and in the ecosystem we live in.
The rain keeps our air clean, and keeps the diverse plants alive in our forests all the way to our marshes.
Unfortunately, the rain also carries with it pollutants such as pesticides or excess nutrients and sediment from construction which pollute our waterways and harm the delicate ecosystem of our streams, rivers and the Puget Sound. With the more rooftops we build and the more concrete we pour, the more rainfall moves quickly over this impervious surface we’ve created and through these waterways causing devastating damage from flooding and erosion during high rainfall events. Storm water management may not be at the top of the list for gardening tasks we need to think about, but…
There are several easy things homeowners can do to help with this dilemma and help slow the flow of rainfall:
  1. Disconnect our downspouts so they no longer feed into storm drains. Let the soil absorb the rainfall just like it would in the forest or natural system.
  2. Compost! Use it to amend your soil and use it to mulch your beds. Compost will make your soil healthy and help the soil absorb rainfall. It will also prevent runoff, and help retain moisture in the summer months so less watering is needed. Using compost as mulch also acts as a blanket protecting plants in the winter months.
  3. Build a raingarden to slow the flow and let the rain water soak into the soil and act as a filter much like our natural wetland systems do. Raingardens are depressions in the landscape in which the rainwater is diverted to. There is a compost amended soil in the basin which support moisture loving plants and absorb the rain and any excess nutrients or pollutants. They can be beautiful, very functional and a nice design element in any garden! 
  4. We can harvest the rainwater in rain barrels or cisterns which can divert water away from the storm drains and into our gardens. We can use this rainwater to wash our cars or water plants.
  5. Plant more trees! Evergreens can especially help capture rainwater before it even reaches the soil. The leaves and needles of our native conifers can hold an amazing amount of rainwater which evaporates before ever touching the ground! Trees will also absorb the rain that does reach the ground and as roots grow, they will help create more drainage into the soil. 
What steps will you take in the garden to help slow the flow of storm water?


I originally wrote this article for WSNLA and KPLU